Over the last two months, as most people around the world were confined to their homes, empty city streets managed to give a peculiar, almost post-apocalyptic vibe. Coincidentally, our big winner for April 2020 also roposes a post-apocalyptic scenario, but one centred around insects. So, one of these days, we had a (virtual, of course) chat with Insectarium‘s director, Kilian Thomas.
JL: Congratulations, Kilian, for the bunch of awards from TMFF’s April edition! How is ‘Insectarium’ performing at competitions and film festivals so far?
Kilian: Thank you so much! It’s incredible and so gratifying to receive these awards because they’re the firsts since the film was finished in April 2019. It’s very satisfying for me and all the team to see our work rewarded one year later!
JL: You’ve co-written the script with three other people. Did you find such a cooperation daunting – having to agree and compromise – or did you benefit from its synergies?
Kilian: At first glance, writing with other people is pretty scary because it forces you to share everything you think and imagine with them. But for Insectarium, it was essential because this project of sci-fi short with insects was very ambitious for students we were. So I wrote with the three persons who would work on the special effects of the movie, to write depending on what was possible to do and what wasn’t. Finally, it was a real pleasure to have direct interlocutors to interact and help me write this project because it was quite complicated, and I think I couldn’t have done it alone… At no moment there has been disagreement or compromise; the script evolved by its own nature. I think that the co-authors are the first audience of the film, so if they didn’t understand what I wrote, other people won’t either.
JL: So, what was the point of departure with regard to the project? Was it post-apocalyptic Paris, was it the insects, or was it the meanings behind the plot?
Kilian: As point of departure, I wanted to make a survival thriller post-apocalyptic with insects. It was clear for me that it would have disgusting stings and insects coming out of a woman. I wanted to make something scary and disgusting! The ideas of symbiotic relationship and pregnancy metaphor came just after, during the writing process.
JL: What inspired you and the others to write this particular screenplay?
Kilian: I’m entomophobic since my very childhood and I always make impressive reactions to insects’ stings. That’s what gave me the idea of this short. So many people in Europe fear insects so I thought that they would make a great thriller subject. Maybe I wanted this movie to be a therapy for me, but it didn’t really work!
JL: What were your sources of inspiration when it came to directing the film? Any directors you borrowed some style from?
Kilian: There were many films in sources of inspiration to create the universe of Insectarium. This particular relation between humans and insects is obviously Cronenberg-like (The Fly) and in the spirit of Alien by Ridley Scott of which I love the mythology. I was really inspired by modern sci-fi movies like: Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, A quiet Place, Just a Breath Away (and Microcosmos for the insect shots). For acting and direction, I inspired a lot myself of the work of Darren Aronofsky on Mother!.
JL: We were really impressed by the film’s visuals – impeccable cinematography and editing. It manages to shape out the personal drama of the main character, while also putting it into a larger perspective. How happy are you with the end result?
Kilian: Of course, I am! Making this movie represented a real challenge and my team did a really great job! From Cinematography to visual effects, through sound, editing, and music, all make the universe I imagined grand and credible. The real asset for me was to film with real insects to make it more credible and repugnant, and we did it. There were hundreds of insects on the set and I can tell you that during the filming of macros shots of insects, the tension was at its highest because of some dangerous insects we were manipulating! Directing insects wasn’t easy but it’s for that kind of challenges that I do this job.
JL: And speaking of main character, what an amazing work Ophelie Lehmann has done as Lisa! She was chosen as our Actress of the Month for April, and we were wondering how you liked working with her?
Kilian: When I met Ophélie on the casting day, I’ve been immediately surprised by the power she gave playing. She was playing one emotion to another and could put herself in a deep state of distress. She was Lisa. Then she completely trusted me all the project long and refused nothing: eat insects or draw blood. She beat her fears and gave real strength to her character. She’s a wonderful actress, we will work again together in the future, for sure…
JL: Are you using the coronavirus lockdown as an opportunity to sketch more projects out, or has it caught you in a more advanced stage with another project?
Kilian: Yeah, this particular period is inspiring, mainly for a sci-fi lover, and gives me time to write new projects. I’m actually working on developing a feature film from Insectarium, because I would like to tell more about this universe, those characters, and those insects! I also work on a series project I would like to produce and I’m preparing my next short film!
JL: Thanks for your time, Kilian! We really enjoyed your work, and we hope to see more of it soon!
Killian: Thank you! Looking forward to getting back on TMFF!