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Please bear with the short advertisement before the film.

Nothing Girl

Pierre Daudelin (Canada)

This film won an International Medallion.

Pierre Daudelin was born in 1968. He took the film program at the University of Montreal in 1995 and went on to attend media college in Montreal. He has since been working mostly as a lighting technician on large productions in Montreal such as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Gothika (2003), The Aviator (2004) and The Terminal (2004). His DVD sleeve notes encourage people to share the film - he wants it to be seen.

Portrait of Gwenaelle l'Heurex in 'Nothing Girl'.

Nothing Girl came out of a frustration. It is my fourth short film, the other three were shot in different filmschool programs. It was important to me that I make this film because it represented the first time that I would exercise complete creative control over a film project. I did try at a certain point, to get funding for it but I quickly decided against it when all the feedback I would get was "You should change this and you should avoid that" sort of stuff.

So I went ahead and produced the thing myself. I rented a PD-150 Sony MiniDV PAL camera from a sound engineer friend of mine for the friendly price of one bottle of Glenlivet. We had the camera for a week-end but only needed it for one day in the end. We shot the whole thing from 11:00 on a Sunday morning to just about past midnight. We had no lights whatsoever. Only a piece of 4 x 4 foamcore to bounce the sun off.

Still from 'Nothing Girl'. Still from 'Nothing Girl'.

We were extremely fortunate to have such clear skies as they come off nicely with the proper use of filters (polarizing). Giulia Frati, my director of photography, is the most talented person I know. She has a knack for framing that is uncanny. Not so much that it is artistically perfect as it simply blends in perfectly with the way I see the world, we both share a common vision of what is beautiful and what isn't and that goes a long way into creating a fruitful creative partnership. In a matter of seconds, after the first few shots in the morning, we knew where we were going and how the film would ultimately look so I didn't have to be behind her for every shot. We had set a pace and look for the film and she stuck with it brilliantly.

Gwenaëlle L'Heureux, the young twelve year old actress in the title role, was presented to me by a mutual friend of her mother's and I knew right away that she had the face I was looking for, only she had never acted before. That didn't worry me too much though since I knew there would be no dialogue and I believe that I have a good rapport with my actors in general so I felt like everything would fall into place eventually during the shoot. For the first shot of the day, though, she was completely off, she was nervous and overdid it.

We stepped aside for a few minutes and I simply told her to stop acting for the camera. All she had to do was listen to my directions and move accordingly, as if I was simply telling her where to go and where to look instead of what to do. When you say to actor "do this" it implies an intention, and they will try very hard to give life to that intention in their performance. When you say to an actor "go to the end of the table and look out the window" it implies just that. I knew that there weren't a wide variety of emotions that her character would go through during the storyline so we just went ahead with that approach and everything was perfect.

The only problem was that my sound was now compromised since you could hear my voice on most of the shots as I would guide her through every step of the way. Small price to pay to get that good a performance from a first time actress. It did take a week of sound editing though to repair the damage but it also gave me the chance to experiment with sound in a way I had never done before with the help of a very artistic sound designer named Bruno Pucella.

I would also like to mention the work of Jennifer Cartwright who edited the film for me. It took us about three weeks of doing three hour shifts, late at night on an Avid Media Composer that we weren't supposed to use but did anyway because she worked in that place at the time. She was extremely open to my editing ideas and she even went ahead and tried a few things of her own behind my back that just blew me away, so hats off to Jennifer. And she's pretty to boot; plus, she drinks Guiness...

Still from 'Nothing Girl'. Still from 'Nothing Girl'.

So after about three months of hard labour, we had a film. Only I had no idea what to do with it. I took it one night to a friend's house who had invited me to a private screening of his first extremely low budget feature film (shot for $25,000. CAN). I took my short film along thinking that he might be interested in seeing it. I was presently surprised when I arrived there to find many more people than I expected would be, and among them, an old friend of mine. So we went straight to the television in the basement and started watching the film.

Among the guests that night was a canadian Filmmaker named Bruce McDonald, whom I had never met before but I had heard of his work, like "Hard Core Logo" for instance. He decided to watch "Nothing Girl" with us; if that was all right. Of course it was so we all watched it and after a few minutes, the basement was full of people curious about this colourful short film with a taboo subject. When it was over, Bruce came to me and told me he loved it. He thought it was one of the best short films he had ever seen. I was more than pleasantly surprised. He's the one who pushed me into sending it out to festivals. That was something I knew nothing about and frankly, I was a bit afraid of the whole process.

Well, about 15 months later, I've sent the film to 165 festivals, it has been selected in close to thirty and it has received eight international awards. Things could be worse.

I think it has convinced me that I still want to do that type of film, I mean films with an adventurous approach. It has mostly convinced me that no matter what you might think of your film, there might be somebody out there who will just love it. That is something you cannot know until you send it out there. Once it's finished and it starts circulating in people's hands, you have no control over who will like it and who won't, it's got a life of its own. So shoot 'em and send them out there.

Still from 'Nothing Girl'.

We want to see your shorts. I mean short films...

- Pierre Daudelin    March 2006

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