For the second last series of awards of the year, our grand winner comes from France, and is called By Blood. Set in medieval times, it tells the story of Mort-Lieu, an old warlord who, from his deathbed, has to face a mysterious appearance in the form of a dark rider who appears outside his castle. We had a short chat with the film’s directors, Guillaume Enard and Jonathan Delerue.
JL: Our congratulations for your awards! ‘By Blood’ has performed remarkably and collected quite an enviable collection of awards, and now it has four more from TMFF!
Jonathan: Thank you! It’s always a great honor to win awards. It highlights the tremendous work our cast and crew did to bring our film on the big screen.
Guillaume: I think everyone has won an award by now. That’s amazing!
JL: Which idea came first: the historical setting or the ‘passing on a legacy’ plot point?
Jonathan: The historical setting. We wished to do something different. Making a historical short film in France is extremely challenging because the industry believes producing this kind of feature is too complicated, too expensive. 90% of the productions are comedies or independent movies about societal issues.
Guillaume: Then came the plot. ‘By Blood’ is an epic medieval western about a dysfunctional family and a father and son conflict. It is loosely based on the iconic French knight DuGuesclin’s story. And thanks to that plot, we knew we could do it within a decent budget.
JL: The name of your main character is Mort-Lieu, which translates to ‘Death Place’. Is this in reference of his heroic deeds during the peak of his powers, or does it more symbolically reflect his current condition as an old man with a troubled inheritance?
Jonathan: The name refers mainly to who he is now. He has won his name and his land, but he is now the prisoner of his weak, eroding body.
Guillaume: Mort-Lieu is like an empty shell. A decaying mind in a dead place.
JL: What films or filmmakers did you use as inspiration for the making of your project?
Jonathan: A few historical movies come to mind: “The War Lord”, “Braveheart”, “Excalibur”… We also watched carefully “Black Death” and “Ironclad” for Christopher Smith and Jonathan English has shot their film with a low budget.
Guillaume: We believe that the medieval genre should be to us French audience like westerns and samurai movies for the American and Japanese spectators. Consequently, Sergio Leone’s western movies were also a great inspiration. We wanted Mort-Lieu’s Castle to look dry, like a mini Alamo. His castle is the total opposite of the classical European Castle we used to see at the movies.
JL: The castle and its surrounding were a glorious shooting location! Where did you film your movie?
Jonathan: We shot at the Fortress of Mornas, near Avignon in the South of France. As the fortress is a very famous monument, it is open to public almost all the time except in winter but they were about to do serious restorations so we quicky got the only period of shooting possibility: the first week of November 2016.
Guillaume: We shot 7 days in the Fortress and the hills in front of it. As we knew we had very low budget to make very complex things and that we couldn’t afford to make a cheap movie, we made a very precise storyboard, based on a very precise scouting in and around the fortress and with a constant thinking of what were the priorities of our story.
JL: Pascal Gregory impressed us with his performance, so much that we awarded him our ‘Actor of the Month’ prize. Have your worked with Pascal before, and how was it to direct him?
Jonathan: It’s the first time we work with Pascal. Since the beginning we agreed that Mort-Lieu was to be played by a famous French actor, and our first choice has always been Pascal. He immediately liked our story and the character, telling us later that he has never played such a character. Pascal was very open-minded and fully dedicated to the movie. He always seemed to be in a kind of “stand-by mode” during rehearsals, but he jumped into character as soon as the camera was rolling.
Guillaume: We immediately felt that there was a great chemistry on screen between Pascal and his partners, Anne Charrier, Jonas Bloquet and Eric Savin. We had a great luck to work with such a terrific cast. They were all committed and they all enjoyed playing bigger than life characters, wearing that kind of costumes and armors, riding horses and fighting with swords.
JL: Likewise, we found By Blood’s score to be the best of this month, perfeclty capturing the diverse shifts of mood and intensity during the film’s progression. How happy are you with Jean-Francois Viguie’s work?
Jonathan: Jean-François’ music in one word: brilliant! We asked him to write several themes so that the music would tell the story at its own level.
Guillaume: Our only regret is not to have scored the music with a real orchestra, for to get a good one is really expensive and we were out of money at that time. We’ll get one to Jean-François for the next film.
JL: Any other projects that you’re currently working on?
Jonathan: It took us 2 years to complete “By Blood”, so we had a lot of time to work on several full feature films and TV series. One is a monster movie. It’s a simple and dreadfully effective story about motherhood and the fragility of human life.
Guillaume: We also wrote an intense medieval thriller loosely based on a French iconic story. It’s like a Middle Ages version of “The Silence of the Lambs”. We also finished writing an epic, ambitious medieval western TV Series. And we’re now starting working on a new short movie as challenging as “By Blood”.
JL: We really appreciate your time! We hope By Blood will continue getting the recognition it deserves, and we likewise hope that we will see more of your work soon!
Jonathan & Guillaume: Thank you! And we hope we’ll meet again.