Swim Little Fish Swim - Interview with Directors Ruben Amar & Lola Bessis

September 17, 2014 | By Pauline Lamy
Ruben Amar & Lola Bessis
  1. On the occasion of the US release of Swim Little Fish Swim, French Culture met directors Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis to discuss the film, their projects and New York.

  2. What made you want to pick New York/ Brooklyn as the frame for your movie, seeing as the challenges faced by your characters could be described as universal?

The idea comes from a filmed diary that we started together in New York. We found all the situations crazy, and we ran into lots of atypical anecdotes on our way. Naturally, we collected the images from New York. Some little elements from daily life seemed absurd, other stuff trivial, but we were amazed. It was like small scenes, and we wanted to include them in a movie. We didn’t use everything but the idea originally came from this will to do a feature movie by seizing New York, before we even wrote the script. And then we said « we need to do this movie, we only have 5 more months ahead of us! ». And we bought a canon 7D camera…

  1. How did you work with an American cast except Lilas /Lola Bessis? Did you notice a different approach in the acting of the Americans? How did you adapt to the cultural differences?

There were a lot of obstacles and disagreements. People were very low paid, so sometimes they accepted other opportunities – which is totally understandable - and the climate was rather tense. We wanted to do a real movie, every hour mattered and we needed to take advantage of everything. In contrast, the team thought that the climate would look like a summer camp, and indeed it was not because all our savings were at stake. However, we met very talented people with whom we wanted to collaborate in the future.

  1. Numerous French movies were shot in New York and Brooklyn (Eden, the last Mia Hansen love movie, or Klapishe’s Chinese Puzzle). According to you, is there a connection between the French and the New York cultural scenes? Where does this fascination of French cinema for New York come from?

When we were younger, we loved independent American cinema set in New York, so we always associated this city with the cinema.

We have always been fascinated by the independent American cinema of the 70’s and the 80’s (John Cassavettes, Spike Lee), a new kind of movie where everything was made from scratch. There is a real connection between the New York and French cultural scenes, thanks to directors such as Woody Allen or Julie Delpy, that link the two countries and ease these exchanges.

How did you collaborate together on the different steps of the movie? What is it at the origin of the movie? What are your plans for the future future and would you like to shoot in New York again?

At the beginning, we wanted to do a movie just the two of us, without any other team or actors. Hence, we had to do everything ourselves, without any camera. The original plot was just a French girl in New York without visa that struggles to stay. We wanted to interact with the reality and shoot real encounters with people who hoped to do a marriage of convenience, or this kind of situation. But we were not satisfied, and we wanted a more complex scenario. This plot of the French girl remained, and me too by the way! I always wanted to act, I used to take theaters classes when I was younger, and I’ve also been in a few short movies. But here, it happened very fast, and I didn’t really realize it. It was complicated for me because I felt like I had to do both but half. And also, it was very delicate to steer actors that had more experience than me. For my scenes, I know Ruben really well and he knows me so there was no trouble.

We both have lots of projects. We spent a lot of time in the postproduction because we lacked money, so we write when we have the time. We have several projects together and apart, in France and in the US. Lola is going to have the main role in the next Nicolas Bary movie, for which she will start shooting this fall.

French Culture also met Alexis Derendinger in charge of the US ditribution of Swim Little Fish Swim at Under the Milky Way.

How did you discover this movie? This is your second theatrical release after What’s in a Name; can you tell us about your distribution strategy with the “Day-and-Date” release?

Alexis Derendinger : Numerous people and from various horizons told me about a first feature, very fresh and nice, and that was very successful in Film Festivals I liked. This strange movie title Swim Little Fish Swim came back several time as a signal and I couldn’t pass by. Then, I contacted Ruben and we watched the movie with my team, and thought that this movie could have a potential in the US in so far as the movie shows a new vision of New York. After the release of What’s in a Name, which targeted a French, intellectual and Francophile community, SLFS allows us to target a larger audience in the US and to keep experimenting these new models of distribution.

Thus, for this movie, we built a distribution strategy on Day & Date by releasing the movie in theaters in New York and then LA, Chicago and Seattle and at the same time on the main On Demand platforms and Cablos. The goal is to capitalize on the NY theatrical release, where the movie was shot, and to create an important marketing event for the global digital release, targeting a young and urban community, keen to watch movies On Demand.

More information about the release here.
- Opens in New York on September 19 at Cinema Village
- Opens in LA on September 26 at Arena theater
- Opens in Chicago on September 26 at Facets Cinematheque
- Opens in Seattle on October 26 at Film Forum
- On VOD