We recently caught up with talented French filmmaker Charles Ancelle about what inspired him growing up to get into the world of making movies, who he would most like to work with and his upcoming projects. Here is what he had to say:
When did you first get into Film production?
Non-professionally, I did a filmmaking workshop at Maine Media Workshops when I was 15, that was my first experience ever filming something fictional. Four years later, I got my first job on a film set as a camera operator on a French feature film called ‘Freres Ennemis’, and that same year I produced my first short film professionally which went to Cannes the following year.
Who were some of your influences in the film industry and what inspired you to get into this type of work?
It’s a combination of things really. When I was 16, I discovered Stanley Kubrick and it had a profound impact on me. I think before that, I saw films as pure entertainment without thinking much further than that, but watching Kubrick I realized that film was so much more and I decided to look deeper into it. I got a few more experiences with film and realized that the process simply made me happy. Film is unique as an art form I think because it’s so collaborative. Even a painter, writer, composer, photographer or sculptor can create their art on their own, but that’s impossible with film. It has its drawbacks of course but overall, I think it makes the process of making them a lot more fun. At least it definitely is for me and still is now. In fact, I don’t think anything beats being as happy as the first day of filming any project, or when you finally screen it to the public.Those feelings make it all worth it.
Do you think hands on experience is better than sitting in a classroom learning about filmmaking?
I think it depends on what kind of hands on experience and what kind of classroom we are talking about. You’ll probably learn a lot more by sitting in a classroom with Steven Spielberg (even though that’s probably not going to happen but you get the idea) than by having hands-on experience like filming a wedding (and I’m just giving two extreme examples here just to make a point, obviously). At the end of the day, I think both are important and complementary to each other. Filmmaking is a costly process so preparing for it as much as possible is definitely valuable. I also think one needs to have the experience of being on set to understand how it all works because the theory can only get you so far. At the end of the day, learning is all about making mistakes, then being able to identify those mistakes and figure out how to avoid them in the future. I think that process happens by making mistakes through hands on experiences, and understanding and learning from them in a classroom at the beginning, until one is experienced enough to not need a classroom to be able to evolve. Everyone has a slightly different learning process, different needs, different responses to failure, so obviously, some people will need the classroom more than others. Also, I want to point out, that a lot of different things can happen in a classroom: discussions, workshops, exercises, those can teach people a lot.
What has been the biggest achievement of your career so far?
I find this question very difficult to answer. What I feel the most proud of is probably being able to continue to produce projects that I care about. I feel also very proud of having worked with incredible talents on both sides of the camera.
What kind of projects are you working on right now?
Several very different projects, which is exciting. I have a feature thriller we are preparing with my producing partner, Anna Skrypka, which is about a young Ukrainian girl who gets kidnapped into a sex trafficking organization and gets revenge. We are also preparing the second season of our webseries, ‘Behind The Blinds aka Filmmaking 101’ – we are about to finish releasing the first season as we speak. We also have two TV Pilots we are planning to produce, one of them is about the porn industry, it’s called Natural Selection, and another one is a little more abstract, but it’s basically about social status: an unlikely friendship between two guys, one is the coolest guy in town, while the other is very uncool. It sounds kind of silly pitched like that, but I think it’s going to be very funny, and this one is called #SoCool. Down the line, we also have another feature thriller that’s female driven called ‘Butterfly’, as well as a sci-fi thriller, also female driven, called ‘Synthetic Hearts’ which looks at the rise of AI in the future in a very unique way, and I can’t really say more at this point.
What would be your ideal project to work on and why?
That’s very difficult to answer because I feel like the projects I am working on right now are ideal projects in the sense that they are very fulfilling and pleasant to work on. However, if I had to pick, say, a big Hollywood blockbuster that I’d like to work on, then I’d probably pick one of the new Star Wars films. Star Wars is my childhood, it’s such a huge saga, it resonates across generations. It’s such a powerful world and story, I’m pretty sure there is something very unique about it and being a part of that adventure would probably be a dream come true.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Well, on one end of the spectrum, I’d love to collaborate with Steven Spielberg (I know, I can dream), I think he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of all time and certainly one of the greatest who is still alive. I grew up on all his movies, they’ve had a tremendous influence on me both as a person and as a filmmaker, so I think I would learn a great deal from collaborating with him. On the other end of the spectrum, I’d love to collaborate with Vince Gilligan, who I think is probably the most incredible and exciting writers in TV right now. I feel like there are very few people that have reached his level of storytelling, it’s so simple, elegant, powerful and unique. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next and it would be amazing for me to see him in action.
What would your advice be to aspiring filmmakers?
The same advice everybody else is giving: Go and make a film, or keep making films, you’re only going to get better!