An Interview with Pascal Payant – By Misty Layne

A couple of months ago I did a review of a short film called On the Horizon that I absolutely adored.  I ended up emailing back and forth with the director for a while and finally asked if I could interview him and he said yes. So without further ado – my interview with filmmaker Pascal Payant. Have a look as we talk about the role of women in film (particularly his), how he views women in cinema and discuss everything from the Doors to sexualization.

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ML:  Your films (Something in the Way, White Blossoms and On the Horizon) evoke a sense of lyricism and poetry and are for the majority told without a lot of actor interaction (i.e. more in the form of voiceovers or one person speaking to the camera).  Would you consider this your signature style and how did this become your signature?

PP:  I love intimacy. I love when it’s simple, delicate but there’s dark layers, rich underground of meanings. It can look simple from the exterior but if you start analyzing the film you will see that every aspect of the film is there for a reason. Every color, framing, sound, music, action etc. Everything is there for a reason. It’s my signature for sure. That’s the more crucial part for a director it’s to find your voice. When they click play they need to say yes it’s “THAT” person film. I never wanted to be a generic director. I want to have a voice; I want my films to have communal themes that connect all my works. Short films are there to experiment and find that voice. Once you are at the stage that you have your voice and you master your style. Then go for the feature film. That’s where I’m at now. After 35 films, music videos etc. Now I’m ready for my feature film. It’s called “Stolen Season” It’s a road movie about a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

ML:  Your films (Something in the Way, White Blossoms and On the Horizon) evoke a sense of lyricism and poetry and are for the majority told without a lot of actor interaction (i.e. more in the form of voiceovers or one person speaking to the camera).  Would you consider this your signature style and how did this become your signature?

PP:  I love intimacy. I love when it’s simple, delicate but there’s dark layers, rich underground of meanings. It can look simple from the exterior but if you start analyzing the film you will see that every aspect of the film is there for a reason. Every color, framing, sound, music, action etc. Everything is there for a reason. It’s my signature for sure. That’s the more crucial part for a director it’s to find your voice. When they click play they need to say yes it’s “THAT” person film. I never wanted to be a generic director. I want to have a voice; I want my films to have communal themes that connect all my works. Short films are there to experiment and find that voice. Once you are at the stage that you have your voice and you master your style. Then go for the feature film. That’s where I’m at now. After 35 films, music videos etc. Now I’m ready for my feature film. It’s called “Stolen Season” It’s a road movie about a woman’s journey of self-discovery.

ML:  You seem to be a fan of shooting in wide open spaces such as the desert or snow covered fields. Is this representative of a deeper layer of your works in the sense that they represent what seem to be common themes of isolation and loneliness in your films?  Or is this merely because you shoot with no budget and/or team and this creates both a less expensive and beautiful
backdrop?

PP:  It’s both. When you have no budget you chose location that can be stunning and filmic. An ocean, a field, snow or desert cost nothing and you can create the most stunning piece using these locations. A film is a visual medium. You need to have something to dream about when you watch a film otherwise what’s the point? I love wide space. I love the fact that you can escape and be totally free in nature. I’m a bit claustrophobic so if you stuck me in a forest I will feel weird but if you let me go in a huge empty desert, I feel at home. I’m calm and at peace. Even if there’s darkness around me at that moment, wide open space can be very therapeutic. It can be isolation or it can be a healing process-.depends on the film, depend on how you receive it

ML:  As well as short films, you’ve also done a number of music videos (I watched two done for Automatik Eden, one for Zeraphine and one for Philip Aelis).  The bands all seemed to have a similar style and flavor – do you seek bands out to shoot their videos and come up with their concepts or do they seek you out?  Or are these groups friends of yours?  I know in a few of your videos you featured music written and performed by friends.

PP:  Music video wise, I’m kinda of a groupie. I don’t care about the money or fame. I just want to create cool concept, videos with bands that I love. Zeraphine for example, I contacted them cause I love their music for years. They checked my stuff and the singer said yes, let’s shoot. So I flew to them for free to shoot with them. It was so fun. I will never do music video if I hate the band, just for money. I won’t. I won’t have any fun doing it. Same from Philip in France or Automatik Eden. I did 2 videos for them and they look different but similar. We experienced and tried stuff. It’s so fun. The goal is to bring your style in everything you do. It can be challenging. I create all concepts then I pitch it to them. I love supporting new bands or just collaborating with amazing talents around the world. I have so many bands I want to work with.

ML:  The Philip Aelis video seemed very unlike the other music videos I viewed in that it featured color instead of muted black and whites.  What was the difference there that made you move away from what you’d done with other bands?

PP:  We wanted to create something that the woman was in her own world, isolated from anybody. He had a connection to a night club and I said what about having this girl to be all alone and dancing with the lights and lasers, that she can be free of anything. Something very simple but elegant, classy and dreamy. There it was. In everything that I do, the colours need to pop out of the screen. I love when everything is natural, organic. I hate special effects; I don’t want to do them. My challenge is always to create beauty just from the lenses and the person. Nothing fake. It’s hard sometimes but at the end it works.
ML:  You mentioned to me in our conversations over the past couple of months that your films are about the strength of women in cinema.  Does this include your music videos? I noticed in Automatik Eden’s The Agency that there were themes of BDSM with a woman being in chains amongst other images.  If your work is about the strength of women in cinema, was your message here about power play in the BDSM community and were you trying to say that subs have the most power over doms instead of vice versa?  Or was this video simply one you directed as being opposed to one you also came up with the concept for?

PP:  It’s funny what you can see in my films I love it. I love sensuality, beauty, fashion and in cinema, mostly it’s always about men point of view and the woman are object or secondary. I never liked that. I always wanted to give the woman a voice in so many ways. When you check my work it’s never about the body it’s about the face. Anybody can have a perfect body but no one has the same story in their face. Everyone is different, unique. I love facial expression and the beauty of the face. I’m really pushing hard to give woman a place in cinema with my style. My 3 next feature films are all about woman again. Men are there but they are used in a totally different way. For the music video, the song was about being trapped by the system so I had an idea to have her chained with the spotlight on her with her clothing all ripped off. They really liked it and on camera it looks bad ass I think I wanted her to have control of the chain and be strong, fierce when she was looking at us and it worked.

ML:  Your works that I viewed all feature very stunningly beautiful women.  Do you believe that women’s strength lies in their beauty?

PP:  Beauty can be sadness and strength; it can be a prison for some and courage for others. It all depends. That’s what I love about woman, about man, about visual. It’s so complex. It’s never just one layer. Beauty is everything and nothing at the same time. Depend on your personality at the end. It’s to create a balance. Like I said in White Blossoms: Beauty is nothing if you don’t have the energy, the vibe, the personality to bring it to life in the most unique way. It’s all about what you do with the tool you have. You can be visually ordinary but if you have the most amazing personality. You will be the most gorgeous woman on earth.

ML:  On that same note, your film White Blossoms once again features very beautiful women and on the surface at least seems to be about body image.  But it also could be viewed as a take on the sexualization of women in society and also as the sexual journey a woman takes throughout her lifetime.  Is this up to the viewer to decide or is the meaning supposed to be very clear?

PP:  I think in the film it’s very clear where I stand. Like I said, if you don’t know what to do with that beauty that you have, you will be an empty shell, woman or man. It’s the same; you can be perfect from the outside but so empty inside. Everyone needs to stop running and being stuck in that circle of life or society and just focus on themselves. They need to connect with the inner beauty to really create that balance of pure power and strength to be able to function.

ML:   I only watched the links you sent me (the music videos, Something in the Way, White Blossoms and of course On the Horizon) and with the exception of the music videos, there really aren’t any men featured in your works.  Are there men in your other works or is it really all about the women?

PP:  In my short it’s mostly about woman. My feature film will also be about women but, yes, men will be there too but it will be used in a different form. They will never be the center of my story. I prefer to give the voice to the women and make them shine with my style. People will love it or hate it but at least they will have a voice. I don’t know, all my life I’ve been connected way more with women then men. It was just naturally for me. I always talked, listen and interacted with women. They said write about what you know, well that’s what I know All my films, characters are me. They are women through my eyes. I love to create dreamy, moody films to showcase them in that world; just to recreate reality for me is boring. I want to dream and be in a different world. If I want reality I’ll open my door and see where I live. Nothing is accurate cause it’s an opinion. Like the film On The Horizon – that subject I’ve been there. I’ve been both parts: the broken hearted and the heart crusher. I’m far from being perfect but everything relation wise I know I’m pretty good at talking and expressing that subject in film or feature film.