Three films, one DOP

We enjoyed the release of Orpheline by Arnaud des Pallières, of Sage Femme by Martin Provost, and the selection of Michel Franco’s Les Filles d’Avril to a Certain Regard in Cannes, to ask some questions to Yves Cape, SBC member.

Sage Femme by Marin Provost

Synopsis : Claire is the exact example of straightness. She is a nurse and dedicated her life to others. She is already worried about the coming closing of her maternity when she sees her daily routine interrupted by Béatrice’s come back, her dead father’s former mistress. Béatrice is an egoist woman, all of Claire’s opposite.

Releasing date: march 22, 2017

Running time: 1h57min

Nationality: French

With Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Frot, Olivier Gourmet.

Genre: Drama comedy.

Production: Curiosa Films, France 3 Cinema, Versus Production.

Budget: 6.8 million euros.

Orpheline by Arnaud des Pallières

Synopsis: Portrait of a young woman at four ages of her life. Young girl of the country, taken in a tragic game of hide and seek. Teenager who compensates her sad family situation by running away et collects affairs with men. Young countryside girl who gets to Paris and avoids a catastrophe Accomplished woman who thought she was done with her past. Four different actresses for one single character.

Releasing date: march 29, 2017

Running Time: 1h51min

Nationality: French

With Adèle Haenel, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Solène Rigot, Gemma Arterton, Vega Cuzytek and Nicolas Duvauchelle

Genre: Drama

Production: Les Films Hatari,  Les Films d’Ici,Arte France Cinéma

Budget: 4.6 million euros.

Les Filles d’Avril by Michel Franco

Synopsis: Valeria is 17, she lives with her older sister, Clara, in a beach-side house. She is pregnant and has decided to keep the coming kid to raise him with her boyfriend. Clara, who feels lost with the situation, tells their mother, Avril. When she gets to the girls’s place, she follows and respects Valeria’s choice and helps her with the baby, even though her help is not always in her daughter’s best interest.

Releasing date: Soon.

Running Time: 1h30min

Nationality: Mexican

With Emma Suarez, Ana Valeria Becerril, Hernan Mendoza, Joanna Larequi, Enrique Arrizon.

Genre: Drama

Production: Lucia Films

Budget: 1.5 million euros.

When we talked about making this interview on these three movies, I didn’t think I would find so many similarities amongst them, mainly on the theme level. The three of them are about woman, there is a pregnancy, a birth, a cycle. In Sage Femme, Catherine Frot’s character delivers other women when she is found back by her dad’s mistress, and her son tells her she is going to become a grandmother. In Orpheline, we follow the same character in four stages of her life, from her childhood to the adult age, and in the last part, she is pregnant, which is going to drive her to hard choices. In Les Filles d’Avril, a mother comes and helps her 17 years old daughter to deal with her newborn baby, and then decides to steal her life. The repeating theme is strange, for these three different movies.

YC: Yes, that’s true. I didn’t even think about it. They are all portraits of women. I like portraits. I started with that when I was a photographer and it stayed. The faces interest me.

Sage Femme is mainly a classical movie in its narrative construction, even if it was entirely shot handheld. Martin wanted something really alive, but still well prepared. The cutting out was done mostly during prep time.

Catherine Frot in Sage Femme.

Orpheline is more complicated, script-wise. The narration is fragmented around the four heroins’ point of view. The movie was also shot with a lot of handheld. It is a more modern movie, more original. With Arnaud, there was no prepared cut out. I was building the frame with the actors take after take, listening to everyone’s comment. I really like this way of working, even more when we work handheld. For some reasons, I unfortunately couldn’t make the color grading myself. It is sad because the movie misses some coherence even though they kept the bases we took with the rushes  for the color grading.

Solène Rigot in Orpheline.

Les Filles d’Avril is extremely well built, just as its script, even if the last version differs a lot from the original one. There was no handheld for this movie, it is mainly done with plan-sequences. Michel has a particular way to work: he edits the movie on set. The editor is always with us and at the end of each scene, when we are installing the technical stuff for the next thing, during lunchtime or anytime he has a moment, they work on the editing. He re-writes everyday, cuts some scenes, adds some others, change the chronology or their meaning! Michel manipulates the narration of his movies like a rubikube. We therefore shoot in the chronological order. It is the second movie that I shoot with him, and today, I do almost feel used to it, but on the first one, I was just worried! Now, I enjoy doing it that way so much and I feel like I take part of the directing and constructing.

Ana Valeria Becerril in Les Filles d’April

Did you shoot all three movies in a row ?

YC: I first shot Orpheline, at the end of summer 2015. The shooting was quite long: eleven weeks spread amongst Paris and the suburbs of Lyon and then a few days in Romania. I prepped for four weeks with Arnaud. After that, I shot Sage Femme for nine weeks during spring 2016, around Mantes-la-jolie and in Liège for the hospital and the delivery scenes, that we couldn’t shoot in France. The prep time lasted one month. Last, Les Filles D’Avril was shot in seven weeks form October to December 2016 in Mexico. I prepped for 6 weeks on location with Michel. He has his own production company, Lucia Films, which he produces his movies and other projects (that won a lot of prizes in Festivals these last years) with.

Adèle Exarchopoulos in Orpheline

The light is quite naturalist in the three movies, but still really different from each others. Could you tell us more about your intentions ?

YC : The technical system is the same for all of them: a RED weapon Dragon with Leica SUMMILUX-C. On the Camera side, since the dragon sensor got out, I work with RED. It is the only system that gets me exactly what I need for the color grading as I want it. For each movie, the light is naturalist in the way that there is no “light effect” that comes re-light the scene or light it in a way that couldn’t happen naturally. I mainly used the LiteMate from LiteGear, the Boa from RubyLight and the Skypanels from Arri.

For Sage Femme, Martin wanted a light that evolves from the end of the winter to the beginning of the spring to fit the chronology of the story. We had an upset weather with us but with some perseverance and with the help of color grading, we got what we wanted. Both actresses, Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot ask for a lot of care and attention from me to light them. For day-ext, that I rarely light, I asked the electricians to build a 2 by 1.5 frame hold up with two poles, with one electrician at each end, usually with a black Rosco cloth and other clothes if needed. It allowed us to cut all the light coming from above and to smoothen the shadows on the actresses’ faces. It was a real challenge for me to make a movie with these two women without lighting it too much. The movie had a lot of long scenes in interior sets. Even though it was hard for the lighting, I asked to shoot these scenes with two cameras so that Martin would have a richer content when editing and to leave a greater freedom to the actresses without tiring them. In a general way, I manage to have the softest light on the actresses’ faces without killing the tone of the scenes.

Catherine Deneuve in Sage Femme

For Orpheline, it was all the opposite! Arnaud likes contrasted, hard and saturated images. The really nice script, its amazing cast and Arnaud’s wishes allowed me to do something quite different from what I usually do: a lot of contrast and a lot of saturation. With the art director (Guillaume Deciercy) et the costume designer (Nathalie Raoul), we decided to use a lot of colors in all of our choices of costumes and sets. Combined with a naturalist light, the same way of work and the same lighting material, but by making some extremer choices, the result is completely different. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish my job that should go all the way to the color grading.

Adèle Hanael in Orpheline

I Just finished the color grading for Les Filles D’Avril by Michel Franco, there were 5 months between the shooting and the end of post production. Michel’s wish for the lighting was the same than the one for Chronic (The first movie that Yves Cape shot with Michel Franco), a discrete light, that we don’t see. Wether for the light, or for the costumes, the sets, the camera movements, if it is too present, Michel wants something else. I tried to light it as less as possible. I worked with a lot of cloth, black or white to add, cut or soften the light. My lighting installations were as simple as possible, and were just there to boost up what was already existing. At a projection of the movie, I was told that there was almost “no light”. It was the best compliment I could get. Because it is not true! There is some light, but it is discreet. I realize that the light is not actually what interests me, what I like is the script, the directing, the actors. Yves Vandermeeren said : “The operator is not part of the camera crew, he is part of the director’s crew.” It took me a while to fully get it, but today, I got it! I know what I like in my job of DP. The light, with the other aspects of the image such as the costumes or the set, give us a frame and I like that frame to not be overfilled, I like it to offer some possibilities to the spectator.

Joanna Larequi in Les Filles d’Avril

Let’s get back to Sage Femme. The movie’s opening scene is a really realistic delivery, to the point where we feel the strength and the pain in our theater seat. There will be other scenes like this one in the movie, and they will give us the same sensation. How do you shoot these moments, so true and so intimate, in order to integrate them in a movie ?

YC: To be able to follow the deliveries, we followed a few pregnant women in their last months of pregnancy. They were supposed to get their babies within the same week in two different hospitals where we were allowed to shoot. In the planning, we fixed 5 days where we would be ready to shoot day and night. We were lucky because we got all we needed in three days. That opening scene was shot with a smaller crew. In the room, there were only Catherine Frot, the AC, the boom op., and me. Martin, the AD, the sound engineer, the make up artist, and the second AC were all outside in another room, with a monitor. There was a doctor who did all the prep work and at the last moment, Catherine would replace her and take the baby to their mother’s belly. Some of the shots we did during these three days were integrated in other scenes (that were not true this time), later in the movie.

Catherine Frot in Sage Femme

In Orpheline, the project was to shoot four different actresses for one single character. How did you work that continuity ?

YC : The movie occurs during 20 years, but since the very first time we spoke about it with Arnaud, we thought that it would be interesting to try to forget all the period questions, wether with the sets, the costumes, the light or the props. Meanwhile we are switching to a different actress and the movie is evolving, from the childhood to the adult age, there is no evolution in the style of the clothes, the cars, the decoration. Light-wise, it was the same idea, it wouldn’t change.

For the framing, the idea was to follow each heroin, to stay glued to her whatever happens. The movie was shot mainly on the 40mm to reinforce the feeling that we are with her in her point of view. The identical way of framing through the periods helps the spectator to get that it is the same character. The cutting out was coming pretty naturally, I was either framing the actress with her movings, or I was adopting her point of view. With actresses like Solène Rigot, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Adèle Haenel, it’s really an exciting work. With Vega Cuzytek, the young actress, it is more fragile, we had to give her a lot of freedom, but at the same time, we had to get the shots that we wanted. I like the handheld style but I try to avoid that we feel the operator’s steps, so I would often get “driven” on a dolly system on which I could turn on my axis at 360 degrees.

Vega Cuzytek in Orpheline

In Les Filles D’Avril, I feel like there is no real main character. At the beginning, we follow Valeria, a young 17 years old girl who is pregnant, and then her mother, Avril, comes and we don’t really know who is our reference in the story.  After that, when Avril leave to Mexico, we follow her and Valeria becomes a secondary character.  And at the end, Valeria founds her mother back and she becomes the heroin again. It is unusual.

YC: The script was already like that. There is a continuity in time, but during the period, we follow different characters. When we find one of them, he has evolved without us. The daughter and the mother are switching between the main character until the end of the movie.

When Michel starts his shootings, he already has an edited timeline, but in the place of each scene, there is a black card. Then, he completes it step by step, and changes it, re-writes it. He is always questioning the story, the content and the comprehension of the scenes. Michel asks for an investment work that I have never been ask before. We are always talking about the artistic aspects of the movie, I participate to all his decisions. He made me his principal collaborator. It is amazing, I didn’t think I would collaborate that way on a movie one day.

Emma Suárez in les Filles d’Avril

In each of the three movies, there is a certain intimity with the actresses. You frame their bodies with a lot of grace, Catherine Frot in her shower, Adèle Haenel’s naked body with Jalil Lespert, Adèle Exarchopoulos having sex with 60 years old men, the injured body of Solène Rigot, the skinny but pregnant body of Ana Valeria Bercerril or still Emma Suarez having sex with a 17 years old guy. How did you gain their trust ?

YC: To me, the work with the talents is the most important part, because it is there that the directing takes place. To get a real relationship with them, they have to understand what you are doing, not on the technical aspect, but how it can help their character. On the same page, as a DP, I have to serve their performance. There is a real trust relationship between the actor and the operator and it has to be introduced by the director. It is him who decides for the DP’s place, not the opposite! For example, when Michel introduced me to Emma Suarez (double Goya this year for the first and the second role), he said I was he principal collaborator, and he added that he was making the movie with me. Once the intro is done, we worked all together in a perfect collaboration.

Adèle Exarchopoulos in Orpheline

I feel like we keep, mostly in Orpheline, but also, in a lighter way, in Les Filles d’Avril and in Sage Femme, for a long time, a doubt on the sets. We don’t really know where we are.

YC: It is always complicated. The director chooses the place he wants to give it: do they have to be significant or indistinct ? All three movies have one similarity, it is the logic that is prioritized and not the beauty of a spot. It doesn’t always help me, buy it is fair so I accept it!

For Sage Femme, Martin situated the story in Mantes-la-Jolie, which is a pretty special town from the Parisian suburbs. On one side, there are some tough neighborhoods, and on the other hand, a little bourgeoisie of country, but also some small working-class gardens in the middle of the Seine. Martin wanted that the spectator identifies that when Catherine Frot goes down to Paris, it is a total cultural choc. The sets and the costumes had to tell something about the characters and allow to point out their particularities.

Catherine Deneuve in Sage Femme

For Arnaud, the important thing was that we don’t pay attention to the places and periods, but focus on the characters. We decided in prep to help building a saturated image contrasted by the sets and the costumes. We used more saturated colors for the walls and the costumes.

Gemma Arterton in Orpheline

For Michel, the important was to have three distinct spots. The beach house would be to a small distance away from the town, and further away from the city. But this had to be discreet. Even if the sets were giving infos about the characters, it had to stay subtle. We tended to cut some colors down in the sets to make them as subtle as possible. Michel let the actors live on set before the shooting started so that they could get acclimated to them. It gave a really right setting of the sets. These are the tiny details that help build the tone of a movie.

Emma Suárez in les Filles d’Avril

Sage Femme by Martin Provost

Material  :

Camera : RED weapon Dragon, Leica Summilux-C

Camera rental house : TSF

Lighting rental house: TSF

Grip rental house : TSF

Lab: M141 Thibault Carterot


Steadicam operator  : Loic Andrieu

AC : Sylvain Zambelli et Mathieu Cassan

Gaffer: Jean-Noël Viry

Key Grip: Emmanuel Van Wambeke

Colorist : Richard Deusy

Catherine Frot in Sage Femme

Orpheline by Arnaud des Pallières

Material : 

Camera : RED weapon Dragon, Leica Summilux-C

Camera rental house : TSF

Lighting rental house: TSF

Grip rental house: TSF

Lab: M141 Thibault Carterot


AC : Sylvain Zambelli et Mathieu Cassan

Gaffer: Marc Lambert

Colorist : Arnaud des Pallières

Solène Rigot in Orpheline

Les filles d’Avril by Michel Franco

Material :

Caméra : RED weapon Dragon, Leica Summilux-C

Camera rental house : Revolution Mexico Fernando Hernandez

Lighting rental house : Revolution Mexico Fernando Hernandez

Grip rental house: Revolution Mexico Fernando Hernandez

Lab: M141 Thibault Carterot

Crew :

Steadicam operator : Christian Gibson

AC : Noe Muñoz

Gaffer: Juan Martínez Huerta

Key grip : Adrian Mares

DIT : Diego Sanchez

Colorist : Richard Deusy

Ana Valeria Becerril in Les Filles d’April

Translation : Gaston Struye

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