AU SUIVANT a short lensed by Ilona Vanouplines

Directed by Marco Bolla and Jeanne Remi, Au Suivant follows ruthless casting director Jasmine as she auditions Emma, a young actor with a raw talent. Wanting to unleash her potential, Jasmine pushes Emma towards her breaking point. Ilona Vanouplinesserved as DP on the short film.

“I studied at Narafi film school in Brussels,” begins Vanouplines. “That was ten years ago now and we recently had a reunion. They teach directing, cinematography, editing, sound and production, so it’s all elements together, but mainly focused on the technical aspects. It was the right choice for me because when I was eighteen years old I didn’t know what I wanted to do in film, whether it was editing, cinematography, or in general something with images. At Narafi they also taught me the importance of collaboration. By taking on various roles in film production, I got to see what everyone else is doing on set. This experience helped me appreciate what others bring to the table and made me better in my own role as a cinematographer. It also creates a sense of teamwork and respect among everyone involved. I strongly believe that those aspects are incredibly important on set.”

Vanouplines then worked for six months as a news camera operator, which consisted of shooting outside on location. “I was on standby, so if I received a call from the journalist I had to leave immediately from where I was,” says Vanouplines. “It was all very run and gun, but I really enjoyed it. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to shoot more cinematographic visuals, but definitely didn’t want to lose the shoots with a more documentary approach. I was told many DP’s start in the news industry and it’s a goodplace to learn quickly because you get to go to so many different places and circumstances but you have to get it right on all technical levels, it’s very good training. I’ve always been self-employed and I saw a lot of people shooting on DSLRs by then as it was very popular. I shot lots of social media videos for brands, in fashion and food. Those projects got bigger and bigger and I ended up working in commercials. From the smaller projects things got bigger and more professional and the crews got bigger. I really enjoyed that I could have my focus more on the overall image by working with gaffers and camera assistants. In the documentaries I shoot that isn’t the case, a big crew is not necessary there. That’s where I really enjoy shooting with a three-person crew, it allows us to be flexible, discover new places and momentarily become part of someone’s life. Those experiences are incredible enriching.”

Having worked extensively in documentary and commercials, Vanouplines was looking for fiction projects when director Marco Bolla called about Au Suivant. “Marco had heard from another DP that I was interested in shooting short films,” adds Vanouplines. “So,that’s how I got involved with the project. I read the script first and had an idea in mind about how the build-up would work. We would start fairly static, go over to panning shots and then go more and more handheld. I was on the same page as directors Marco Bolla and Jeanne Remi, which was nice.”

Vanouplines had to use her own camera equipment to shoot the film due to the almostnon- existent budget. “I shot on the Arri Amira and the Zeiss Zoom 21-100mm lens, as those are the ones I already have,” says Vanouplines. “This isn’t my favourite lens because it doesn’t have a specific look, but it’s a great workhorse. The lens doesn’t have an internal zoom motor. As we didn’t have the budget for an external motor, I could only zoom in by turning the lens. There is one scene in the movie when Emma gets immersed in the role and gets really emotional and for me it felt like I need to zoom in, but not having a motor made it really challenging to capture this smoothly. It felt correct to zoom in at that moment, but I just did my best without the motor. As soon as Emma turns into the owl, there is lots of improvisation. We made a decoupage for the movie, but this scene was more run and gun. I love working that way because of my documentary background and Ireally like to move with the camera. It was not challenging; it was really fun to do this.”

One of the most challenging shots to capture for the film was a close-up of Casting Director, Jasmine laying on the floor. “That was a really hard shot actually because the camera is just above her and it was just me holding the camera, as we didn’t have any grip on set. The director didn’t say cut immediately. I had been ill just before the shoot and for this particular shot I had to hold on for so long that I was shaking.” 

Vanouplines decided to take advantage of any available light resource as there was very limited lighting gear. “Marco and Jeanne had visited two locations without me during pre- production. One of the locations was very light and the other black and very dark without much natural light. They initially decided on the darker location for the film’s setting. I told them it would be horrible to shoot there because of the darkness it would be hard tocapture a descent image. In my opinion selecting a brighter location created a sense ofunexpectedness for the story. So, I convinced them to choose this location. We had a lot of luck with natural light, as there were windows on both sides and almost no direct sunlight. The light above the scene existed of two led panels that were originally hanging there, and we could change the luminance of them by using the switch on the wall. We were really lucky with what was there and I could play around with it a little bit. I only used some black cloth, a black floppy flag and one Aputure P300C led panel to give it a bit of extra contrast. We were lucky to be able to shoot the film continuously, but we didn’t have much control overall. It was just using everything you know and getting the best out of what was available to us. Trying to get a nice contrast and bright atmosphere with limited means, otherwise it would have looked cheap and wouldn’t have been veryclear. The room was quite big, so camera movement wasn’t a problem. The location could have been much worse.”

Au Suivant was shot across one day, with a crew of three. “The directors had this idea to make multiple short films and shoot them every one of them across one day,” explains Vanouplines. “The script was also written in a way that it was possible to shoot with just two actors, one room and a small crew in one day. Everyone was really clear and on the same page and everything was really nice. Everything went as we had foreseen it. It was only one day of course and it could have been much different. I really enjoyed that the directors really knew what they were doing and had really thought about it. There were lots of opportunities to change small things and freedom to work as there weren’t many lights or things in the way. As it was more of a documentary style approach it enabled that freedom which I really love. There were just three crew members and one of the actors was also one of the directors.”

In addition to Au Suivant, Vanouplines shot two short films at the beginning of the year.“In the summer, I will be shooting together with Stefan van Diest who is also an SBC member. We’ll be shooting a professional fiction series in studio which will be on VRT and Streamz. 

I’m really looking forward to it as it’s my first professional fiction project. Also airing now on VRT Canvas is a documentary I contributed to as a co-cinematographer. The series iscalled She They Us (Zijn Hen Wij). It’s a docuseries, consisting of five episodes about the hopeful fight for a future where everyone can be equal, a project that was not only professionally rewarding but also hit close to home personally,” concludes Vanouplines.

By Oliver Webb

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