Interview with Filmmaker Pauline Pelsy-Johann (OVER THE SKY)

OVER THE SKY was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the May 2021 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I wanted to tell a personal story about my childhood. Even though the topic of divorce has become commonplace today, it is still a tragedy for children. I wanted to speak to children (and adults who experienced this upheaval in their childhood) who are going through this painful moment that changes their identity construction forever, to send them a message of hope and strength to face life. Thanks to courage, hope, friendship and poetry, all dreams are possible.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

This film was a real adventure ! I wrote a first version of the script in 2013 and then put it aside. I took it up again in 2018 a week before my father suddenly passed away. Then, it was necessary in my stages of mourning to make this film, even if I don’t have any production or money. In september 2019, I met Marina Delesalle who is the daughter of a friend and I immediately knew that she will interpret Alice wonderfully. I also met Raphaël Clouard who plays his friend Leo and I said to myself that the casting was perfect. So, I returned to my childhood village in the French countryside and I found many friends and supporters there that I had not seen for 20 years. This is a real great human adventure ! Everyone helps me finding a beautiful house for the setting, bikes for the kids… Even the airfield welcomed me with open arms. They also offered me a glider flight which was my childhood dream. I have met amazing people, generous and sharing. Also, I put together a great technical team and the rest of the casting in three weeks. I launched a crowdfunding campaign in early September 2019 and decided to produce with the money I raised and all my savings. We shot the film in 6 days. From the moment I decided to embrak on this project and the end of filming, only 5 weeks passed. It was magical !

Then, the image editing, the creation of the original music, the sound editing, sound design and mixing, the color calibration took several months because I had to go and shoot two months in Chile to make documentaries for French TV, and also the quarantine periods of Covid-19 slowed down the process a bit, but I managed to work on every technical aspects of post-production as I wanted thanks to the great team around me. The film was finally released in January 2021.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Boldness and Liberating.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Maybe the lack of money but finally I managed to finish the film the way I wanted because I had wonderful people that worked with passion for free to achieve the film. Again thanks to them.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I cried a bit because it’s very touching to hear that people get my point in such a precise way. This confirms me that the story is universal. Also, the analysis of the setting, the screenwriting, the cinematography, the sound, the music and the acting was so finely described. I am very moved.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

My revelation to direct films occurred to me very early. My parents were stage actors and at the time there wasn’t really a babysitter to watch me while they performed on stage so my babysitter was Mister Cinema – as I was calling it. I grew up watching a lot of old movies. When I was eight years old, I found my father’s Betacam camera that weighed 15 kilos and I went out with it on my shoulder into the streets of Paris to interview people I randomly met.
At the age of 22, I wrote and direct my first documentary which is a tribute to the History of cinema and which was sealed by the generous participations of three of my favorite film directors as Quentin Tarantino, Claude Chabrol and Michel Deville.

Since then I have always made films, narrative as well as documentaries.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I am a real cinephile (movie buff) so this is a very hard question for me ! But I can answer in relation to my short. It will be « It’s a wonderful life ! » by Franck Capra, « À nos amours » by Maurice Pialat and « La Belle et La Bête » by Jean Cocteau. These three films are my references for « Over the sky ».

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I think this platform can be interesting for filmmakers like me to promote their films, to meet people from all over the world who share a common sensibility and love of cinema. Your festival is a real springboard and thank you for that.

9. What is your favorite meal?

OMG ! I am so greedy and gourmet that I could not answer ! I love to cook cuisines from all over the world. Fortunately I travelled a lot, lived in China, studied in the USA at Smith College, MA. As a French I can say that the dish that always reminds me my childhood is « pot-au-feu », even though today I don’t eat a lot of meat.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

My next short film « The Seagull Season » is in production in France. I also wrote several features films and series that I hope to make in the USA. I am actually looking for a production company in the USA.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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