Rising Star Clemy Clarke: “Why it is evident that we need more women filmmakers”
Evidently, I believe that we need more women filmmakers. We can show a different lens on the world because our sensitivity is different from men. I also think that women don’t have to be like men to fit in this industry, even if it is so “tough”, we can stay feminine and use our sensitivity as strength. I believe that having more female directors can help women feel like they have their voice in this medium, and identify more with stories on screen. When I see such talented female directors like Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Alice Winocour, Alma Har’el it gives me confidence to express myself! Diversity of culture in film is so important too. In my projects I wish to express stories of people of different backgrounds. For example in my upcoming project Long Beach the main characters are Iranian American and French. I believe it’s more compelling to see stories of people of different cultures. Also, Cinema is a mirror, and everyone has things to say not just the 50 y/o man! Film can help fight exclusion in our society and understand better different cultures when done with knowledge and respect for these cultures.
I had the pleasure to interview Clemy Clarke. Clemy is an award winning French director, and screenwriter of international film projects. Clemy studied in the United States, with a scholarship, and earned a bachelor of fine arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with a focus in film directing and subsequently screenwriting at UCLA’s Extension Writer’s Program. Clemy’s directing work debuted in Los Angeles with her six-part short films series Hollywood, on the theme of casting calls which premiered in 2017 on Vice, receiving awards and official selections in more than twenty international film festivals including Raindance Film Festival and London Independent Film Awards.
Clemy has currently been directing the awaited adaptive six-part short film series Nudes the Anthology filmed in London and produced by C.C. Kellogg and Valmora Productions for which the first chapter is set to premiere end of 2019. Each chapter of the series takes a renowned artwork on the theme of nudity as its guiding inspiration; works from Botticelli, Chekho, Courbet, Michelangelo, and Zweig, with a principal focus on muse-artist relationships.
Clemy has been drawn to express the theme of desire through the female gaze, and to cast light on sensitivity as a strength. Clemy is also preparing to direct her first feature film Long Beach which will be shot in California and Florida in Spring 2020, with attached producers Farrell Huntley, Carlo Fiorio and Roger Rawlings. Clemy is developing two other feature projects such as Rum & Cola co-written with Johan Ingler, in which French actress Anouchka Delon is attached to star in. Her other feature project Paul & Virginia is in development with Louis Vaudeville, a producer at Mediawan and her screenplay was recently awarded at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Clemy Clarke is represented in Paris by Maëlle Venin (Venin l’Agence!).
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Paris, France. My parents are French documentary film directors (Apocalypse the Second World War) and my grandparents were French photographers (they were one of the first to take their camera out of the photo studio and photograph acrobats performing in the circus in Paris). Since an early age, I was lucky that the camera was an essential part of my life. My mom started out as camera reporter, she would film all the time even outside of work, and she passed onto me the desire to film. As for my dad, he would make me watch religiously his favorite classic films. My parents wished for me to speak well English so I attended a bilingual school in Paris near their office where they would edit their films. In my school many of my friends were of multicultural background and the school encouraged us to apply for college abroad. My parents were quite resistant at first on the idea since I was quite young but my dream was to study in the US and thankfully I got a scholarship to study film in America, at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design).
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I remember when I was 13, one day, my dad took me ice skating. We walked along the corridor of the building and he was explaining to me how I could film certain shots if I were to film there. There were strong neon lights everywhere, I could hear the echo of skates scraping the ice in the distance, reality was taking a surreal turn and I could already imagine characters for a story…. It was a point of no return of the very beginning of my journey as a young writer and film director!
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
After university I moved to Los Angeles with the intent to make a documentary on a French actor who had made his career in Hollywood. He was on board at first but then the project was difficult to put in place. It provoked an intense discussion between us. He told me that I would never make it here in Hollywood, that it was too hard for a young French girl like me and I should go back to my country. This was really difficult to hear, it affected me but it actually triggered a strong motivation to prove him wrong. This is when I started developing and filming my six part short fiction films series Hollywood, it was awarded in festivals and premiered on Vice.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
I remember when I started working on film sets in Los Angeles, I was a trainee as a production assistant on a big studio set. I was so excited but also intimidated by such a big production. At some point, the head production assistant asked me to get the key to the dolly (a dolly is used to do tracking shots). I thought that was strange, because I didn’t think there would be a key to such equipment but I asked for it anyway to the person in charge of the dolly. He told me the dolly doesn’t have a “key” and explained to me that I had been played. It’s in fact a joke film crews tend to do on young production assistants / trainees and I fell right in the trap!
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
“Don’t follow orders blindly!” What I learned is that I was lacking confidence at the time, and could easily feel intimidated. It can be hard to find your voice in this hierarchical profession.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m currently preparing my first feature fiction film Long Beach, a coming of age story set in the behind the scenes of the Hollywood film industry, which I plan to shoot in the US this summer. I’m also directing a series of short films in London called Nudes the Anthology, a series of six shorts produced by C.C. Kellogg on the theme of nudity and the body in art. I also intend to direct a feature film adaptation of the novel Paul & Virginia, an 18th century epic love story on a magical island.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Evidently, I believe that we need more women filmmakers. We can show a different lense on the world because our sensitivity is different from men. I also think that women don’t have to be like men to fit in this industry, even if it is so “tough”, we can stay feminine and use our sensitivity as strength. I believe that having more female directors can help women feel like they have their voice in this medium, and identify more with stories on screen. When I see such talented female directors like Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Alice Winocour, Alma Har’el it gives me confidence to express myself!
Diversity of culture in film is so important too. In my projects I wish to express stories of people of different backgrounds. For example in my upcoming project Long Beach the main characters are Iranian American and French. I believe it’s more compelling to see stories of people of different cultures. Also, Cinema is a mirror, and everyone has things to say not just the 50 y/o man! Film can help fight exclusion in our society and understand better different cultures when done with knowledge and respect for these cultures.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
My career is still at an early stage but I would say these could be useful:
“Patience is key.” I have always been very driven in my work and wish to accomplish my goals fast. However film projects take time. I have been developing certain projects which have taken several years to put in place but I am happy that they are coming to life now.
“Be brave, go speak to people you want to work with. Don’t be scared,” I am still a young director and I used to be scared to reach out to people who are more established in the industry. I have since fought this fear and it is working out well. People are responsive to motivated, hard working and passionate individuals.
“Trust your instincts”. It’s very easy to get drawn in many different directions and loose your initial idea, intention and even yourself. Always remember that you get to decide where you direct your energy. Listen to the people who are working with you carefully but make sure you stay true to your own creative voice.
“Don’t try to please everyone. Have fun!” Film is an art form but of course, it is also, “a product” and that is something I am starting to get familiar with. It’s difficult to find a balance between creating and selling. I think it’s important to make films with an artistic purpose but keeping in mind that there is an audience and consider that they might be drawn more by a certain choice of casting or genre. However, like anything in life, it’s not always wise to force to please everybody. Yes film is entertainment but keep it authentic. We could say: What is the story you want to tell rather than what is the story they want to hear.
“Open your eyes!” As a filmmaker our duty is to open our eyes to the world and also into our own selves. French poet Cocteau said: “The artist is a diver who is searching deep inside of himself”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In this industry, filmmaking tends to take ahold your life 24/7… it’s the beauty of it because it’s a passion and doesn’t feel like a regular job but it can get overwhelming. It’s easy to forget to press pause and recharge. I think it’s really important to make time to exercise, self care, spend time with family and loved ones and have fun. When and if you can, get out of your comfort zone and experience the world. It will not only recharge you but get you inspired and driven.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Give access to culture to all. I believe that culture is an antidote to violence.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents. They encouraged me to follow my dreams. I also have a strong admiration for them as human beings and artists.
My dad once told me: “Be a man, my son.”
He loves me as his daughter of course, but at the same time I appreciate that he pushes me to fight for my dreams and face the reality that this is a harsh world that requires strength and courage. It reminds me that we are still living in a patriarchal society… it will take time for this to change.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Grace under pressure” H. Hemingway.
Even if there is an artistic turmoil in creators — and turmoil exists in each one of us — keep calm, keep steady, trust your instincts and the universe. But also charge like a bull, don’t be afraid to reach out for your dreams. Only you can do that, no one can do it for you!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
I would love to meet the Russian / French author Andreï Makine. I have read several of his books and I believe he is one the best authors of our time. His most recent novel Archipelago of Another Life tells of a manhunt in Siberia at the time of the Soviet Union. This story was very cinematic and has struck me deeply. I strongly recommend it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My Instagram is clemy_clarke.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!