"I needed a few months to recover from the experience"
"One Buck immersed me in an unpleasant world beautifully populate with a plethora of darkly drawn characters, as it un-picks its edge tale bit by gritty bit," said our lead judge, Jon Campling.
Here's our spotlight about the creation of One Buck.
One Buck - Official Trailer
It's quite extraordinary that you won Best Director for One Buck - your first feature film. Before directing it, you directed over 100 commercials and 200 music videos (!) as well as several narrative shorts. How did you approach such large-scale project? Was there anything you did differently as a director? Any preparations?
My years of experience in commercials and music videos definitely helped me. Having to tell a long story in a precise frame is part of the process of One Buck. With the gallery of characters that intersect with each other I had to narrow my tale to the essentials. My experience in documentary and reportage for 5 years in my early days with European TV Channels may be my biggest share of inspiration on this film. Having a discreet camera angle but yet in close proximity to people, to my actors, and being as realistic as possible is a documentary-making exercise. The biggest change was the duration and the shift to telling a longer tale without falter and without losing the rhythm of the narrative. I had to hold the viewer’s attention for 90min, a whole new experience which l Ioved!
The concept - that revolves around money and the powerful role money plays in society- it's pretty brilliant. One Buck exposes human behaviors and emotions- need, struggle, violence and more. What were some of your cinematic influences that helped you form the vision of this film and convey it to the cast and crew?
The initial concept revolves around money and the part it plays in aspects of our society. We follow the journey of a dollar bill in a remote region of America by highlighting characters in conflict, in need, in violence, struggle, misery, insecurity and vice. The film couldn’t be more current and relevant, given that the world revolves around money. The dollar is certainly the most coveted subject in our society knowing that it has the power of life and death over almost 90% of the planet. The dollar is the most widespread currency in the world, and the One Buck is the most frequently exchanged bill. Being the smallest value banknote currently in the United States, nicknamed the greenback, with its face bearing the image of former US President George Washington, and the symbol of the dollar. To give you a figure, it represents 41% of bills present in the United States.
To avoid falling into the category of a documentary film, but rather a fiction, I directed One Buck as a puzzle movie where the characters will evolve next to one another, intersect, hate, love, and sometimes with dangerous challenges.
All of my stories that intertwine are inspired by real events and not so much "cinematic influences". I spent several months doing research prior to building the gallery of characters; I went alone to scout the region and to be in complete immersion. It was six months before the start of filming, an important step, I was sleeping in unsanitary motels, I was hanging out in bars and through word of mouth getting connected to the people living there and I needed that first-hand ordeal in order to channel it into my creative process. I had some great encounters while visiting the area and I was able to finalize the script through this process and experience. I had secured almost all my shooting locations 6 months before filming.
After the filming process, the script changed quite a bit because we faced a new obstacle of having to tailor down the film to 90 minutes even though we had initially planned for a 140min duration. It was a complicated exercise to re-write the script; I took time during the editing to re-organize the puzzle, kill some scenes and then return alone to film new scenes missing from the puzzle, in addition to some retakes, some transition scenes, ending story for few characters, and of course I increased some details about Harry’s love story. The film was clearly filmed in two stages. That's the advantage of being the producer of the film, you're a little more independent. I went with a shoulder camera to shoot what was missing in the edit. My camera operator experience was greatly instrumental.
How did this project come to life?
As a Director, I have to travel often to shoot and on each departure abroad I usually leave a note for my wife on the kitchen table while she is still at work. On one occasion, in a hurry, I had the idea to draw a love sign on a $ 1 bill. My wife used a magnet to post the bill on the fridge door and it stayed there for months, among other posts. Several months later, I had the unfortunate idea to spend it to complete my tip to a food delivery guy. My wife’s discovery of the missing bill caused an unforeseen commotion the very next day.
Miraculously, a few months later, during a grocery purchase at a store near my home, the cashier gave me back some change and to my surprise it included my $ 1 bill; improbable but true! My "One Buck" was back. On my way back and before I reached home the idea of my first film was born: "if money could talk ...". The dollar bill would have been able to recount its whereabouts from the time I used it as tip for my Thai food delivery up until it ended up back in my hands. My wife still finds it hard to believe and continues to taunt me about it, lol.
There was a lot of chemistry on screen between your actors. The exceptional John Freeman won Best Actor for his lead role as Harry in LAFA, and recently, your cast received further recognition at The Actors Awards: Best Actor (John Freeman), Best Actress (Katie Ryan) Best Supporting Actor (Will Green) and Best Ensemble. Tell us a bit about your casting process, how did you meet these actors, did you work with any of them before?
I wrote my script with the cost in my mind every step of the way. I had to cut some scenes knowing that I would never have the budget for them. I walked a thin line while writing my script, in terms of balancing my artistic desires with the reality of the budget. Then came the second stage — the funding — I partnered with a friend, an American car enthusiast, for whom I had already directed and produced commercials for his car company. We both took the risk with the invaluable support of several executive producers. We formed a production company called Mad Street Pictures, and One Buck is the first feature. It is appropriately named, this adventure was just crazy — small French guy who arrives in Louisiana alone and convinces friends to shoot a film to tell an American story.
In the USA, your film is either SAG or non-SAG, “Screen Actors Guild”. We did not have the budget to use SAG actors, so the casting took time; we auditioned thousands of people through a casting director and it took more than 5 months. The actors and the sets are the most important elements in my direction and my narration.
Once at the end of these two steps, I appealed to the American and French teams, mainly friends, who found interest in the project; without them, the film would have been very difficult to make technically. Given that I could not make the film with the Union, American technicians who belong to a union, we had to find a flexible crew. The film was supported by a large number of talented people who helped with the production, both in artistic positions and also in post production. One Buck was a fusion of beautiful energy and wonderful encounters.
From the very initial idea of the script, to the completion of the movie - How long did the entire process take? Can you estimate how long was pre production, how many days did you spend on set, shooting and how long was post?
The entire process took almost 2 years from the script to the finalization. We filmed for 5 weeks and I went back to film additional scenes by myself for 10 days. At the end, 20 minutes of the movie was shot entirely by me.
Any filmmaker watching this movie - will be very impressed by your work, Fabien! It's truly memorable. What were some of the most memorable, special moments for you during this production?
To be honest with you, after more than hundreds of shooting globally, this was by far the most challenging. I just dreamt of it being over and going back to my family. It was an extremely intense process for the entire crew and many breaking points which included physical altercations. And the violent mood on set fueled the ambiance of the movie. I needed a few months to recover from the experience.
How did you work with the cinematographer, in order to create the dark tone One Buck presents? Did you use any references for shots / scenes from other movies?
Stephane and I have known each other for a while and we have almost the same taste in terms of movie and lighting. We shared a few pictures and references and exchanged ideas to get the right picture.
Tell us about your future projects? Are you working on a new narrative feature?
I am actually working on my next feature. It will be a story crossing « Deliverance » with a major theme of vengeance. We are in the preliminary pre-production stages.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
I would like to thank the entire One Buck crew; they were an amazing unique and talented cast.
Thank you again to the Los Angeles Film Awards. We appreciated all your communication of One Buck.