There are multiple stories in the film about Georges going out of his way to sabotage everyone involved with Shirkers, particularly Sophie’s story about securing an important meeting and him saying, “Why don’t you just go into the kitchen?” Were you encountering stories like this for the first time while filming or did you know about them prior?
When this was happening, Sophie and Jasmine were starting the pre-production. I knew there was stuff like this going on where Georges was consistently taking credit for things Sophie and Jasmine did like getting the film stock from Kodak and the film equipment for free. This could only happen because Georges was the only grown-up face in the production–the rest of us were kids. Georges was just a front man and we needed a front man so it was just a symbiotic thing where we needed him and he needed us and we couldn’t have made these films without him. As for these stories about how painful it was, and how painful it was for Sophie, even recounting this incident just made her cry with anger. Jasmine remembers Sophie during the production, and Sophie was mainly laughing and crying at the same time because nobody could believe how ridiculous the situation was and how childish this man was when he was supposed to be the grown-up on the set.
What was your strategy in portraying Georges?
I was just very conscious about not wanting to make him a villain because I think he’s much too fascinating to be just a villain. He’s a very, very, very good storyteller–the best storyteller I ever met. He’s a man who could never create anything tangible. The way he creates is to create absences in people’s lives so they remember him through these big holes and losses, which is a very dark way of creating but it is a form of creating. I think to reduce him to a villain would be too easy because there were so many levels of complicity in the making of the original Shirkers. We went into it with our eyes open a little. We knew that Georges may not have been the most reliable fella. But to do a creative endeavor in a place where no one was doing that kind of thing, if you didn’t take any risks and you did everything that was safe, you would seem like the most boring, unambitious person in the world. We did not want to be that. I did not want to be that. I take responsibility for aligning with Georges. He was my best friend and was pulling everybody into this chasm with me. And we all leapt in. It was a leap of faith into this whole project that was Shirkers.
There are these tapes of Georges’ voice we hear throughout the film and I wanted to know how it felt revisiting them as an adult hearing him speak to you in that way or reliving and reanalyzing the friendship that you and him shared.
Everyone who hears those tapes thinks, Oh my god, he’s so creepy, he sounds so creepy. He just has that way of talking and those cadences. I felt like somebody got me, and saw me, and was talking to me as an equal–a grown-up who respected my ideas and thought that I had something. I wish I had more tapes because he was such a good storyteller and the fact that we have other people in the film–grown-ups who could attest to his charm as a storyteller and as a person–I wanted to make sure people didn’t think I was just this naïve impressionable 18-year-old whose best friend was this weird creepy guy. It wasn’t as simple as that. I think that if I’d met him yesterday, we’d still be friends and still have things to talk about. It’s a strange, close friendship. He is my nemesis but that also makes him very close to me.
In the film you talk about the aftermath of Shirkers, saying you felt as if you didn’t have a map or a place to go. Do you have any advice for people also in that place?
Be patient. You never know when things are going to become right, but be patient and persevere. Be very brave. Especially women: Develop a thick hide. Know that people are going to be making things difficult for you. You just have to know what you want to do. The other thing is to remember what makes you unique. Remember what makes you you and what makes you separate from everyone else. People will tell you no 99.9% of the time. Go ahead and do it and keep at it and you’ll be okay.
How did going to film school after making the original Shirkers affect your approach to making this film? So many of our readers are aspiring filmmakers with either access to academia or no access at all and would love to hear what you have to say about your experiences there.
I would say don’t. We made Shirkers without going to film school. Film school is great if you’re there and you have access to teachers and film. The thing is now you can go on FilmStruck, you can go on Mubi, you can go on Netflix, and you can see a huge amount of film. It’s possible now to have access to all these things–media, writing, and the films themselves. You can just educate yourself if you have the passion. I did not enjoy my time there so I’m not an advocate for going to film school. I think it might be helpful for a lot of people who need a disciplined atmosphere to learn a trade and then to make connections. But if you want to actually make films and be creative and if you’re looking to film school to do that for you, then do it yourself. ♦