I’m shooting a movie called Une Chance Sur Deux or in English Even Money for Director Patrice Leconte (Ridicule). We are shooting in France both in studio and on many locations that include Paris and the South of France. It is an action adventure comedy staring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon and Vanessa Paridis. And it seems that I am the first contemporary Director of Photography to shoot a French movie in France for a French Director. Not only is it a great honor to be in this position, but to be working with two of the great figures of the French cinema is amazing. I always remember walking out of the theater after Breathless wanting to be Jean-Paul Belmondo, smoking very smelly French cigarettes for awhile (making everybody around me sick) and trying to imitate his expressions. And Alain Delon was so beautiful in all of his younger films. I’m here to report that they both still look and are great.
And, of course, working with my good friend, dear, sweet Patrice is a dream come true. We have been working on commercials together for at least a dozen years and have always talked about the dream of doing a feature together. He tried to get me in two other times and the third was the charm because here I am.
These were some of my first lessons from working on a French movie in France—so now I know what French hours really are:
You get to work at 9 or 10 (Not Bad)…You work for an hour or two setting up (Not Bad)…You then take a full hour to sit down for a multi-course meal complete with wine (Not Bad)…And then you work straight through for at least ten hours (or maybe twelve) with only a piece of baguette and some mystery meat six hours in (starting to get Bad)…Then if there is more work you might work for a couple more hours (Bad)…Then you come back the next day inside what we know to mean ‘turnaround’ (Real Bad)…And on top of all of that there is no craft service to speak of (Lousy).
The first day that we shot on location in Paris (as opposed to the studio which is a one hour drive from Paris and used to be an apple storage warehouse– which means that it is colder than a night in the backlot at Universal in winter). I found out something startling when I asked “Ou est la toilette?” They don’t have honey wagons or any kind of portable facility when they are on location. None! They expect you to find a pissoir or a bar, order a drink and then use the john there. It’s unbelievable but true. I asked everybody (and this isn’t a shabby crew), they said never. So much for civilization…they have wine at lunch but no place to take a leak. But they really respect Directors of Photography, Chef Operateurs, and that’s not a bad trade off, now isn’t it?