Pier-Philippe Chevigny: “I try to provoke debates and raise awareness on issues that feel important to me, but I also want to tell powerful stories that will move the audience.”


By Marco Crispano
Tell us about your creative process. Where do you start from? How do you create?


All of my films are inspired by social issues. What I’ll usually do is start by doing very broad research on a theme, and then eventually I’ll have an idea for a fiction film that will pop up to me from the research. When making Rebel, I was researching the rise of right-wing extremism in Quebec: for the past 5 years or so, there’s been an increase in these militia groups – something we’d never seen before. The next day after a big demonstration in Quebec by the extremist group La Meute, one of the newspapers had for its frontpage the picture of a six or seven-year-old boy waving a flag with La Meute’s logo on it. I thought to myself: that kid doesn’t understand the political contexts, he’s just following his parents. And I thought that’d be an interesting approach for a film about right-wing extremism: seeing it through the eyes of a child who doesn’t understand what’s going but will see something that triggers his understanding. That’s what Rebel is about.


“Rebel” addresses the issue of immigration: one of the thorniest and most urgent social issues of our century. What role do you think the artist has in our society?


I can’t speak for “every” artist, but I try very hard to make films that bridge the cap between entertainment and social relevance. I try to provoke debates and raise awareness on issues that feel important to me, but I also want to tell powerful stories that will move the audience. It’s about trying to strike the right balance between the two so that the audience won’t feel like they’re just being lectured, but at the same time they’ll walk away from the film with new ideas or knowledge about the real world.


Why did you choose cinema as your expressive medium?


I’ve always loved storytelling, and cinema specifically. I was a huge film buff when growing up, and my father worked in the industry and took me along on film sets. It was just natural to gravitate towards filmmaking.


What makes a film good in your opinion?


I think it’s about balance. My favorite films tend to strike the right balance between content and form. Films can tell fascinating stories in a boring way, as they can tell boring stories in a fascinating way. Masterpieces tell fascinating stories in a fascinating way.


What was the biggest professional challenge you faced? How did you get over it?


Casting the boy was somewhat nerve-racking. It wasn’t my first time working with children, but it was my first time working with children so young (7). And the thing with auditioning child actors is, you can tell pretty fast when they really want to be there and when it’s just their parents pushing them to become actors. Out of the forty boys we auditioned, I’d 95% of them clearly didn’t want to be there. So when Edouard walked in, we knew how lucky we were to find him. He was genuinely happy and interested and really wanted the role. I knew he was passionate and wouldn’t get tired after a few takes, which I really needed because the film was shot in long takes and we do need to shoot a lot in order to get everything right.


What are you working on right now?


My first feature film, RICHELIEU, about the exploitation of migrant workers in Quebec’s farming industry. So very much in continuity with Rebel. We’re set to go into production this summer.


What are your long-term goals?


My medium-term goals would be to make the two feature films I’m developing right now (Richelieu and a second one I’m writing right now). Then I don’t know, we’ll see! I’d love to keep making movies as long as I have ideas I’m passionate about.


Name: Pier-Philippe Chevigny
Short film: Rebel
From: Canada