Interviewed by Fleur Adderley
Writing by Hannah Green
Deep, moody tones, intimate camera work and sensitive musicality all define the work of Jeremie Brivet. Jeremie predominantly shoots music videos and short films, and his most recent work includes live sessions and videos for Dallas, Temper and Joseph Lawrence & The Garden. Born in Nice, after living in Paris for the past decade he moved to London last year, the culmination of a teenage dream. ‘London has more of an international vibe’ he tells us. ‘People don’t really work together in Paris - in London you meet people from everywhere, it’s a lot more collaborative.’ According to Jeremie, whilst there’s lots of things happening in Paris, he wanted to work with more international clients. He now jumps between the two capitals, although the majority of his shoots take place in London, even with French creatives.
Jeremie’s love of film began with music. He played guitar as a child, but as he grew up and his studies took centre stage, he put music to the side. After A-Levels, he considered specialising in English and working as a translator, but felt that this was lacking the creative expression that he had found in music. ‘I asked myself - what do I want to do? I wanted to have a creative thing, which would be something different to music. I started watching a lot of films, and started to think that maybe that was what I wanted to do.’ Things clicked into place when he realised that behind every film there was a director, and that every film was in some sense their vision. ‘I wanted to study that’, he says, ‘so I studied film.’ Whilst at ESRA (Ecole Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle) in Paris, Jeremie learnt many of the lessons and forged many of the connections which have informed his work to date. ‘When I arrived I had watched a lot of films, but I had no technical knowledge. I didn’t know how to make a film, I learnt all the technique and theory there. I got to practice a lot in film school, to try different roles to see what I liked - I realised that I like to direct and edit’. It was an inspiring, stimulating atmosphere - although experience among the students varied, everyone had passion.
Jeremie cites British filmmaker Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Big Little Lies) as an influence. ‘I am sensitive to the real style of a handheld camera’ he tells us, something particularly evident in Arnold’s brutal, immersive 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights. Jeremie prefers to centre on the substance of a piece, letting the story and emotions which drive it take centre stage - ‘when it is done simply, (...) there is real meaning’. Often, it’s simple narratives that he finds most appealing. Anything can have a narrative - a music video, a silent film - but what matters is the characters and the stories they tell. ‘What takes me in a film is when there is something interesting happening when you are with the characters.’ There’s a degree of investment, ‘you want to know what will happen to them and how it will turn out.’
Fresh to the film scene, Jeremie is full of ambition. In the last year of film school, he directed a short film, with a crew of twenty to thirty people, and after he graduated in 2018 he started working on large feature film sets as assistant director or casting assistant, going freelance in 2019. Even at this early stage, he’s proud of what he’s achieved, watching the quality of his output increase - ‘I would say that the last two videos I directed are a step higher.’ The move to London meant that he got to meet people who ‘think the same way’ as him, and together they started a production company, Lecri.
When starting out in film, there’s necessarily a tension between the need to gain experience working for other people, and the desire to have creative control. ‘I have a lot of friends working on sets as runners, in film management, etc, who want to direct, but security, money, and knowing producers all makes this easier.’ Working on feature film sets, Jeremie was able to meet lots of producers and directors. He has a succinct piece of advice - ‘If you want to be a director, there is one thing you need to do: direct!’. Youth is on his side, and the experience he’s gaining now, even if it is on other people’s sets, is an investment in his future. ‘It’s always rewarding working on a set with different people - when it’s a big set it’s military, everything is organised and you find your place - you learn a lot just being there. For me to be a director, the younger I start, the sooner I will have more opportunities.’
Much of Jeremie’s work is based around his first love, music, in the form of music videos or live sessions. For him, it’s a process of collaboration, with a focus on the audio aspects. ‘You’re always making a video for music, you need to know the musical universe of the artist you’re working with.’ At the same time, the filmmaker has to bring their own integrity and personal style - ‘you always try to be honest to what you are, to bring your vision at the same time as working with the artist to make something new.’ Research is important too - for Jeremie’s current project, a music video, the musician brought her own ideas for the visuals, which were dreamy and mystical, containing elements of mythology which sparked new avenues of research for Jeremie. He always researches for inspiration, but without the input from the artist he says he wouldn’t have thought of that particular angle. The relationship between musician and filmmaker is not linear and methodological, but porous, flexible, and collaborative.
Jeremie’s creative process depends on the kind of project he is working on. Short films have a comparatively long production process, which is why he focussed on music videos first. Although he still dedicates time to writing scripts for short films, the process can take months. With music videos, things are much briefer: ‘I listen to the song for the music video a lot, and once we settle on something I talk to the head of departments like the director of photography, we start sharing ideas, and the process becomes collaborative. Once we get closer to the shooting and production dates, I establish a short list to make sure everything is under control.’ Although it depends on the style of video, generally he always has a firm vision to drive production. However, he likes to give actors freedom, an ‘inner space to bring their own personality to the characters and the story.’ It’s an intricate process, as he tries to create a setting in which the emotions of the piece can come to life.
In an industry already so saturated with talented and unique individuals, it can be challenging for young filmmakers - and creatives more generally - to make their mark. Jeremie simultaneously keeps an eye on trends, watching a lot of music videos to analyse what’s out there already, at the time working to maintain his own creative integrity. This means that he can search out the gaps in between what is already being made, channeling his originality in the search for new opportunities. ‘I always try and be honest with what I have in mind - when I have an idea I try to spend time on it and make it the best it can be.’
This attitude may border on perfectionism, although, he tells us, ‘it’s better to be a perfectionist than not - then there’s no room for mistakes to make their way through the final edit, if you’re more aware of the ways everything could go wrong.’ A keen eye in the editing process pays off big time - ‘spending lots of time on the small things is worth it overall, and contributes to the end product.’
Despite his dedication, the past few months have been incredibly tough for the arts, not least the film industry. Jeremie tells us that it’s impossible to know how, like so many things, this pandemic will affect filmmaking. Lot’s of production companies have radically changed their way of operating, or even put things totally on hold. ‘Once lockdown ends they will want to produce even more - we’ve missed out on a lot, so we want to catch up.’ Things already seem to be grinding back into gear (although this may change due to the halting of lockdown easing announced on the 31st of July). ‘Lots of things are happening everywhere, I see that in Paris and London. Things are happening again’. Necessarily, this return to action is a cautious one, with smaller production teams and more multi-tasking to reduce the risk infection. Things are more complicated, with less people on set, less time on set, and more pre-production and risk assessment. ‘This applies to us’, Jeremie says, ‘I work with a production company and we have to approach shooting with safety. I don’t want to put people at risk. I’m aware of how important this thing is. A pandemic is serious and I want to be safe.’
Despite the present challenges, Jeremie Brivet is certainly one to watch, on both sides of the channel.