The Daily Tofu

A place for art, culture, history, and creation


Film History: A History of French Cinema - A Glimpse of the French Film Business Today

FilmTrey TakahashiComment

Cannes film festival. Photo: Allison Launay

Disclaimer: This part would be more a testimony than an analysis of French cinema.

I have been working in the Film Business for some years now. I have always been a movie lover. I could feel it deep inside me even when I entered my Business School. At that time, I was predestined to work in the Luxury Business. You know, “Paris, capital of Fashion”… I did have my first professional experience in this field. And I have some stories to tell you about. Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada (2006)? Pretty much the same.

I worked for a small Paris-based production company. It was my first time working with producers. I only worked as a distributor and sales agent until that time.

 My ex-boss used to tell me:

“Ally, you‘ll soon discover it, but there are two kinds of directors, like there are two kind of producers.”

He was right, but I didn’t realize it until I immersed myself in Film Festivals, box offices, discovering what is at stake, how the cash machine works.

There is the director who makes a film to make money, to entertain viewers, and the director who makes movie for pride, for prize, to move us, to disturb us. Usually, directors who favor their work, face difficulties with their producers. (Coucou la Weinstein Company!).

Cast of Entre le murs (2008) at the Cannes film festival in 2008. Photo: Georges Biard

So I asked my ex-boss in which category he thinks he belongs to. “The second one” he said. Yet I remember walking around in the subway station, seeing these huge movie posters from his company, promising the viewers a giant American-style French blockbuster. He told me that he failed eventually, to produce an such a movie. I was working for this company when they released a Palme d’or winner‘s newest movie Entre le murs (2008). It got several prizes in 2014. But less than 50 ,000 people went to the cinema to see it. You don’t need to be a movie professional to know that this is a failure for a company, even though this film was multi-awarded and very well-directed. Truth is, prize doesn’t bring in money. However, cash had never been this director particular goal--He is an artist, he knows it, but he is so humble at the same time. And trust me, this attitude is very rare nowadays.

It was terribly exciting to work close to directors, to meet actors and not-so famous celebrities. You know, this particular kind of person who starred in a low-budget movie but feels like an Academy Awards winner.

I remember the first time I attended Cannes Film Festival. I was a film buyer at that moment. It means I was allowed to walk on the red carpet alongside glamourous American actors. It also means that I was able to attend many private parties. I was a newcomer in the Film Business (I believe I am still one) so I was following my boss everywhere, introducing myself to our partners in deals. My ex-boss told me that working in this field was a matter of subterfuge.

“Go to the parties, you have to be seen in public. People must know your name if you want to survive”. He said.

An invitation to a private party at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Allison Launay

Indeed. I had to greet some studios representatives with a big smile, wishing them the best for the future. I was literally hitting on them. The reason? I wasn’t not only a film buyer, I was a junior TV sales executive. My boss and I needed these persons to have a deeper look at our TV series and movies. Everybody knows everybody in the French entertainment business. Be a jerk once when making a deal, and you will be a jerk your entire life. Reputation is all you have. It’s your most precious thing.

And I unexpectedly liked it. Going to the parties, having a drink with the French first lady (who-is-not-really-our-first-lady-but-kind-of), with some French actors I really hate (But I liked the fact I was pretending to fangirl), trying to get along with Sales Executives and TV buyers from big companies. If reputation is everything, I hope I made good impression.

I also discovered that, first I was naïve, second, when you want to step in the film industry, when you have interviews to enter a distribution company, a pretty face is a huge advantage. HOW COULD I NOT KNOW THIS?

Was it my case? I truly don’t know. I am not the prettiest girl you ever seen, but on good days I am charming as hell. I remember this particular day when my ex-bosses tried to find somebody to come after me. I selected resumes which I found the most interesting and with the required skills. A month after, they chose, I must confess, a very beautiful but dumb woman with no professional experience. I heard later on that my ex-bosses were known in the film industry for their standards. Reputation guys, reputation.

We are in August 2015, I am still wondering if they chose me for my skills, for my beautiful greyish eyes, or as a plan B.

Pretty sure it wasn’t for my breast.

The food and views were great though. Photo: Allison Launay

-Allison Launay

Photography: Broken Camera, Creative Fun - Light Leaks and Shutter Lag

PhotographyTrey TakahashiComment

Image 1: Firework shot with a Canon AE-1 w/ a light leak. The blue color shift and overexposure comes from a leaking seal. 

For years I used a beloved Canon AE-1 as the main film workhorse camera. It had carried me through my first photography class, and through many adventures and plenty rolls of film. Unfortunately something dreadful happened, as with any old cameras age and wear the seals slowly fall apart and the shutter timers sometimes do not always sync up as they should. It is normal wear and tear and with any camera, requires routine maintained to make sure that everything is in impeccable shape. However, by the time the AE-1 began to show its age, it was set aside for other film SLR cameras, leaving it a non-priority for repair. While it was sitting off to the side, I wondered about what sort of shots could be achieved with a broken camera. And more importantly, could this camera have potential to still be something fun to experiment with in her current state?

Image 2: A light leak on the lower right of the image in full sun.

Each and every camera has a set of seals around the outer layer of the camera to prevent light from leaking onto the film, keeping the film in its light-free box with only the shutter’s opening allowing light to strike the film for a brief moment. The shutter itself needs to be quick, and timed appropriately to ensure that it opens and closes quickly to prevent a picture from being over/under exposed in different spots. It also must be timed correctly to make sure that the film is exposed at the exact time displayed on the dials giving you the correct exposure time on your light meter. Without these two essentials in complete working order, interesting results can come about.

With one roll of color Fujifilm run through it, the camera produced some interesting results--all unpredictable and ever changing. The most prominent feature of a light leak is a color shift and over exposure happening on images with strong light coming in the direction of the leaking light on the camera itself. As observed in Image 1, we see a color shit in the upper right corner which is also over-exposed from a rotted seal on that section of the camera. I found, however, that the light leak only really presented itself in cases of very bright light sources in a dimly light area. Accessories such as flashes helped extenuate it, but it would not always appear in the daylight, as demonstrated in Image 2 and Image 5.

Image 3: Shot with an AE-1 with a pronounced shutter lag. On both the right and left of the image, there is over exposure due to the shutter lagging.

Image 4:Shot with a Canon AE-1 with a shutter lag. Using a triple exposure, the shutter hangs on the upper third of the image, and a light leak appears on the upper left corner.

Much like the light leak issue, the camera's shutter did not always lag or hang on every shot, rather it would only appear on certain shutter speed settings making it very unpredictable unless well documented. Shutter hang and lag are characterized by an identifiable line cutting across the image where the shutter hangs for a moment leaving the exposure across the image inconsistently.

As shown in Image 3, the shutter is misplaced on two sides of the image, on both the very left and right of the picture. Hanging on the right, the image is overexposed on the corner creating a solid line of overexposure.  Combining this problem with the light leak, we have images like Image 4 where both issues are present creating an interesting effect in an abstract image. And to make things interesting, sometimes images such as Image 5, do not suffer from any issues whatsoever, being exposed as desired from the camera

The real pleasure to this is this idea that some of these images come across as very old and dated, and in some ways give an expired film look. Creating negatives that look warn and perhaps were taken on equipment that had been beaten and worn. While the camera is not something I would use for documenting precious memories or for professional shots, it remains as a fun tool to experiment with. For everything that can go wrong with a camera, there are often things that can be done to bend the image into something that is workable or at least has appeal. From dismounting lenses and using them freely in front of a camera, or playing with light leaks for a certain aesthetic, photography has been and always will be a medium that thrives on experimentation.

Image 5: Sometimes in the right settings, the shutter does not lag and light does not always leak in.

-Trey Takahashi