Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Maude Michaud - A Wonderfully Macabre Interview With A Wonderfully Macabre Woman!

Wow, okay so your short SNUFF is a wicked little film.  From the grainy black and white texture of the Super 8 film to the wonderfully dark chords striking though the background like an organ of doom.  I’m a sucker for old black and white silent films and this made me think of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger, just style wise and creepy music with a killer kind of way.  What kind of films inspired you as a young film maker and made you think, I could do this?

My first exposure to horror films was Poltergeist III, which I watched on cable TV when I was still a kid. I remember thinking: “wow, there’s something else than stupid family-friendly movies?! I wanna see more!”  From this point, I started seeking out any thriller, horror film or creepy entertainment I could find, asking the help of my grandma who is a huge Hitchcock fan.  So yeah, Poltergeist III is responsible for my love of horror.

However, even though I grew up watching mostly horror and thrillers, it is the wave of US indie films of the mid-90’s that really inspired me to become a filmmaker.  I remember spending a whole summer (I think it was summer of ’97 or around that time) discovering these films. I think it was Reservoir Dogs or Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge or Greg Araki’s Doom Generation (or a mix of the three!) that really inspired me to pick up a camera and do everything I could to become a filmmaker.  I first started to experiment with ‘safer’ themes and dramatic shorts, but it didn’t take long before I went back to my first love and focused my work on horror!

What is it about the idea of snuff films that fascinates you so?

I’m fascinated by ideas that bother me; I don’t know why, but it seems that these themes and ideas are the ones that get the creative juices flowing! In the case of snuff films, what bothers me is the fact that someone would enjoy watching a filmed murder knowing it happened for real. It forces me to reflect on my own enjoyment of horror films. As horror fans, we can all enjoy an entertaining death scene, but to the point of wanting to watch someone die for real… that is just plain sick and terrifying!  (and worth exploring in the context of a horror film)

I love the contrast of all the things you love and portray in your work; it’s all very dark and macabre and a little bit fab.  The Portrait is based loosely on the 1882 Edgar Allen Poe short story The Oval Portrait.  Nearly 130 years later and it still translates beautifully without losing any of its original meaning.  Is this one of the things that appeals to you about Poe?

Yes, I always found the dark romanticism present in Poe’s body of work to be timeless. Same for his stories which, as opposed to the work of more recent horror authors, can still be enjoyed without feeling dated.  I also love that a lot of his writings deal with madness, which is a theme I particularly love; and I like how he writes about macabre, yet beautiful things.  

As far as the adaptation of The Oval Portrait goes, it has always been my favorite Poe story.  I remember reading it for school and finding it breathtakingly beautiful.  To this day, it has been haunting me and I have been wanting to create something to celebrate it. A few years back, a friend told me about the idea of creating an anthology of short films inspired by Poe, so I instantly told him about wanting to do my adaptation of The Oval Portrait. Unfortunately, the project fell through, but the idea for the short remained and this is how The Portrait was born.

Where did you get the idea for your delicious turn in the Twisted Twins Massive Blood Drive PSA?

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do and had trouble finding inspiration. I didn’t want to do anything that was too dark or too clich√©, I wanted it to represent who I am, and I wanted it to be fun and simple, but I didn’t have any specific idea! I was brainstorming and, at some point, I thought about the idea of a housewife stabbing a big cake and fell in love with it! Also, the cake was a nice symbol for the celebration of the Women in Horror month and I always sing and dance in the kitchen, so it would be natural for me to do so for the video!

I’m someone who’s really happy and bubbly, so the overall attitude in the video is 100% me. Plus, I love the whole retro look and I thought it, along with the psychotic-smile as I repeatedly stab the cake, would add a nice touch of light-heartedness/humor to the clip and would show another side of me that people don’t necessarily get when they watch my films.

Is there one particular story that you have always dreamt of bringing to life?  This may be a novel, a short story or even a real life story?  Something you feel really passionate about and think that you could do it true justice?

My initial response when I read the question was ‘no’; I have scripts and ideas that I’ve been wanting to make for years, so the priority would be to make those over adapting other existing works. However, I decided to give it some thoughts as I never really stopped and pondered the issue. 
First, I’d have to say Chuck Palaniuk’s Snuff, but it’s already being made as we speak.  There’s also Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park which is one of my favorite books and would be an amazing challenge to adapt to the screen. And I’d love to make my own version of Valley of the Dolls, while remaining more faithful to the book, which would probably end up being a nine hours, three-parts epic!  ;)

Hollywood is a very fickle place and I imagine you have to be downright thick skinned to live there.  When I showed your short Hollywood Skin at my Women in Horror Month Event, Jennifer’s Bodies, at lot of the women there really appreciated it and loved the fact that there was someone out there recognizing that not everyone is an emaciated skeleton.

I think the message is universal and speaks to a lot of women… and men too! You’d be surprised how many men thanked me after seeing the film and told me they were really touched by it… So far Hollywood Skin has touched a lot of people and I keep hearing positive comments from people who loved it. It’s really motivating and it pushes me to keep making films, so thank you for telling me about the positive response!

There is this insane belief in Hollywood that you have to be a drone of everyone else and if you’re not good enough, then you’d better get to the plastic surgeon to have a little chop, chop, chopping done here, there and everywhere!  The thing is, when people watch these big Hollywood movies and see these glamourous stars looking “perfect”, it’s not reality.  But it is so hard for some people, and unfortunately more so for women, to see that.  I love that with Hollywood Skin, our protagonist has literally taken matters into her own hands to achieve that look.  And that maniacal smile afterwards, that’s the most fucked up thing about the short in my opinion.  It makes me think of the line from the Manic Street Preachers song 4st 7lb “Such beautiful dignity in self abuse.” 

I just love that maniacal smile! It was really important to push the obsession as far as I could to drive the point across… and for her to take matters into her own hands. I feel the insanity of her action reflects the insanity of these beauty standards.

This short is obviously a statement about all the superficiality of Hollywood and the fact that hearts are broken every day.  What are your thoughts on Hollywood as a whole and do you think you could ever live there?  And more to the point, would you want to?

As far as superficiality and unrealistic beauty standards go, I don’t think it’s only Hollywood’s fault; I think the entire fashion/media/image industry should be blamed, and most of us too for buying into the idea and consuming these superficial ideals. 

That being said, the first time I went to Hollywood, I understood how someone who is fragile and moves there can be quickly crushed and destroyed; it might be the city of dreams, but everyone living there is pursuing the same dream!

Despite all this, I love Hollywood and I try to go there as often as I can. There is something exciting in the air, especially for a cinephile! And things can happen very fast... I also know amazingly talented women filmmakers who live there and I love visiting them and collaborating on projects.  I’d love to live there one day, if this is where my career is taking me… but I don’t think I’d permanently establish myself there.  I’m too much of an “East coast” girl at heart!

Okay I know we’re all about the feminism but the boys deserve a shout out every now and again, ha!  Who personally stands out for you?  Not literally of course! ;)

David Cronenberg!  He’s one of my role models as a director; I really admire and respect his body of work and the themes he tackles.  I’d love to one day be able to look back and have a similar career path.  I must also mention David Lynch who has been a HUGE inspiration for me aesthetically and in terms of how far I can push an idea and how I can tell it differently.  And last but not least, Vincent Price; I’ve been under the spell of his macabre charm for the longest time and I’m a huge fan. 

This coming April at Bleedfest (hosted by the looovely Elisabeth and Brenda Fies), they’re having a little retrospective of your work and also showcasing some new stuff too.  How much are you looking forward to this and what can fans expect to see from your new shorts?

I am so excited about this! This retrospective will be an important milestone for me, so I’m looking forward to the occasion! As for my new shorts, I will be launching the first two episodes of my web-documentary series on which I’ve been working for the past two years, so this is super exciting! I’ll also premiere Elizabeth which is a collaborative mini-short I shot in L.A. with Lis and Brenda Fies and my friend Michelle Ayoub last summer; it will be included in I Hate L.A. Too. The Portrait will also have its festival premiere for the occasion, and I’ll sneak peek my next short Red by presenting two scenes from the film!   

Apart from those, Lis and Brenda will also screen a few of my older shorts that have toured the festival circuit and I’ll be there for a Q&A!

And lastly, what can we expect to see next in the macabre world take over of Miss Michaud?

There are a lot of exciting things coming up! First, I’ll finally be launching my web series Bloody Breasts; I’ve started the project as part of my masters’ thesis two years ago and it evolved with time from a straightforward documentary on women and horror to a multi-episode web documentary series! I plan on keeping a steady pace of one episode per month; the first season will explore the question of women’s place in the horror genre and will feature interviews with many different women filmmakers, journalists and actresses. The editing is going very well so far and I already have some ideas for season two if I have a good positive response with season one.

I’m also in the sound editing stage for Red (pictures of Isabelle and Olga below ), my latest short, so I’m preparing a big fall release for it, starting with the festival circuit. Right now, I’m keeping quite busy preparing the marketing for it and conceiving the poster, which promo pics I’ll use, etc… I might cut another trailer, but it’s not 100% sure yet. As I already mentioned, those who will be there at Bleedfest in April will get a nice little sneak peek!

Last but not least, I’m also developing my first feature film for which I want to start pre-production later this year. I can’t say much about it right now as I’m still juggling a lot of things, but you can expect an official announcement along with the launch of a web-financing campaign in late-April/early May.  

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