Interview with Filmmaker Angelique Kalani Axelrode (L’APPRENANTE (THE LEARNER))

L’APPRENANTE (THE LEARNER), 7min., France, Drama
Directed by Angelique Kalani Axelrode
L’Apprenante is an American college student in the process of “finding herself abroad” in Paris. She takes French classes to immerse herself in the culture, even though her accent is tragique. In one particular class, she struggles to recount her weekend where she goes to a Parisian party and meets La Femme; a girl she is immediately drawn to. As she navigates the discomfort of learning a new language, she also navigates the discomfort of discovering her queerness. Her inability to get out of her head inhibits her not only from improving her French, but also from being vulnerable with La Femme. Will she ever be able to commit to the accent and make a move? Impossible n’est pas français.n

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I made this film as a way to process some things I was personally grappling with. Like many queer people, I knew I wasn’t straight long before I said or did anything about it. My queerness lived in my head where I would replay interactions I had with people almost obsessively- oh were we flirting? Was she hitting on me? Why did I run away? If only I had said this. Or maybe if I hadn’t been so drunk. Or maybe if I had been a bit more drunk… Imaginary scenarios where I finally mustered up the courage to be intimate with someone else were only temporarily satisfying. I had to learn to get out of my head and actually act on my queer impulses. “L’Apprenante” is about this awkward process. The idea for this film came to me while I was living in Paris at the beginning of 2022 and feeling a sense of freedom I haven’t experienced since studying abroad in college. I was rediscovering myself and relearning what it means to be vulnerable, realizing I had very little vocabulary to work with. It felt like learning an entirely new language- one, like French, that sounds nothing like it is written.

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

I was living in Paris at the time with a family friend, and the idea for this film came to me when I had only 3 weeks left there. So preproduction and production were very fast paced because I wanted to film it before I had to leave. We filmed in April and worked on post production slowly but surely. After doing a makeup shoot in Los Angeles for coverage in October, we finished editing the following month.

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

Playful, young.

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

Working with our very tight budget was a fun challenge (as always). Also my Bolex broke during the shoot, so we had to improvise a lot with our footage to get the same feel we were hoping for. We ended up still using some of the 16mm even though it was damaged, and our editor Jacqui Carriere in Los Angeles ended up incorporating some BTS footage that Tatchi (who plays our protagonist) took on their camcorder.

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

I loved listening to the audience feedback! One of my favorite parts of filmmaking is listening to different people’s interpretations of the film you created. Like someone will have taken an entirely different message or feeling from the film than someone else, and it’s really interesting to see what resonated with who and why. I’m also always trying to improve my craft and learn, and asking for feedback is a big part of that journey.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

I’ve always loved making films and was constantly performing growing up- I’ve been a dancer my entire life and pursued acting for a few years in middle school. I loved the vulnerability that came with performing and the emotional experience was really addicting. In high school, I was one of the first cohorts of students given iPads, and everytime we had the chance to make a video, I was bossing everyone around and editing on iMovie for hours. I loved being able to capture fleeting emotion and give the illusion of permanence (was also a bit of a control freak, if you can’t tell). However, despite this fervor, it wasn’t until my senior year of college that I realized I could actually pursue filmmaking as a career. I got my Bachelor of Science and minored in film, but when I took a 16mm filmmaking class right before graduating, I fell in love with my Bolex and the filmmaking process all over again. I knew I had to seriously change my career trajectory, and that’s what I spent the last year and a half doing.

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

“Breathless” by Jean-Luc Goddard. Just kidding ha- although a really fantastic film. I grew up watching big blockbusters with my family, so honestly probably the “Hunger Games” or I’ve seen “Kung Fu Panda” a bunch of times, if I’m being totally and completely honest. Still stan both of those series. I based my identity on Katniss Everdeen for a solid couple of years. More recently, I’ve seen Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” many times.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I always really appreciate and value networking and mentorship opportunities!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Really easy – FilmFreeway has not caused me many issues thus far.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Not a meal but obsessed with hot chocolate right now (with oat milk).

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

I’m working on a larger budget short for 2023, writing lots of spec scripts and developing “L’Apprenante” into a feature!


By matthewtoffolo

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

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