Tuesday, 12 August 2014

2012: Marteau

Marteau Films Production was incorporated in December 2011, the same month I quit my day job. The plan was simple, and at the same time incredibly ambitious: to figure out how to produce Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein as a French/English genre film, then move on to other projects. At first, things went smoother than I would have thought: talented actors and award-winning crew members were easy to contact, and responded very positively to the script. Within four months, we had a commitment from UK sales company Parkland Pictures to handle the movie. But then came the hard part: financing the project. It took a while to realize that the initial plan wouldn't work. I didn't give up right away on getting French funding, which was a mistake. People wouldn't understand why I wanted to film both in French and English, and French TV channels wouldn't follow us on a genre film. I eventually gave up on the idea of filming in French, which was foolish from the start. But hey, one needs to learn from his mistakes!

Among the first people I met was director of photography Jérôme Alméras. He suggested we shot a short test film, to show as proof of concept. We decided it had to be ready in time for Cannes 2012, and got down to work. The location would be an underground place which used to be owned by monks. The actors would be Dario Costa as Sherlock Holmes (remember, he played the part in the public reading a year before), and Angèle Vivier as a screaming victim of the monster (she will play Christina, the innkeeper's mute daughter, in the movie). Costumes would be designed by Pierre-Jean Larroque, an Emmy and César winner with a taste for period pieces. And we hoped to have a great monster with crazy prosthetics... until we realized how little time and money we had. We had almost none of either. So we settled for a close-up of the monster's eye, which ended up being quite effective. We had a cold sweat a few days before filming, when Jérôme learned that he couldn't be there due to an important meeting for the film he was about to make with Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson (Love Punch). But his assistant Simon Blanchard prepped the shots with him beforehand, using the storyboard drawn by my wife Lucie, and everything went smoothly on set. In fact, I was happy to keep the crew as small as possible, because it felt strange to have so many people working around me: two makeup artists, the costume designer, two unit managers, a propmaster, and four people for the photography (we used an Alexa camera). They were all intrigued by the fact that I didn't have at least one assistant director, but I told them I never had any! Shane Briant provided a deep voice over, Matthieu Huvelin crafted a great music, and the teaser turned out to be pretty acceptable, eventually making it into two festivals (which wasn't the initial plan at all!)

Cannes 2012 was interesting, but Jean-Noël and I went there unprepared, having made no appointment beforehand, and kind of hoping meetings would happen spontaneously. We were partly right, because we met American director Jane Clark, who told us about a film she wanted to make in France – and we're working on it with her now. But we didn't find a pile of money waiting for us, or anyone ready to finance with their eyes closed an expensive film from a first-time director.

After Cannes, I went location scouting in Belgium. I had the best guide in the world: actor Eric Godon, who will play innkeeper Johann Klein in our film. We visited castle Reinhardstein, near the German border, and found all the places we needed in the area: the forest, the village, the inn, the Burgermeister's office... I came back with a good idea of what the film would look like. We were supported by the French Sherlock Holmes Society and its president Thierry Saint-Joanis, who said he would lend all the furnishing and props needed for the Baker Street set. At that moment, we were pretty confident that the film was about to get made, to the point where we issued a press release in June, right before I left for Belgium. When I returned, numerous websites had spread the info, and a few magazines had mentioned Sherlock Holmes vs Frankenstein with our promotional poster (by Gil Jouin, who had designed with his father Michel the French posters for Return of the Jedi, Young Sherlock Holmes, etc). A lot of people thought that filming was imminent. Well, it turned out it wasn't. Two years later, we haven't even started. Is everything ready? Yes. What happened since then? Wait till next entry!

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