MOVING STORIES – Interview with Nicolas Provost – “We are all part of a huge collective film memory.”


The new work of NICOLAS PROVOST tries to redesign the mentality of mainstream cinema, putting a different light on the narrative filmic process. Over seductive images of a plane flying in the sunset, we hear the off-screen dialogue between a man and a woman. Without ever seeing them, they fully appeal to our imagination. Stock footage is cheaper than shooting new material and is mainly used to fill editing gaps in a film or to illustrate a needed lacking landscape. PROVOST shows that it can have esthetic and cinematic value in itself and can tell a story. In this film, he uses nothing but stock footage of a Boeing plane, flying towards a sunset.

Ioana Mischie: You play with the grammar of mainstream cinema, almost like a visual semiotician, interpreting and changing significances. What challenged you to approach this  dimension of cinema?

Nicolas Provost: When the digital revolution arrived back in the year 2000 and everyone could afford a computer and a camcorder, I realised that I could import existing film material and sculpt with it to give it another meaning. I quickly found out that we are all part of a huge collective film memory and that the audience is very mature to understand and feel the poetry of film language.

Ioana Mischie:  If stock footage is mainly used to fill gaps of an artistic film, to adjust editing, or to illustrate a needed lacking landscape, in MOVING STORIES it seductively becomes poetry itself. You seem to question the techniques of expressiveness in cinema, intending to show that stock footage exclusively is worth-watching, and might possess an axiological value. What inspired you the idea of this film?

Nicolas Provost: I discovered stock footage on the internet and decided I would try to move an audience with only stock footage. I decided I would give those amazing airplane images a narrative meaning with only a suggestive dialogue in the beginning. I’ve always been fascinated by ‘aftermath’ moments in feature-length films. The quiet moment that gives the story a break and where the audience can reflect on what happened and where the story is taking us. Unfortunately, these moments only last just a couple of seconds. I wanted to make a very long aftermath in which the audience can project it’s imagination to the maximum. This way the film becomes more of a audiovisual meditative experience.

Ioana Mischie : Your experiment goes much further with studying the effect of sound on the image: if the Kuleshov effect revolutionized at that time the perception of image, this experiment tends to change the perception of off screen dialogue. Listening to a dialogue between a man and a woman, while we witness the flight of a plane towards the sunset, doesn’t betray inadequateness as a result, but a rather strong emotional impact, as we start to imagine the real persons. How did you choose the dialogue? And what did you have first in mind  – the dialogue or the visuals?

Nicolas Provost:  My plan was to actually write and direct an interior scene in the plane where you would see the young romantic couple. But it turned out that it was stronger if I leave everything to the imagination, this way the power of dialogue became also something important.

Ioana Mischie: Each of your discoveries are small innovations in cinema. What was the most  provocative discovery that you experienced?

Nicolas Provost:  The most beautiful thing I discovered is the fine line between fiction and reality. The moment in which the audience asks themselves ‘is this real or is this fiction?. I think it’s very strong feeling where you can see the magic dimension of reality and I believe that’s what it’s all about.

Ioana Mischie: How do you start an idea of a film and how do you develop it? Do you work as well with scripts or only with concepts and experimenting?

Nicolas Provost: For short work I never work with a script and I have no idea how long the film will be. An image usually inspires me to an idea and then I start sculpting with image and sound and narrative tools. For the feature film  THE INVADER I wrote a very structured 100 pages script  together with a co-writer.



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