Tuesday, 15 July 2014

1997-1999: William Boquet (1)

In 1997, I was floating through high school with no real assiduity, except in theater class. I was 15 and in the equivalent of Junior Year. The year before, I had made a short film with a classmate named Jean-Noël Georgel. We first intended it to be a “Tale from the Crypt”, but then it became an odd story of nightmares and surreal humor, shot with a camcorder and left unfinished after one of the actresses went missing (this was before cell phones and e-mails, it was hard to find someone when he wasn't in the phone book).

Jean-Noël had then moved to Lyons with his family, so I found a new bunch of people to make movies with. One of them started writing a script about a private detective and the murder of a teddy bear. It wasn't going anywhere, so he dropped it. I asked Emmanuel if I could take the premice and write my own script from it, and he had no problem with that – he even went on to play the detective. It was the start of a saga that would last 13 years.

I had to come up with a name and personality for the hero: my love for puns drove me to chose William Boquet ('bilboquet' is the french word for cup-and-ball game), and he took elements from various iconic sleuths: he was an untidy bachelor, acted cynical, wore a trenchcoat and yes, a deerstalker hat. Which pretty much established him as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes wannabe. The movie was logically titled Teddy, and had William Boquet inteviewing the inhabitants of the building where the teddy bear was murdered. Again, it was a surreal murder comedy, probably influenced by the TV series The Avengers (John Steed and his women, not Iron Man and his pals). We shot it in three afternoons with two camcorders, and it looks pretty awful. There was only one copy of the script, which was hand-written on a notebook, and we managed to misplace it halfway through the shoot. I had to tell the actors what their lines were before each scene (the script was recovered a few days later under my bed, and I realized then that I had forgotten a few lines and jokes in the process). Beside William Boquet, the film introduced a character called Fax Bulle-d'Air, a paranoid FBI agent inspired by Fox Mulder; I realized a few years later, when I discovered
16-year-old me as William Boquet
the series Get Smart, that Fax Bulle-d'Air was actually very similar to Maxwell Smart!


A year later, a friend of mine called Bastien encouraged me to write a sequel. He knew I had a few ideas for a 'William Boquet universe', with a gallery of supporting characters that had yet to be developed. I wrote this sequel under the title Viande Froide (Cold Meat), and introduced police commissioner Lacroûte, who behaved a bit like the commissioner Gordon from the 60s Batman series: each time a case was brought to his attention, he instantly called William Boquet to solve it for him. The guy only spent his day reading books and drinking beers. FBI agent Fax Bulle-d'Air was also returning, and was revealed to have a caring wife, who hired Boquet to protect her husband. Viande Froide was directed by Bastien, who had me play William Boquet in place of Emmanuel, who wasn't interested in returning. Again, three days of shooting, horrible camcorder image and cheesy lines delivered by teenage amateur actors. Hey, what did you expect?


Another year later, I was finally finishing high school, and decided to shoot a final William Boquet episode (or so I thought) called Seven-up. I was playing the detective again, and directing myself (which I found very uncomfortable, even on such a light, no-budget production). The story was a spoof of David Fincher's Seven, with a mysterious killer making up his own list of deadly sins: Ugliness, Bad Taste, etc. In the last scene, we understood he had been killing people who had annoyed William Boquet at some point, and then he shot
himself for being the embodiment of the seventh “sin”: intolerance. Seven-up was shot in July 1999, and probably required 9 or 10 days of filming. It was a bit better than the two previous ones, I think, and was a lot more graphic: there were several violent murder scenes, one rape, and Boquet ended with the blood of the murderer all over his face and clothes.

During high school, I also spent some time writing and drawing a comic book called Schtounks. It was about a war between two people called the Schtounks and the Schtonks (confusing, I know). One of the characters was a detective called Scherloc Tounk, inspired by... you know who. There was also a scientist called Professor Von Chlok, who used body parts to create a monster called Alioun. For his lab, I drew inspiration from the promotional stills for Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein.

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