Interview with Francois Ferracci – the director of Lost Memories

With a running time of less than three minutes the film Lost Memories makes a powerful comment on digital versus analog living as well as the nature of memories—especially when they are all tweeted, blogged or committed to a digital archive somewhere.

I encountered the film, by Francois Ferracci, mere hours after he uploaded it to Vimeo. I might have been the first person to comment on the video but that wasn’t enough (is it ever?). I needed to know more about Mr. Ferracci and his film. His control over the special effects as well as the wordless performances in the film intrigued me enough to seek an interview.

When I sent Mr. Ferracci my questions the video had barely enjoyed a few hundred views. I couldn’t understand how the Vimeo community hadn’t discovered this gem yet. When I heard back from Francois he informed me that his film had been chosen as a Vimeo Staff Pick [Ed: this is a big deal, and a wonderful way for a film to get a much wider audience on that website], and less than 72 hours later, the video has cross thirty thousand views.

Francois Ferracci used to live in Paris (for fifteen years) and has recently moved to Toronto. He studied Graphic Design in an art school in Paris and worked in the web design industry for a few years. When he discovered Adobe After Effects in 2002 he switched to motion design. In Mr. Ferracci’s own words he, “met good people at the right moment, and I moved to the feature film and TV industry.” He specialized in title design for movies and TV series but also did special effects work for music videos, advertising, and film. Through his company he is involved in art direction, storyboards and visual effects supervision. It is only now—with all this experience under his belt—that Mr. Ferracci has become a director.

How did you come up with the idea for Lost Memories?
It started with a short film competition in Paris in which we had to imagine our future. The main actor, Luka, wanted to do it with me. I’d had this idea in mind for a long time, so I wrote it in 2 hours, and then we were ready to shoot! But there were too many visual effects shots in the film so I didn’t enter the competition, because I wanted to spend more time on post-production. As a visual effects artist, and visual effects supervisor, I knew it was going to be a nightmare! We shot with the 5D and the main problem is that a shaky camera creates huge distortions in the shots. It is sometimes impossible to get a clean tracking for set extensions in post.

What was your brief to your actors?
There was a lot of improvisation. I mainly wanted them to be quiet, like in a silent movie, and let them express more with their eyes, and attitudes. Because there were no dialogues I was able to tell them during each take what to do or express. We also had to work fast, because it’s difficult to shoot in that place. There are so many tourists, looking at the camera, asking you what you are shooting, and stuff like that. We had to move fast. It was shot in 2 or 3 hours, very fast. But that day, the light was amazing. I had never seen the Eiffel Tower like this before. It was a very lucky day.

How long did it take from concept to finished product?
I edited very fast, in a day. But the visual effects took me 6 months to complete, because I was also handling the work my company gets. But if I really count hours, I would say that it took about 2 weeks. And three of my friends helped on some shots.

What was your expectation when you made the film?
I wanted the audience to think about digital information flow, and also about how our memories will remain if one day everything disappears. I think it’s a very important question we have to ask to ourselves.

Is Lost Memories part of a larger project?
I wouldn’t say that, but this theme has obsessed me for a few years. And maybe I’ll write a few more shorts around this subject, maybe something bigger. We’ll see… But if I direct something around this, I can tell you that I’ll find an idea with fewer visual effects!

What hardware/software did you use to make this film?
This short was mainly post-produced on my laptop, a Macintosh, with Final Cut for editing, and After Effects for all the effects and color grading.

How has Lost Memories been received so far?
I just posted it a day ago, and I already receive great comments about the digital memories. [Note: We exchanged emails through the weekend and this is what he had to add after the film became a Vimeo Staff Pick] It’s absolutely amazing. The film was viewed nearly 20,000 times [Ed: that number is now over 30,000] in 24 hours, it’s crazy. There are so many positive comments and feedbacks, lots of emails, it’s amazing. It is highly positive!

Lots of music composers want to collaborate with me, and I had some people asking for help with their projects. It’s quite surprising, because I’m not very used to it.

Did you have a promotional plan for the film, did you get in touch with specific people to try and get them to watch your film?
Not really. I had some doubt about the project when it was completed. It’s always like that when you have spent so much time reviewing your own images. So I was hoping I would have a few views on Vimeo and get some feedback on the Internet, but nothing was really planned.

Who are your filmmaking heroes/inspirations?
Ridley Scott and Michael Mann are the directors I really admire. I love their movies, art direction and storytelling. Very inspiring. But I also have an artistic education background. I draw a lot. So drawings and paintings are also an amazing source of inspiration in terms of lighting, composition and emotions.

I also love the work of photographers like Nan Goldin or Moriyama—they inspire me a lot.

I noticed that you’ve done work for Europa Corp. (it is my secret dream to one day have Luc Besson produce one of my scripts), what was that like?
I did the main titles on the film “From Paris With Love” with John Travolta. I also worked on a big shot on this film with a great 3D artist. It was fun. I particularly loved the great details we had to find out to make the job done.

The director Pierre Morel (Banlieu 13, Taken) came a few times to check the work, and he was very precise in his visual intentions and expectations. It was also a great pleasure to work with the visual effects supervisor Roxane Fechner. It is such a great memory.

Do you have any tips for other filmmakers trying to get noticed online?
I don’t have the answer. I think it’s a mix of luck, good work, and trying to be honest in the stories you’re trying to tell.

What’s next for you?
I am about to direct a music video for an American singer [Ed: I asked who, he couldn’t tell me—he was sworn to secrecy]. And then I will direct two shorts. I am also finishing another short that was on stand-by for a long time. And I am writing a feature film on the side.

Any advice for filmmakers attempting a graphics and post-heavy project like Lost Memories?
Always take advice from a VFX guy beforehand. Prepare, think, storyboard before shooting. Because it can become a huge pain after! :)

 

Elvis

Independent filmmaker and screenwriter.