Jean-Philippe Tremblay is a Director/Writer, Producer and filmmaker. His latest work, Shadows of Liberty, costed him more than 5 years of work, and it has been presented in June at the Biografilm Festival and here is where I meet him.
Inspired by Ben Bagdikian‘s book “The New Media Monopoly” that in 1984 reported how media is controlled by only 5 conglomerate corporations, Shadows of Liberty is a true and sincere ode to freedom of information, where journalists tell their stories and present the difficulties they face to reveal the truth at any cost, going against the establishment. An inspiring documentary that shows and demonstrates that even today, regardless the corruption and the the power of corporations and governments that do their best – or their worst – to manipulate information and craft consent, there are still brave and hard-working individuals who investigate, research and reveal the facts and the truth. My interview with Jean-Philippe Tremblay could not be anything but about information. Yet, before getting into the real question, I also wanted to learn about what being a filmmaker means to him. And this is how we start.
What is filmmaking? I ask.
He immediately engages with the bricks with an open mind, like anyone who enjoys exploring and experimenting, he is one of those individuals who communicate life and experiences. He stares at the bricks and then he starts telling me the story.
‘It’s about having blocks, taking those blocks and putting them together.’
What are those blocks made of? I ask.
‘You can have different blocks and different stages of filmmaking, but I think that when blocks become really physical, it’s footage – the footage you have shot.’
How do you build and how do you assembly those blocks then?
‘To build it’s basic production, you go out and gather some blocks. So you work with your team – the director of photography, or if you don’t have that, with your camera and your team, and you prepare the production through a pre-production. Pre-production is a lot of discussion, a lot of writing, a lot of research to get to that.’
Where’s research, where’s production in your model? What is this black base? I ask looking at Jean-Philippe’s model and that black base.
‘That’s what i think we start with, the base of it… The black base. When I was building this tower I wanted it to be stable, to not fall. And when we look at this, you can see that the black piece is probably the biggest piece I have used and I think that represents the script of the film and to get to that it takes a lot of work…’
So there’s something underneath?
Absolutely. Something very big, something like this black block which would be probably months of research. Because to make a film you have to know what film you are gonna make. In my case, in the documentary film, I usually chose a subject. Sometimes is a subject that I don’t really know about, but it interests me. So, once I’ve figured out why it interests me, I’ve got to do a lot of research, learn about the subject. And the ultimate point of the base, would be a treatment: when you get to that it also means that you also get a bit of money, because it usually costs a lot of money to achieve a treatment. So that’s would be the first block. Now this middle piece …’ –
He is exploring his model carefully, starting from the bottom to the top, looking at the LEGO bricks and telling me about filmmaking. ‘If we said that the base is the beginning of filmmaking, this bit would be when you get somewhere very serious with the film, so you’ve actually done research, you have had pre-production… but even when you have the base you are not sure if your film is gonna become a film finished as a film… Often it does not become a film actually. Even after you have built the base. But I think that if you have reached this point – you can say that this is a quite unique piece, something different – and if you reach this point and you can make something unusual and build these aches, it could be – in terms of this tower…’ he stops and looks at the model adding:’… this very ugly tower’ – and we both laugh. People is always ashamed of their model, not realising how much they help them in telling the stories. And he goes on – …‘in terms of filmmaking, you’ve reached a very important point: you have done the base, you have actually started working on the film and if you are able to reach this point, it means that your film will get made, so now it’s a matter of really making it, it’s a turning point in terms of production, because it means you probably have your funding, you can kind of see the end of things building.’
Jean-Philippe have been talking about filmmaking, he is a filmmaker, yet he never mentions the word filmmaker. I have to ask: Where’s the filmmaker?
‘You are right, there is no filmmaker, and I am hesitating to put one in, in the sense that it’s very much about working as a team to make these films. There was a time, when I started making films that I was doing everything by myself – from beginning to end: very low budget, no budget films… I was just at the beginning. At the same time, I have to admit there’s a little bit of an Ego thing: I didn’t really know how to make films and I always thought that all my ideas had to get through, my camera shots have to represent the film, but as I’ve learnt more and more about filmmaking, it’s really about a team effort. And I think this is also how you get the best results, when you have a team and can discuss about what’s best for the project in terms of telling the story, which would mean building these blocks, getting footage, getting the story across, and that being said, in that sense I’d imagine I would add just one person, one filmmaker’ – he picks up the human element in the LEGO bricks and looks at his model – ‘I think this is a good representation of actual filmmaking, and if you put a filmmaker, I think it wouldn’t really represent actually what I think about filmmaking. That being said, you do need a person driving the whole project, because your team may not be there the whole time. In filmmaking you have a production team, that starts from the very beginning, from the base and it builds this antenna so they do the whole process, but most of them actually come and go depending what the film needs.
So instead of putting a person, what I would do, is maybe put an eye or two, because you always need an eye – no matter what the film is, there’s always one vision that everyone is building with. So as opposed to picking a body, I am gonna put an eye, and I put it here so it can see both the bottom and the top’ he says but taking the small yellow bricks with a sign on them and adding it to his model.
I look at his model and after having delved into the base and the main parts of it, it’s time to look at the top: And what is that at the end on the top?
It’s an antenna to me and actually I am happy that it’s there, because an antenna is quite an unique piece of a building and I think if we talk in terms of films, it’s actually very important for the film. You have a film here, so that’s an achievement in itself, but once you add an antenna, I think it becomes more than a film, it becomes something that people can share, can see, because an antenna’s function is to communicate with things outside this building. it catches radio waves and all sorts of waves so it’s for the film to be seen, whether on internet or distribution. So that completes the film quite well, because one thing is to make a film, another thing is to get it seen. So this antenna to me it represents film festivals, distribution and anything broadcasting it on internet. ‘
That was the warm up, Jean-Philippe was enjoying the process but now it’s time to get int the real question: What is information?
The answer will be published as an exclusive interview on the London Progressive Journal will be published soon.
The video is available in the video Section, or… here :)