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20 Rules! For Sylvie
Jacques à Bâle
2014, 94m, comedy, family, romance
A father imposes a set of 20 rules on his daughter before she leaves home for university. Making sure that she obeys them perfectly, he secretly follows her, but ends up falling in with a party crowd and breaking all the rules himself.
Produced by: Giacun Caduff, Bela Böke, Marc Hermann
Cast: Carlos Leal, Viola von Scarpatetti, Bettina Dieterle, Joël von Mutzenbecher, Steve Devonas, Manuel Miglioretto, Severina Müller, July Dray, Skelt!
11 questions with 20 Rules! For Sylvie director, Jacques à Bâle at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
1Hi Giacun! How did 20 Rules! for Sylvie come together? Did you find this script or did the script find you? Out of a crypted faximile document (yes, a fax!) at my boring internship, accidentally a logline was born that got my student friend Megan Woodward excited to write a script entitled "18 Rules!". Only a few months later I was laughing tears about this wild story of Adalbert and Sylvie she set in Fresno, CA. Fast-forward six years to 2013. After many sleepless nights, we finally greenlight that very same story idea for production in Switzerland! What happened in-between is a lot of water down the Hudson river - a lot more writing done by Megan, too many Campari drinks together with Viola von Scarpatetti who took care of the switzerlandization... The film became a Swiss movie entitled "20 Regeln für Sylvie" and by the fall of 2014 our baby finally premiered in Swiss theatres nationwide. And now we are more than excited to go fandependent with it!
2 You're the producer as well as the director. Which do you enjoy more? Both jobs are a lot of fun! More so if you don' t have to do them at the same time ;) On "20 Rules!" I actually was super lucky to gather a wonderful team that helped made this movie happen. It allowed me to produce and direct at the same time. With their full comittment, extraordinary talents and love for the moving image the crew was in on the ride, even though half of them actually never worked on a film before... this made the experience for me even more fulfilling. Another benefit of wearing both hats is that you can double the amount of fun on set. This theory of multiplying the good vibes was applied all crew positions and we found ourselves in an explosion of good times while making this crazy movie!
3What do you look for in a script that you want to produce? How do you know it's the right project for you? When I read a script I will know pretty soon if this is something I can make into a movie. Upon which I either stop or start evaluating the 'elements' that are attached. For instance I speak to the writers or to the director, if there's one. I look for a creative match and an extremely constructive environment to develop the script into the movie I see. In this process I will also try and find out the true incentives of each creative force - why they want to make this film. The reasons vary - they can be monetary, personal... I start brainstorming about cast attachments and funding sources. And soon enough the project either starts growing fast or, turning in a circle - a downward spiral. Given the fact that it takes like 7 years on average to make a film, I choose only the films that are growing fast! It's momentum vs. signs of 'ego' problems or power plays among the creatives. It hurts to let go of projects that are dear to my heart but bedded on ill foundations. On the other hand it feels great if you actually manage to unite an amazing team of creative minds that all want to make the same movie! I respect that. I give these projects my life.
4Did you go to film school? What are you thoughts on it? Should aspiring filmmakers go? Film school... that's a tricky question. I went to many schools - NYFA, SMC, CSULB, UCLA - it kept me in "status" and also got me a MFA from one of the best the Producers Programs. I'd say that going to film school has clear advantages - you make friends for life and if your classmates are comitted to the filmmaking process, you will grow with them. They will help you in good times and they will understand you when things don't work out. You will also learn your craft and yeah, there's a reason why some schools have a good reputation. While getting mostly inspiration and basic training at most schools, UCLA did eventually teach me very useful tools for my career. Maybe that is because at that point I knew what I wanted my career to be though... So, it comes down to a simple choice - if you know exactly what you want to do in the film biz, maybe school is not your first choice. You should go out there and work, write, direct, produce. Meet the people you admire. Try to work for them. Learn from them. Or you seek a school where you figure things out. Or you do both at the same time. That always worked best for me.
5This film looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot. Which scene was the funniest to do on set? Good question. I was under immense pressure shooting the film, responsibile for everything . My fun was to see the scenes unfold as I envisioned them. But it wasn't until I started editing when I realized that there was actually quite some hilarious stuff happening on set that I didn't recall at all! Even worse, while everyone was having the time of their lifes, I heard my voice saying: "OK guys, great, let's go again." - So it's hard to pick a favorite scene, as I was focused on the comedy within the scene, rather than the all inclusive set experience. There was one scene we had to cut out of the schedule though that I still wish we would have shot. It was the moment when the father faces the fact that his daughter is inside a bar called "Muff Dive" and while everyone is in the loop, he doesn't understand what's so special about it. Hilarious on paper. No time and money to transport an entire crew from the Basel to Zurich. So we came up with a quick fix that works and yeah, brings a smirk to my face even now as I'm writing this ;)
6Who on the set could actually take the biggest hit? There was a dude who kept coming to set as an extra. We noticed that he was usually around when the actors were smoking it up for the scene. Going for multiple takes, this guy actually ended up jumping in to heat up the bong over and over, whenever needed. This was great! We even made him a featured (stoner-) extra. A role he mastered with bravery. If you want to see a funny detail of "20 Rules!" copy/paste this: https://youtu.be/sdLPyW9fmMI - in your browser. An amazing Swiss man 'blew' us a glass bong for the movie. I looked for someone all over the country to make this prop and eventually found him - in a company 3 blocks away from my apartment!
7Carlos Leal andViola von Scarpatetti do great as the two leads. How did you meet them and what was it like working together? Carlos is the most talented Swiss actors I know. I respect all his work - from the appearance in 007 Casino Royale all the way to the various short films he's been in. It was his comedy short flms that convinced me - he had to be the lead actor of "20 Rules!" - He's got this gift of being subtle and yet always perfect with the timing as a comedy actor. Also I really wanted to see him wear a fake beard. So I sent him the script and he liked it. We had many talks, laughs and ... doubts. When he called me and gave me a one months window to shoot with him, I ended up greenlighting the movie, not entirely sure if we would ever be able to finish it.
Viola I met on a film festival that I organize in my home town. We immediately connected over Campari and extremely silly jokes. Knowing that she would make a great Sylvie, I asked her to also come on board as a writer to translate the then still English script. She brought the greatest Swiss dialogues to Megan's original. And even though not many professionals believed in her at first to pull off the role of Sylvie, we knew that she was the one!
8This film has animals, motorcycles, blue screen, mud wrestling and some very large party scenes. What scene was the most difficult to shoot and how did solve the problem? We lucked out with the dog! I saw Tilly on a Swiss talent TV show and called up her master. After supplying a list of tricks we needed, fast-forward 6 months, Tilly was able to perform all of them. Amazing. The motorcycle scene was quite tricky to shoot because we needed to lock down a road and also find a big bus to pass with great speed. I had done quite some filming when I was a kid and it so happened that in 1997 we shot our own version of a 007 movie that included a car chase. Back then, I was able to lock down the road to my hometown Gempen in Switzerland. Also our local bus driver showed up for that scene. I ended up calling all those guys again and they agreed to do it again! Finally, the mud wrestling... that was one of the challenging shooting days. We shot for 18 hours and I guess for some of the crew it was a 20-22h day. Most party scenes were shot at a 3-bedroom apartment. Way too small and way too crazy that place. But kudos to the production designers that they kept the owners happy and carried a ton of mud in the attic where we ended up shooting some serious wrestling acoompanied by a live performance of a glamrock band. Problem no problem :)
9What's the biggest difference between producing films in Europe vs America? Is it easier to get financing over in Europe or is that an urban legend? We hardly got any funding for "20 Rules!" and ended up shooting it quite low budget. I went on to produce a short film where I ended up having a larger budget, which is crazy. But to the defense of the Swiss funding places that mostly declined "20 Rules!" I must say that we did shock them a bit with our wild script. You must know that this is not a regular Swiss movie. So, early on we knew that we probably wouldn't get the funding but in return: we should be remembered for future submissions. The funding works in a different way in Europe (grant applications) but when you break it down, I think no matter where you try and make a film, you will always have to fight for your baby and convince a million people not only that it is the best idea that you are about to realize - no, you also have to convince them that it is the best idea THEY ever had to help you make that movie. There's opportunities everywhere and the challenge is to understand how the different systems work, then package your movie to fit, without killing the original vision. Be that in Switzerland, Europe, Asia or in Hollywood.
10How many of 20 rules had you broken before you turned 20? Ha! I'm not going to say this but two clues: my grandmother at one point forbade me to make this movie, as it would shine bad light on our family! Secondly to convince you of my innocence you may visit my Facebook account after the launch of "20 Rules!" on Fandependent. The profile picture will give you an idea of my life before I turned 20. Shortly after I moved to the USA . . .
11What's next? I was lucky to produce a short film for a talented young director entitled "La femme et le TGV" starring French legend Jane Birkin. Working with Timo von Gunten was a great experience. The film will premiere in the Summer of 2016. While finding my next cinema adventure I organize three ongoing projects in Switzerland: a Movie Camp for kids, a weekend Cinema Drive-in that includes a Car Hop as well. And the annual Gässli Film Festival. I hope you enjoy "20 Rules!" on Fandependent and if do, I'd be glad to see the fans number grow or catch a recommendation here and there in the world wide web. Cheers!
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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