Behind the lens
“I love it when pictures look like comic book bubbles”
If there is one place where Alice Moitié is comfortable, it is behind the lens of her camera. A photographer and an art director with a colorful universe and personality, she recently took on the role of film director for the first time for “6 X CONFINÉ.ES”, a new anthology series by Canal+. The project brings together six directors on the theme of lockdown. Alice stands out with “Jusqu’à Saint-Molart”, a dark comedy starring Ludivine Sagnier. Used to working in the music industry, she has photographed some of the best artists of today, from Miley Cyrus to Angèle to Clara Luciani. As an artistic director, she has developed a close relationship with French musician Myd, for whom she directed quite a few music videos. In “All Inclusive”, she pushes him to play the troublemaker on a tourist cruise. All of this is wrapped up in a love for comic books, the starting point of her bright aesthetic and her contagious joie de vivre.
How did you experience 2020 creatively?
Making this short film saved my year. It was my first time doing fiction, and it allowed me to add a new layer to my work. I was working a lot abroad, and in teams, before all this. I don’t really miss traveling, rather being busy working on different projects and meeting people. I’ve been forced to rethink the way I work, to take the time to focus on more personal projects related to photography and video. That’s why I made this short film. It showed me new opportunities.
How did this film project with Canal+, “6 X CONFINÉ.ES”, come about?
Our producer at Iconoclast called me in May with Saïd Belktibia, Antoine de Bary, So Me, Marina Rollman and Pierre Maillard to participate in this project for Canal+ on the theme of lockdown. I already had a short film planned but it had to be cancelled, and I was very disappointed. So I rewrote a script, thinking that it would never be made either. Finally, we all worked hard and everything went very fast! In an eight months period, we had all released a short film of twenty minutes, and the feedback was really great.
Your film is often mentioned as the one that stands out from the others. Why do you think this is?
I think it’s due to the subject. It’s a little bit deeper and right at a time when we were talking a lot about it publicly. I also liked knowing that it was a project for TV and not for the big screen because I knew we wouldn’t have to participate in the festivals circuit. There was also a real camaraderie between all the directors. I told myself, “if I screw it up, the next one will be better”, so that took some of the pressure off. We all had the support of Canal+, and it felt good to know that I wasn’t alone with my film. It was almost like doing a school project.
Can you tell us about the story of your film, “Jusqu’à Saint-Molart”?
It’s the story of a “trendy” girl in her thirties who goes back to live with her parents during lockdown along with her boyfriend who is younger than her. They are a working-class family, which is a change from her Parisian lifestyle. During an argument with her sister, things get heated and she learns that she was sexually assaulted when she was a child. She is quite stunned by the news, and it becomes an obsession for her to find out what really happened because she has no memory of it. Since she doesn’t remember it, it feels like she’s detached from this experience, as if it had happened to someone else. That’s where the comic dimension of the film comes from, because it’s still a comedy even if it’s dark. She doesn’t recognize herself in the victim status, she just does everything she can to remember. I really liked the relationship between the two sisters played by Ludivine Sagnier and Sophie-Marie Larrouy. As someone who doesn’t have a sister, I enjoyed imagining their relationship, and creating a family that looks like they belong together.
The film also deals with the experience of coming back home during lockdown, something a lot of Parisian people did last March. Is this aspect of the film based on personal experience?
Many returned to their parents’ homes because you want to be close to your family in times like this, and I get that. But a lot of my friends confessed to me that at some point they couldn’t take it anymore. They basically spent a month and a half regretting having come… I was not in this case at all. I stayed in Paris and discovered the joy of playing Nintendo Switch, and I must say I hated “Animal Crossing”! I forced myself to walk half an hour a day… At least I wasn’t a student. They haven’t had it easy…
What do you take away from your first time directing a short film for television?
I enjoyed writing the script because it was fun to see what would work and what wouldn’t. I was especially afraid of the dialogues being read in front of me. They can sound funny in your head and not at all in real life. During castings, I was very stressed to hear them read aloud. In the end I was pleasantly surprised. I’m used to doing advertisements, but this is totally different because the lines are always going to sound weird out of context. Here, I was also dealing with great actors. I chose Ludivine Sagnier first, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask her directly so I went through someone. I didn’t want to get slapped with a “no”! She called me and suggested that we meet. She asked me a lot of questions about the role, which pushed me to give answers that I hadn’t thought of. I wanted to build the entire family and the boyfriend from her character, and to make the energies work. Because it is a heavy subject, there was the risk of falling into something very dramatic. I had to find a balance.
Did you approach this project differently from your work as a photographer and artistic director?
I was stressed and super excited, but once I got on set it was the best experience of my life. It was like playing with life-size dolls. Mostly I felt like anything was possible, and since I’m just starting out, it’s super exciting to know that there are a lot of things you don’t know but still can learn. I was really starting from scratch. It was also a hilarious experience, I was laughing the whole time, and I was never tired. It gave me a lot of adrenaline!
Let’s talk about music. You collaborated a lot with Myd and directed quite a few of his music videos. Have you always been attracted by music?
I have always listened to music, but I never intended to be a musician. I started working in this field by chance. I first photographed an album cover for The Dø, and little by little I was contacted by other artists. My relationship with Myd is different because I’m more of an artistic director for him. I started working with him as he was going solo. I love working with musicians because they are passionate people who have their own personality. They always have funny stories to tell, and it’s great. I also like the constraint of having to adapt to their universe. With Myd, we are more of a team. He composed the original music for my film, and we also recently did a Pornhub commercial together!
Shooting his “All Inclusive” video on a cruise must have been quite an experience!
It was nerve-wracking for me because I had to come back with a video and a photo book, and I was all alone with an iPhone and two cameras on my shoulder. We decided on this three days before going on the cruise! There were so many people on that cruise, and all there was nothing to do other than staring at the water all around or attending a zumba class at 10am!. Myd is a polite person, and at first he didn’t dare to do what I asked him to do: to play the troublemaker. I really had to push him. You go a little crazy from day 3 or 4, but then it’s all in good fun. We were constantly messing around and people started to wonder who we were and what we were really doing here, so there was sort of a mystery around us. To avoid being noticed, we pretended we were simply making vacation videos. Myd had to be dressed the same everyday. Plus, with his singular physique, we ended up becoming the boat’s mascots and people were super happy when they saw us. It provided a lot of organic moments in the video. One night we even did the conga in the boat’s nightclub. I didn’t even film it because I wanted to be part of it so bad! Imagine the atmosphere in the cruise’s nightclub!
Your aesthetic is very colorful, is it because of your love for comic books?
Totally. I love it when pictures look like comic book bubbles, it’s something I noticed quite late. I love the vibrancy of the colors. It puts me in a good mood, I can’t put this feeling into words. When I look at the cover of Myd’s record, I imagine it as a comic strip. You know, like Tintin constantly being on boats!. You could call this picture of Myd “The Adventures of the Naked Boy”.
What comics did you read when you were younger?
I must have read all the Asterix, all the Spirou & Fantasio, and I always bought Super Picsou Géant magazine! I hated Mickey because he was a real Mr. Know-it-all! But I loved Donald. He was pictured as a loser but he took care of his three little nephews and Gontran, his cousin, who had so much luck compared to him. And then Picsou and his crazy pool of coins… Super Picsou Géant is my entire childhood, it’s my Bible! Later I started to read Fluide Glacial, and I went and searched for the authors I liked. RanXerox for example, I thought it was crazy good!
If you had the opportunity to photograph a celebrity today, who would it be?
It would definitely be Britney Spears. To me she’s a “boomer” on Instagram and it’s fun to see what she posts because she’s completely in her own world! I would love to photograph her in a very arty light and bring out her raw side. I would love to capture something that she doesn’t give away, her fragility, her intimacy. Who knows? The day Macron was elected, I posted a Tweet asking if anyone had the contact of his press secretary to do his official portrait. One thing led to another and I ended up being put in touch with someone from his communications team who finally told me that he was already working with a photographer. The lesson is, you should always try!
What impact has social media had on your work? Do you think opportunities for young artists are more accessible today thanks to Instagram in particular?
Absolutely. When I met Myd, for example, we were already following each other on Instagram. So the first time we saw each other, it was very natural. We were happy to see each other in real life and we immediately bonded. Very quickly, I told him that I wanted to shoot a video for him. I put my idea into the universe and he bounced back very quickly. I made a lot of friends thanks to social media, even a lot of people I’ve never met and with whom I exchange regularly. My Instagram feed allows other artists to get an idea of my work and my personality. Because even if I’m here to realize their vision, they still want us to share the same universe.
Social media also allowed you to make a name for yourself.
In the beginning, I posted my pictures on Facebook or Tumblr. And then Instagram came naturally, it became a mix between a website and content for friends. I like being able to go back in my feed and see where I was three years ago. I like this “diary” aspect, I always kept a blog when I was a teenager. People who are going to follow me because they think I’m funny are going to be able to discover my work, and vice versa. I’m not going to start telling myself that I need to be more “serious”, to take Instagram as a professional showcase because I know it can all fall apart at any moment. Today, 16-year-olds can become millionaires thanks to TikTok. We can’t pretend this doesn’t change the entire luxury and fashion industry. Suddenly young people can afford to buy luxury products, and the industry has decided to stop dismissing their younger audience because they have become real customers. They don’t even hire designers to head up the big houses anymore, they hire artistic directors. Today, power can come from anywhere, whether it’s legitimate or not!
What are your next projects?
I’m going to start writing a feature film, but I’m not in a hurry because otherwise I’ll get anxious for nothing. I’m quite curious to know what will change once we’re back to normal. First of all, we won’t be kissing each other hello so much, which isn’t that bad…
Images: Jean Picon