Q&A With Filmmaker Mathieu Le Lay
What first inspired you to go into filmmaking?
I remember watching many movies as a young teenager. While watching the movies, I was sometimes very moved by the storytelling and by the emotions. I got my first video camera DV when I was 17. I took my camera and filmed my Holidays and my time spent outdoors with my friends on the wild coast of Brittany in France. We had fun filming during the summer time. When I was 21, I traveled solo for the first to time in Australia for two months. In Australia, I took training courses about Australian Natural Parks. This was the first time I knew I had to spend my time close to nature and do something for our fragile environment. After Australia, I then decided to move to the UK to take a course in Wildlife Conservation. I was passionate about cinema and nature, so joined IFFCAM, the French Wildlife Film School. I first discovered this school in 2007 and spent a year studying there learning how to make documentary films about nature and wildlife. Filming was my favorite way to sensitize people on the importance of respecting and protecting our Natural heritage. Focusing my films on the mountain environment came naturally as I’ve always been attracted by the variety of activities you can practice there all year. Since I was six years old, I have enjoyed hiking in the mountains in the summertime or skiing during the winter. Filming humans interacting with the mountain environment has become the main theme in my films. I still have a lot of interest in filming wildlife as well. I also really enjoy the fact it’s always challenging to film in the mountain environment (strong winds, snow storms, steep ascents, heavy rains, long hike…).
What helps you keep going when you hit obstacles in the film-making process?
I’ve been directing films for eight years and the most difficult part is probably the financial aspect of the film-making process. Finding a proper budget for making all your filming desires possible can be a challenge. Over the last three years, I’ve realized my ambitions have naturally increased and it’s getting even more difficult to find an appropriate budget for each of my upcoming projects. I can feel that every day I am driven by a passion for creativity and film-making so as long as this passion is still alive, I will be continuing to make films. My parents and my girlfriend help keep me going and keep believing in what I am doing. I share with them all the good news, but also the most difficult new as well that comes along with my job. It’s a continuous process of ups and downs. To succeed in this kind of career, you can never give up after months, sometimes years, of work on the same project. When I started eight years ago, I remember I had the drive to film, but I never thought too much about the eventual obstacles. Now that I’m making a living out of filmmaking, I feel like I’m thinking twice before moving forward to the next step. I’m always asking myself, “Is it really worthwhile to invest my time into this? Or should I spend my time working on a different film project?” I don’t think this is doubting, but rather thinking about the process. With more experiences, we tend to become more exigent and we have new expectations emerging.
With all of the amazing projects that could be developed, how do you decide which ones you will work on?
I feel that the amazing projects I could work on are infinite. I’ve always kept a list of potential film projects to bear in mind. I keep updating this list and come back to it when it’s time for developing new films. The ones I’m deciding to work on and the ones I tend to prioritize are the ones where I feel I could learn and experience the most. For example, I’ve directed several film projects with other creative people, but each of them had a specific goal to achieve. Even if it was always happening in the mountain area, there were different objectives to achieve. I’ve turned down a few opportunities to work on commercial videos in the past because I felt I wanted to prioritize my personal projects, which I believe would bring much more in terms of experimenting life. Today, I open new doors in creativity and I am more willing to accept working on film projects initially created by other filmmakers, authors, or production companies. I always put my energy into the film projects where I feel the most inspired to shoot something. Sometimes I can easily see the final result. That is definitely a good feeling in filmmaking.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently in the development process working on five different film projects; three documentary series and two 52 minutes documentary films. All of them will occur in the mountain environment, some of them quite far away from home. I’m also working on my first fiction film; beautiful and moving story happening locally where I live in the French Alps. It might take a few years to achieve this first fiction as the budget will be much more difficult to get.
What advice would you give to beginning filmmakers?
Try to think deeply about which films would make you the happiest. Think about your passions, about what you enjoy doing, and about your favorite topics. Then try to shoot a short teaser to present your project to potential partners, brands and sponsors which might find a special interest in supporting you. If you don’t find a budget from partners, try to set a crowdfunding campaign to get a small budget in order to shoot the very first images of your film, and then show it to the producers who will try to find a bigger budget to make it happen. Directing films where you can involve all your passion will always help you to reach a higher level. Be creative. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you.
Anything else you would like to share?
I’m honored to have three of my films selected in this year’s festival. All these film projects initially had a small production budget, but I’m passionate about these films. Seeing success on TV and at film festivals enables me to make a living. Thank you to all the organizers of Wasatch Mountain Film Festival. I wish a great success for this 2016 edition!