Tuesday, 22 July 2014

2003-2009: William Boquet (2)

Four years later, I graduated from a French/American school with
a BA in management and finance. And William Boquet came back. Instead of looking for a regular job, I went on to work on a new episode for my detective, entitled William Boquet dans la quatrième dimension (William Boquet in the Fourth Dimension). This one would be a silent movie, shot in black & white (or rather in an intense sepia monochrome), and would focus on everyone BUT William Boquet. He would only show up in the last scene and kick the shit out of the bad guys. This last idea came from the fact that I initially thought I would play the character myself... which I ultimately didn't. The part went to a friend called Pierre, who would later return for two installments of the franchise. In a small but very funny part, Matthieu Huvelin was being beaten up by two thugs; he would eventually become a composer on a lot of my movies, including the upcoming Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein!

The first three films were shot on Hi-8 and VHS-C, this one was the first for which we used DV. It was also the first episode to be edited on a computer, and not with a VCR connected to the camcorder or to a Hi-Fi (no kidding, this is how the others were edited and mixed). Apparently, it was entertaining enough to be selected in a short film festival in Grenoble. Only two amateur movies had made it into the selection, and we were running against 18
sketches for Avant-Garde
films made with professional means. William Boquet 4 was very fun to to make, and a lot of people seemed to like it. To this day, it's still the best of the bunch, because things went a bit downhill afterwards. This is one time in my life where I probably should have stopped amateur filmmaking and started doing things properly. But I went the lazy and cowardly route for a few years, paying my bills with jobs I didn't care for, and sticking to making films with no crew, no budget and zero technical equipment.

That same summer, I made a short film called Avant-Garde, about.... Frankenstein. So you might say 2003 was the first time I pitted “Sherlock Holmes” (a version of him, at least) against Frankenstein, in a way. Avant-Garde told the story of Victor Frankenstein creating his monster, then dreaming that it survived through the 1930s, 60s, 90s and beyond. The film was 12 minutes long, which is about half of an average William Boquet, but there was an effort on costumes and lighting. It was also the first time I used the name Marteau Films, as a mere joke: Marteau is French for Hammer, and my favorite Frankenstein movies are the Hammer productions with Peter Cushing.


One year later, I made a fifth William Boquet, the only episode that would be shot outside of Paris and its surroundings. L'Amour aux trousses (a pun spoofing the french title for North by Northwest, where I replaced Death with Love). We spent four days in Normandy, filming scenes on the beach and in town, where the detective was being chased mostly by women who wanted to rape him – and a few individuals who wanted to kill him or mutilate him. We had a blast, but the film was another of these no-budget, private-joke efforts that couldn't appeal to a lot of people outside a small circle of friends.
After I spent almost two years on a more ambitious film called Freudy (but again, without professional means or a real crew), William Boquet returned for his weirdest adventure in 2006: Fax Bulle-d'O². Pierre was playing the character for the third time, and I was directing, but for the first time it wasn't from a script that I had written: it was one of three episodes penned by Jean-Noël Georgel (the other two were never filmed). It was a very strange story, where the world was losing its colors around the FBI agent, who had made an enemy out of his own subconscious double. It could have been exciting, but I underestimated the complexity of making the final product intelligible, and it ended up being quite a mess – my favorite parts are the opening and closing credits! It was the second time Matthieu was scoring one of my films (the first having been Freudy). 

After that, another episode called Repas Eternel (which had Boquet track down a cannibal) was planned, with a friend directing and me playing the lead again – eight years after Seven-Up. We started shooting a few scenes, but the whole thing rapidly fell apart. Which is when I started concentrating on writing something that could be made into a REAL film. Not a 20-minute selfish surreal trip, but a feature film that a normal movie-goer would be interested in! Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein? Not yet, folks! I know, this is beginning to sound like How I met your mother, but remember we're barely in 2008 at this point...


I called Jean-Noël and asked him if he would write something really ambitious with me. He said yes, and we got down to work. So here was the plan: to write a 100-page script loosely based on a french comic book character, then send it to the author and hope that he likes it. It was a very silly plan, for two reasons: first, having the author approve your script would not be a guarantee that it will make it to the screen; second, you could have the problem we ended up having: when Jean-Noël and I contacted the author's agent, we learned that the rights had already been optioned, and there was no way our script would be read. They didn't even want to know the pitch or anything, we just had to put our work in a drawer and move on to the next project. It was the second feature-long script I'd worked on, the first was called Old-Up and had gone through several versions from 2000 to 2003, and had ultimately been shelved (too expensive, too many characters, too hard to keep the three writers focused on a same project). Jean-Noël had already written and directed a no-budget 80-minute film a few years before. But this particular script could have been our key to “real” filmmaking, if only we had chosen our subject more wisely. There we were, having worked for almost a year on a script (we had also made a short test-film which wasn't too bad – but had very poor special effects!), and having no real plan for the foreseeable future – apart from sticking to our day jobs.
The frustration that arose from this situation drove me to my usual fix: William Boquet. I took the unused footage for Repas Eternel and used it to spawn a seventh episode, Flou (Blur). I played the detective once again, and put the character in an uncomfortable situation: he wakes up one day almost blind, his entire environment reduced to a blur. He starts picturing everyone with his own face, and wonders how he's gonna solve the case of missing person he's dealing with. Matthieu Huvelin scored this one as well, and Jean-Noël plays a new FBI agent (one who had been introduced in the previous installment), but the film is unlike any of the previous entries. William Boquet has always been my double in a way, and each film had mirrored something of my life at the point it was made: Teddy was about leaving childhood, WB4 was filled with the feeling of liberty I had when exiting business school... but it was never deliberate. This seventh episode ended up being too personal, and while it reflects one of the dearest periods in my life (basically, how I realized that I had met my soulmate), it doesn't make for a very good movie – except for my wife and I! 

Flou was filmed in 2009, completed in 2010, and remains to this day William Boquet's last episode. I don't see the character returning any time soon, but if he does, he won't be sporting a deerstalker hat. Days of dealing with a Sherlock Holmes wannabe are long gone now.

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