Emotion and character

Franz Galo. Director. France.

London-based, French filmmaker Franz Galo studied graphic design in Paris (ESAG), then worked as an art director and a fashion photographer before discovering film by directing his first experimental short, which won an award for Best Short Film in a French festival, in 2013.

From his first shoot he remembers learning how to put it together as he went along:

“I have great memories of my first experimental short film ‘Krk’. I did it with a lot of freedom. We had a lot of fun with the main actor, Antoine Poulain. We shared a room for four days together. He had a raging toothache during the whole shooting. And I guess it influenced his work, in a way. It hurt him so badly, and I remember laughing with him because of the pain and the strange convulsions he had. He turned his pain into comic improvisations. At the peak of his toothache, he reminded me of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.”

“We spent four days in the North of France, in Dunkirk, a city I had never been to, before the shooting. I remember meeting charming people, eating on lonely terraces on the beaches, and observing immense clouds floating above our heads. I remember shooting in a huge factory, that looked like XIXth Century gigantic warehouses, with surreal blue flames coming out of incredible chimneys at night. We stopped and talked with the workers for hours. One of them appeared in the movie. That was part of those new ideas I came up with, thanks to natural locations found on the spot. All those elements make beautiful memories of a shooting. A film is always more than what you see on a screen. It is an real human adventure.”

“As for the reception of my work, the most beautiful gift I can receive is to see the audience or the people I work with moved after the screening of the film. It means that the film succeeded in being honest and authentic.”

This led him onto numerous film projects; making documentaries about artists he met in Europe, and exploring their creative process. He went on to win several other awards for his films, which encouraged him to work on more ambitious projects.

Franz focusses on emotional narratives and poetic storytelling; creating stories and characters that speak to the soul and heart of the viewer:

“Emotion is what I am striving for. I look for a genuine story and deep characters. A great film, to me, is a film that changes the viewer. A film that moves someone to the soul. I need to be deeply moved by what I see on screen. I like stories that encourage me to think, that make me grow, that make me learn something about the world or make me look at things differently. We all can learn something new from a character in a movie. I always look for scripts and moods that are creative, surprising, authentic and honest.”

He’s currently working on a documentary about a psychic he met in Houston, Texas, and a short thriller based on dream logic.

And how he fits into the varied roles for his projects:

“Filmmaking is a team effort. I love working with people and share different point of views. I like to trust talented people and meet passionate people. I have also worked on smaller projects where I had to do everything on my own, but it is always due to a limitation of budget.”

Much of Franz’s work is shot outside in natural light. We wanted to know if that was something he looked for in choosing what to work on, or something that he suggests or insists in his own projects:

“I love natural locations and natural light. The sun is my favourite light to work with. It continuously changes during the day. Catching the morning light at 5am in the morning is a very exciting experience. Waiting for the sun to go down with a whole crew and knowing that you only have 5 minutes to shoot during this magical moment is a unique sensation, too. Natural light is very lively. All the crew gets excited. Natural locations are usually richer than studios and full of surprises. You never know what to expect before getting on set in a natural location. Locations you scouted a month before the shoot may have changed a bit and you have to adapt. Or you might discover details you didn’t notice at first sight, and you can compose with that surprise. It often nurtures and enriches your ideas. It keeps you alive on set, and that to me is very precious.”

“Natural locations and light have another great advantage: you don’t have to carry too much gear or spend hours to build a whole set with a complex lighting system. You can work with a limited crew, go faster and really focus of the story and on directing the actors. At the end, the film is always about the emotions brought by the actors and the story you try to build.”

“Also, you come up with unexpected solutions and new ideas when the weather turns bad. It keeps you awake and alive, and helps you stay in a creative energy. Shooting in a studio with artificial lights has also advantages, and can be a great experience, too. But it can also be very slow. You always need time to set the light properly. The attention of the actors might decrease. People can get easily distracted.”

Talking with Franz about how he got started, and any advice he has to impart to fresh filmmakers:

“Be prepared to work hard if you want to succeed. Be patient: big goals can’t be achieved in one or two years. Stay true to your ideas. Preserve your passion and be perseverant, strong and tenacious. Stay focus. But above all : enjoy the process of doing. Even when it doesn’t turn the way you want. Enjoy and HAVE FUN in doing what you do. Because the doing is always more intense than the reward of the achieved goal.”

And what he’s looking forward to working on in the future:

“I would definitely love to make feature films. Especially dramas and psychological thrillers. I wrote a few scripts, and I wish I could contact some producers to direct them. And of course, I still wish to continue to make short films, music videos, documentaries about passionate people.”

Franz is using Calico for his portfolio. Calico’s spotlight layout brings his featured projects upfront in a magazine feed format that allows him to present character-driven imagery. He splits his portfolio into Film and Photography; with the latter serving as an archive for different experiments, thoughts and concepts. His film projects all continue the Spotlight layout he uses for his homepage, with each project including stills from his moving image work that give the user a quick overview, or story, of the journey the film takes — acting much like a static trailer.

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