Alex Campbell sat down with film-maker Sam Boullier to chat about his latest project, Hey Angels.
Alex: So when did the idea of Hey Angels come to you?
Sam: So two chapters were made without thinking about Hey Angels; a short film called The Colours & The Kids and another short called Letter to Memphis. Both of them were in dreams, actually.
But for Hey Angel I just started writing short stories, instead of scripts. And I was trying to work out how to translate them into films, but I realized that the things I really loved about these stories, the tone and imagery were coming through the language, and that wasn’t going to translate. So I started getting into essay film, um, and yeah, I knew I was about to turn them into films I wrote fifteen or twenty short stories, of which about nine are in the final film.
I’d been reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Dubliners and so I think I was very influenced by the narrative, or lack thereof, in those stories, and how such small nuance can have such dramatic effect.
And then I used a technique I’d come up with in Letter to Memphis, of building a film in part from archive material, to inherently inject a sense of nostalgia into everything. And then I started filming the people around me and turned them into the characters.
Alex: So with the nostalgia elements, were you drawing on your own experiences growing up?
Sam: All you’ve got is your memories, but they’re always changing and shifting, it’s kind of about, what can you take of that? The project doesn’t propose an answer, but tries to find a way to make people realize that that’s the case, that everything you understand is just your understanding, that it’s not fact, and that that’s really freeing, it’s not something that ties you down.
Alex: Could you talk about collaborating with people on such a broad reaching project?
Sam: I guess the most direct collaboration I had was with the musicians, rather than with the people featured in the film, because although actually the person that’s in it the most is an actress, she’s in the film as herself, rather than as a fiction. All the original music was by people that have never been to the Yorkshire Moors, which is where the events took place. I would send [musicians] Nadine Carina, Rounak Maiti and Charlie Moon images, but not of the film, and ask them to react to it. So in a sense there was no collaboration. I created a situation in which they could be themselves, inspired by the images, the stories, but actually I wanted and allowed them to bring themselves to the project.
Alex: Is there something that you feel has caused personal or creative growth whilst making this?
Sam: The project is an exploration of a part of myself, and so, although the bits that have been shown to the public have had a good reception, the film was made in a way most films aren’t. Like, musicians or writers or photographers or painters, they can make a work, they can spend days making a work that is horrible or beautiful to express a part of themselves and understand themselves through that, purely as self expression, with no need for there to be an audience. But with film, with so many people involved in a project, its quite hard to make a movie without feeling a responsibility to share it, and although I’m going to share this project, it’s main reason for being is so I could get stuff out of my system, and that’s healthy.
The other thing I took from it is, was, letting go of all the shit that you’re told films have to be. Traditionally beautiful rather than non-traditionally beautiful, or not beautiful at all, or high quality recording, I mean, most of the audio is recorded on the Voice Memo app, most of the footage on iPhones and cheap cameras. You can let go of everything you’ve ever been told about making a film and it doesn’t stop it from being a film, it doesn’t stop it from being good, or bad, and although I don’t want to always make films like this, it’s freeing to know that I can.
Alex: Are there any new projects that you’re working on now?
Sam: Yeah, I have another that’s very similar in its themes to Hey Angels, but completely different in the way it’s going to be made. It’s similar in that it will be a film, an installation and maybe a virtual reality work as well, about an astronaut that’s coming into contact with an outer-dimensional being. It explores themes of memory and subjectivity and storytelling and how that affects your actions, but it’s a psychedelic space movie, rather than a documentary. And I’ve got a film about homelessness, and then a film about the environment and ancestry. Similar again to Hey Angels, which is about landscape and family, so yeah there’s definitely a progression of themes.
Check out Sam's site here for more work and updates about Hey Angels.