An Interview with Caroline Du Potet – By Nic Brown

Caroline Du Potet is something of a rarity among French filmmakers. It isn’t the fact that she’s a woman that makes her stand out from the crowd; it’s the subject of her work: horror. Working with her brother, Éric, Caroline cut her filmmaking teeth making six short films. Now she and Éric have completed their first feature film: a horror/thriller called DANS TON SOMMEIL (IN THEIR SLEEP). The film, staring LA FEMME NIKITA’S Anne Parillaud, was released in France in March, 2010 and is now coming to the U.S. Shortly before its release in video on demand by IFC, IN THEIR SLEEP wowed audiences and won the Best International Film award at the BleedFest Film Festival in Los Angeles. Now filmmaker Caroline has taken the time to talk to B Movie Man Nic Brown about her new film, what it’s like to work with her brother, and some of the challenges she’s faced as a woman trying to make her mark in the bloodiest of genres: horror.

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Nic – Caroline, your film IN THEIR SLEEP will be released by IFC in the US this December. Can you tell us a little about the film?

Caroline – IN THEIR SLEEP is our first feature film. It’s a mix of horror, suspense and drama. It’s the story of the meeting between two alone and disturbed people. A woman who lost her son and a fragile, secretive young man who tries to escape a mysterious assailant…. They are going to help each other and try to survive a nightmare night….

Nic – Was it difficult getting IN THEIR SLEEP released into the U.S. market and how has it been doing in Europe?

Caroline – Yes, there are a lot of films on the market but horror films and thrillers are in general sell well around the world. TF1 International, which is in charge of the international sales, showed the film to IFC, our U.S. distributor. IN THEIR SLEEP has been released on VOD in December, but I don’t know if they have planned a theatrical component. In France, the film didn’t do well. French people prefer comedies! 

Nic- Interesting. But then thinking about it – many US comedies are remakes of French ones. I wonder why French audiences don’t tend to like horror – do they prefer more subtle material? 

Caroline – Our comedies are not very subtle… :). There are French dark movies but there are above all dramas, as if the violence and the tragedies need to be justifed by a historical context or made as an intimist author film. Most of the French critics dislike thrillers or horror films which have always bad reviews and are considered as pale imitations of American films. We don’t have a strong tradition of horror and frightening stories like in Spain for example.

Nic – You and your brother, Éric Du Potet, co-wrote and co-directed this film. What was it like working together to create it?

Caroline – We know each other very well. We grew with the same film influences. Before our feature, we made six short films together, so it wasn’t really a new experience for us…. We try to discuss a lot together before the shooting in order to agree on all the details and not contradict ourselves in front of the crew and the actors. 

Nic – How did you become interested in film?

Caroline – I’ve always loved watching films. So has my brother. When I was young, I made short films with my parents’ camera. After high school, although nobody in my family worked in the industry, I decided to study cinema in Paris.

Nic – What do you feel was the most challenging part of making IN THEIR SLEEP?

Caroline – Shooting conditions were very hard. My greatest difficulties were the lack of time…and the weather. We shot almost always during the night, in the forest, in the rain (which was not planned in the script…)! Some special effects didn’t work very well and made the crew lose a lot of time. We didn’t have time to shoot all the shots we had planned. It was always a race against the clock!

Nic – I understand the IN THEIR SLEEP won the Best International Film award at the BleedFest Film Festival. Can you tell us a little about that?

Caroline – It was an honor to participate in the rare festival spotlighting genre female filmmakers. There are few female genre directors, especially in France, and it’s really important to maximize their exposure.

Nic – As a female filmmaker, do you feel that you face more challenges having your work accepted and recognized?

Caroline – Female filmmakers don’t experience the same barriers to entry in France as they do in America. France is probably the country where there are the most of female filmmakers. But very few of them are interested in genre films. They prefer, in general, dramas and art house films. So people are often surprised and perhaps more skeptical when I told them I directed a horror film.

Nic – Who are some of the filmmakers that have influenced your work?

Caroline – For IN THEIR SLEEP, our biggest influences were Sam Peckinpah with STRAW DOGS and John Boorman’s DELIVERANCE. Like these films, we wanted to insist on the psychology of the characters. It was also important that the violence on the screen be realistic, without bloody effects. 

Nic – You mention Sam Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS and John Boorman’s DELIVERANCE. Both are excellent films that were considered very controversial during their day for some of their violent content. What are your thoughts on violence in movies, do you think today’s films push the violence level too high?

Caroline – It depends on the film. Violence doesn’t bother me if it’s justified by the story or by the genre of the movie. In horror films, the audience is waiting for bloody scenes (even if the suggestion is sometimes more powerful…), but I am a little unsettled when I sometimes see today’s action comedies with a high level of violence. It’s gratuitous and I understand that some people could be shocked.

Nic – Often, Hollywood studios like to take films made in other parts of the world and remake them, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and THE RING are two examples that jump to mind. What are your thoughts on this trend and how would you feel about an American remake?

Caroline – I don’t like this trend because it’s a sign of the lack of risk-taking and original projects in Hollywood. Sometimes, when the project of origin has suffered from a lack of budget, it could be interesting to remake it to harness the potential of the story, but remakes are rarely well made and more conventional in general. Concerning IN THEIR SLEEP for example, we didn’t have enough money but I see no point in a remake because we would totally lose the dark and strange atmosphere which makes the singularity of the film.

Nic – IN THEIR SLEEP was your first feature film. Do you have another in the works and if so, are you staying with the horror/thriller genre or will it be something else?

Caroline – We are currently working on a new French project, a "Hitchcockian" thriller called TOTEM. It will be more psychological than IN THEIR SLEEP. We’d like to shoot it next year in the south of France.

Nic – Do you have any advice that you would like to give to women who are interested in becoming filmmakers?

Caroline – I would tell them to fight for making the film they want, whatever people say or think, and not to let them be pigeonholed in some kinds of films because they are women. But they’ll have to work a lot, be patient, and never give up!

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