In 2014, at just 22 years of age, the Belgian wildlife photographer Michel D’Oultremont made his name on the international scene by winning the ‘Rising Star’ award at the National History Museum’s annual 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' exhibition. London based film director David Hayes and producer Hannah Salvanes Mclean were part of the crowd admiring his work. Their new documentary 'The Wait’, produced with Contra Agency, is a beautiful and honest insight into the process, passion and patience of an incredible young talent.
The film takes the viewer on a journey from Michel’s hometown
5 questions with The Wait director, David Hayes at the half-way mark.
Thursday, July 13th, 2017
1Hi David! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, how did you meet Michel D'Oultremont and why did you want to make him the center of your documentary? I came across his photos for the first time at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition in London. It's full of incredible work but Michel's really stood out. I think it was the unconventional framing that initially caught my eye. I was with the film's producer Hannah and we decided to approach Michel and see if he would be interested in making something together. Initially my interest was solely in his final photos, a film that would showcase them. At that stage I hadn't thought much about the process which eventually became the most important aspect of the film.
2The cinematography by John Ford is incredible. How many days did this take to shoot and how difficult was it for you guys to get these magnificent shots? John and I became obsessed with Michel's photos. Every day we'd discuss the composition, framing and lens choices. We decided to tell Michel's story by documenting him in the same way that he documents his subjects. Like Michel, John has a lot of patience! Sometimes we had to work the shots quite hard and other times it all just fell into place very naturally. I didn't want to force Michel to do anything that he wouldn't normally do. My favourite moments (a lot of which made it into the edit) were when Michel just wondered off to do his thing and we chose a frame, letting him drift in and out in quite a natural way.
We spent two days with Michel in the Carpathian Mountains with the Bison. Michel had been out there for a week in advance to recce the locations and find out where the animals were. It was a tough shoot because we had a fair bit of kit and had to lug it up the mountain each morning!
We then had a further two days in his hometown in Belgium to shoot the backstory and record the interview.
3The shots of the bison in your film are so beautiful. What did it take to get those shots and what was it like to be in the presence of these animals? We got lucky on one of the days and found a group of bison not too far up the mountain. With a 300mm lens we managed to get in really close. The lens has a great stabiliser and we went for quite a high frame rate to ensure we could get some smooth moments. I didn't want to capture wide shots of the bison on video; I wanted to leave that to Michel's photos. So being able to get close in was a great way to introduce the animals to create a bit of tension without giving too much away.
The animals themselves were pretty intimidating but also fairly calm. It did feel like they might charge at any moment but luckily they were patient with us just like Michel was!
4There is a very interesting mindset for one to have in order to be a nature photographer. Do you see similarities in being a documentary filmmaker? What type of mindset do you think you need in order to create documentaries? It's a fascinating mindset. For Michel it's all about patience; that's where the eventual title of the film comes from. I was so impressed by his ability to be out there on his own for such long periods of time and to remain focussed and sharp. I think I learnt a lot from Michel about making the most of a moment. Sometimes on location - particularly with a doc shoot - it's easy to over produce something by thinking 'we can just get that again'. Working with animals, Michel doesn't get the privilege of that second chance and for me that gives his work a beautiful and fundamental authenticity. So there's a valuable lesson there I think.
5What's next? We made 'The Wait' in partnership with WWF Romania and they have a few new projects on the horizon that we are talking through so we'll see.
Michel keeps asking me when i'm ready to go to Alaska... !
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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