SHAMELADY : INTERVIEW WITH THE FILMMAKERS
This interview with Pierre Rodiac and Eric Saussine by Justin Milliner was first published on mi6.co.uk on 30 July 2006 and is a great way to address the making of Shamelady. Thanks to Justin Milliner for the great questions.
When did you decide to make a James Bond fan film ? How did that all come about ?
The director called me in December 2004 and said he wanted to write and direct a James Bond movie and asked me to do it with him. He is the founder of Constellation Studios a non profit organization producing no budget non professional movies - but intended to look like professional ones. Eric has already produced and directed several films. He wanted to produce and direct a James Bond fanfilm. He didn’t want to make what we call a “kitchen sink fanfilm” made in the family home where the James Bond actor is obviously too young and sometimes dressed with short pants and tennis shoes. The best James Bond fanfilm we have seen so far is “Killing in the Name” which has very good editing and some very bondian scenes. Yet James Bond didn’t look too much like Bond. There was a great car chase, yet they used common cars. Our wish was too improve on that. We felt we could. Eric was ambitious - and has remained so. He wanted to make a fanfilm that looked like a real James Bond movie with every element associated to them — sports cars, wonderful girls, casino, tuxedos...). I was thrilled by these ideas so the day after I sent him a synopsis and he wrote a script from this. It was fast ! A two-person thing basically. In January 2005 the script was completed.
What inspired the fan film ? I heard that originally you wanted this film to be an adaptation of Casino Royale, but changed course once EON announced that it would be the 21st Bond film.
Eric liked the idea of Casino Royale. I was enthused by the idea. We’re both big Fleming fan you know. And I’m the bigger of both of us ! That’s why I sent him a Casino Royale synopsis which he fleshed out as a script. Of course, three weeks after finishing the script, Bond history struck us. We liked the strike, to be honest ! Casino Royale is a film we wanted EON to make. We joked about us being the frontrunners. As a consequence of the change, the villain was changed and SPECTRE was re-introduced. It’s been a long time since Blofeld wasn’t in a James Bond story. As a fanfilm, we could do this.
What made you use Shamelady as the title of your film ?
About a couple of things, we owe to one of the greatest James Bond fan site : Dr Shatterhand’s Botanical Gardens. Eric had seen that Shamelady was a spy novel’s title and the name appeared on a potential name list on this site. Plus it was rumoured to be the name for Tomorrow Never Dies. So he picked this one. We like the two meanings of the word and it really has something to do with the story. It was also one of the names Fleming considered for his villa in Jamaica. Eventually he chose GoldenEye.
How long did it take to get the project off the ground ? Were people willing to participate ? How well did casting go and how many people audition for the role of James Bond ?
I’d say five months. Eric said that he would do the movie 1. if he found a good James Bond, someone who could at least physically look like the part on a sliver screen 2. if he found the casino. In short, No Bond, no casino - no film ! There was no casting. I said to Eric that I could have a James Bond. I have been president of a French James Bond fan club for six years. During that period of time I have met many people among the James Bond community. Serge Rotelli was a Swiss member of our fan club. We met him during one of our conventions in 1997. I thought he could be a great James Bond for a fanfilm as he had won several James Bond look-alike contests. I contacted him and he was enthusiastic. His girlfriend Irina Bogomolova is Russian and one of the main female characters in the script is from Russia. Serge told us that she had won a James Bond girl contest with him and asked us to cast her in the movie. First she sent a few pictures to us and we were convinced she could do it wonderfully.
As I said we first wanted to adapt Casino Royale. So for the bad guy we wanted someone to play Le Chiffre. I wanted a big tall guy with a lot of charisma. My friend Luc Le Clech — currently president of a fan club — was our guy. He was OK to be Le Chiffre. When we had to change the title and the names he became Descarpes.
What is your role in this film ? Do you play any of the characters, or do you just do work off screen ?
I worked on the script and on the production. I am the stunt and fight coordinator and I had to coordinate all the fights for the movie. I played a small part in the movie during the precredits sequence. I am a bodyguard — shaken and stirred.
How did you go about finding locations ? How long did that take ?
Finding the casino was what started the movie. It took five months. A lot of these things happen because of relationship and word of mouth. They are no rules. Some were found long in advance, some before shooting.
Did you have to pay anything to use the locations ? Did you need permission for some of them ? Were there any locations that had to be abandoned ?
We did not pay for any of the location. The only thing we paid for was the recording artist for Irina’s dubbing. He was a professional and it was some kind of emergency. Our original recording artist could not be there when Irina was in Paris. All locations were free - casino castles, cars...
One location had to abandoned in February 2006 but we got it back in May 2006. We had to shoot the big final fight in February in a wonderful mansion near Paris. Everything was OK but two days before the shooting we learnt that one of the mansion’s co-owners — a lady with mental troubles — went to the house, destroyed most of the furniture and chased out everybody in it. We had to wait until everything calmed down in May 2006 to shoot the final fight there.
This is obviously one of the biggest Bond fan film productions we’ve seen. Has that affected the atmosphere of the production in any way ? Has it added any more pressure to the cast and crew to work even harder to get an excellent end product ?
No. It was both a joyful and serious set. Most people on the project don’t take themselves seriously. But we all take the film seriously. Eric had set the standard he wanted to reach. And believe me, the bar is set high for that kind of production.
How many people have been involved in the making of this movie ? What is it like working with these talented people ? Has there ever been any friction or creative differences between the cast and crew on the set ?
A lot ! I mean, we will fill the ending credit, even if it’s not as long as for a two-hour movie. It was a pleasing experience. Most of them were or have become friends. Serge and Irina are very convincing in the fights and Luc Le Clech as Descarpes is just fantastic. Fred Remy greatly contributed to the light and organization. There have been very few creative differences — a couple of them, quickly solved. Eric says the most unfocused actor was Blofeld’s white cat. That was the only scene he had to shoot twice. Overall, making the movie was very exhausting but there was joy all around.
What can you tell us about the actor who’s playing James Bond and the character itself in the film ? Who are some of the other important characters in Shamelady and who is playing them ?
As I said, our James Bond is Serge Rotelli. He is from Switzerland and has Italian origins. He works in jewellery in Geneva. He did some modelling on occasion. He is also a painter. he has made wonderful paintings of all James Bond actors (up too Pierce Brosnan) for the main credits sequence. Our Bond is a mixture of how the five official actors have played him. He comes from the movies but there are some allusions to the literary character. We also had to adapt the character to Serge’s way of acting.
Descarpes is played by Luc Le Clech, a French industrialist working as Number One for SPECTRE.
Anna Raykova is a Russian girl. She is mysterious and at first Bond can’t figure out who she is.
Alice Suzan plays Joan Jansen, Bond’s MI6 contact in France from Station P, Paris.
What about the languages ? Somewhere you said that portions of the movie would be in French with English subtitles and others in English with French subtitles. Has that presented any problems for you ? Is all of the cast bilingual ?
Not really. If for one reason - to make it sound rather professional, the entire movie will be dubbed. Some of the problems were solved easily. The actress playing M is an American lady. She was the manager of the American Library in Paris when we shot the film. She worked up her British accent. The actor playing Tanner is a British businessman. Our Monneypenny is also British. English is not Serge’s forte although he can make himself clearly understood. However he will be dubbed by a professional. The point was having English people speaking English, French people speaking French and James Bond speaking to French people in France. There’s even a couple of lines in Russian. We are a true international film !
What kind of special effects will this film have ? I know the pre-titles were filmed in front of a green screen. Tell me a little about that.
There are very few effects shots in the pre-credits sequence. Although there will be a few special effects on the whole it’s not a special effects movie. We just have a few things. Our Aston Martin DB5 launches a missile. There is an explosion in the yard of Buckingham Palace. In a couple of instances, we’ll use military stock footage. I think the only part of the pre-titles filmed in front of a green screen is the gunbarrel and that was rather difficult to match the Brosnan gunbarrel with our Serge green screen element. Dots had to be created, had to follow the original dots moving irregularly.
You got an Aston Martin DB5 for filming ! How did you manage to do that ? Did it cost any money ?
First I wrote some announcement in a pair of collector car magazines. I didn’t get a lot of answers but I got an Aston Martin DBS. However, Eric wanted a Vanquish or a DB5. No less. Eric made countless phone calls, as he did for the casino, castles, and the rest. But the situation was blocked. Ex-Club 007 vice president Didier Abauzit liked the project and with Eric, they got permission to use a DB5 from France’s premier private Aston Martin garage. The car’s owner gave authorized its Chief Mechanic to bring the vehicle on the field for a little drive in the country. The Chief Mechanic was the driver and we also had a Jaguar XJS. The Aston Martin was free of charge. Eric wanted to pay for gas but Mr. Lamy, the Chief Mechanic, flatly refused. We owe him a lot and everyone ended up in a restaurant ! We only had the DB5 for one day, so maybe don’t expect that much from the car chase. It’s just a case of one vehicle trying to get past the other and not succeeding. But we realize our luck to be able to put the legendary car on screen. The car was in pristine condition. The day went without a itch. Unlike Bond, our only concern was to give it back in one piece. It was a $200.000 vehicle after all !
How much money has been put into this production ? Did all of it come out of your own pocket ?
Yes. Basically there was no budget. But there were costs ! Eric spent a lot of his own money to feed the crew, buy video material, plus deal with many unforeseen expenses. Irina Bogomolova (Anna) bought beautiful dresses for the casino scenes. Serge Rotelli paid for 5 of the trips from Geneva to Paris in high speed train. Other crewmembers like me, Fred Remy, the DP, or Luc Le Clech, our marvellous villain, paid for a few things like food occasionnally. If we have enough courage, we’ll try to estimate the cost of making Shamelady one day.
Let’s talk about the scripting process. Who wrote the script and how long did it take from start to finish ? Was it revised during the filming of the production ?
I started writing a synopsis of Casino Royale and with Eric we worked alternatively on it. It gave way to a script which Eric wrote and I corrected. It was a faithful adaptation of the novel, with all the trademarks of the movie franchise. On February 3, 2005, Eon Productions announced that Martin Campbell would direct the 21st film of the series. Its title was... Casino Royale ! Eric reacted positively to the great news and decided to preserve the general structure of our story. He changed the names of the villains, the bad guy’s plan, a few scenes and re-introduced a well known terrorist organization and its chief from the Bond films and novels — S.P.E.C.T.R.E. and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Sometimes we had to change a few things because we wouldn’t get the locations we needed or we would get locations that would alter some story points. But we didn’t change the storyline. I’m actually writing a novelization of the script and it will be as close as possible to our first finished script in order to reserve some surprise for people who will have first see the movie and will want to read the novelization.
Was the film’s script tailored around a certain Bond actors’ portrayal ? Was it more dark and edgy ? Or is it a film where situations are played for laughs in the style of Roger Moore ?
Every film, amateur or professional, seldom ends as it was planned to be. Plus, we have the limitations of any fanfilm in talent, time and money. As you may guess, our willingness to make Casino Royale shows that our intention was not to do slapstick comedy. It’s a first degree film. We take the spy story seriously. The tale itself is hardly surprising and is pure James Bond lore. Now you mention Roger Moore — there are small bits of Mooresque smiles because Serge is good at that. But we didn’t overdo it at all. Good Bond for us is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or The Spy Who Loved Me. Bad Bond is Moonraker or everything that has to do with Sheriff Pepper.
I believe post-production/editing has begun on some scenes that have already been filmed early in the year, correct ? Who is doing the editing and how long do you expect it to take ?
Eric is doing the editing. He shows first cuts to a few select friend. They give him feedback and he picks whatever he likes in our comments. This process happens a couple of times for one sequence. Eric shows the new edit, which generates new feedback and, depending on Eric’s final decision, some new change. This has been a positive exchange so far — and a very interesting way of making a movie.
Who will be composing the music for the film and what type of music should Bond fans expect ?
For a long time things are not written in stone but we could have had a composer along with a 50 musicians orchestra. Eric heard demo tapes and that person was very good ! The music is now written by John Barry ! What prompted the change was the final length of the movie — fifty-six minutes. We could not have had the orchestra for a score that long. The Barry time period we selected is mainly, Octopussy, A View To A Kill and The Living Daylights. Eventually, why go for ordinary caviar when you can have Beluga ?
Will there be an original score and singer for the title song ? If so, who is it ?
No. This is a very complex endeavour so we chose to use preexisting song. Eric listened to hundreds of tracks... I did so myself. We went on many James Bond forums. There were topics where people offer titles of existing songs sounding very bondian to them. We tried to get them and listen to them. I can tell you we have been surprised by some of the choices ! Eric found a music for the end titles and I found another one for the main credits. Funnily we realised that both tracks were co-written by David Arnold. We won’t give their names already so that it remains a surprise.
What about the title sequence ? How was that handled ? Can you tell us a little about the creative process of recording and putting together a title sequence, and who was the mastermind behind it all ?
I can say this is already one of the movie’s most beautiful part. Eric said : “Even if we don’t finish the movie, at least we have a title sequence”. He did personally all the work on it. The shooting took place in front of green screen hung in a friend’s studio with three dancers. Frederique Remy did the lighting and Eric filmed the shots. Then he spent more than a month compositing all the material in the After Effects software, He was willing to do something a la Binder. Wow, for the limited means we had, the result is magnificent. No computer graphics at all but the good old greenscreen process with Bond girls dancing in front of beautiful backgrounds. You’ve got a couple of screencaps on the website. It’s not the most complex thing you may see on the Internet. I mean, some fanfilms have professional special effects. Not us — but this was done with good Bondian taste. It makes all the difference in the world. You may like the movie or not but you will like the title sequence.
Obviously film work is not easy. But how did you find the experience so far ?
Making a movie is a great experience. It is sometimes hard because you have to think about so many things. It is not a big project like a real James Bond movie but you have to manage so many things (script, crew, actors, locations, cars, food...). And why do all this ? Not for money. You don’t make money with fanfilms. Especially with Bond who is copyrighted ! For fame ? This movie will only be seen on the web. Why then ? Just for fun and fans.
Looking at the official thread for your film at Mi6, it has received a lot of positive feedback. Has this encouraged or inspired you in any way ?
Sure it has ! First we have to thank everybody and we are very happy to make people participate. Some Mi6 forumers have made beautiful posters. We were so delighted to put them on the film’s website. And we follow James Bond fanfilms news thoroughfully and we are like any afficionados - we want our James Bond fix ! So we watch everything made available on the James Bond forums.
Can you tell us when you expect filming to wrap and when we can expect to see Shamelady hit computer screens ?
As this is fanfilm talk, what we plan may not end what will be. Filming should wrap in September. All the big scenes have been shot - casino, castles, big fights. But there is an array of smaller scenes without the principals that remain to be shot, short segments with people in and around Paris, France. Post production will be quite long - dubbing everyone, creating the soundtrack, mixing - we have a professional mixer - color correcting - we will also have a professional technician who happens to like our project on this. If all goes well, Shamelady could be the James bond film of 2007.
If Shamelady is a success, would you consider doing a sequel ? Or were you planning on doing a sequel either way ?
What is a success on the Internet ? Maybe the number of hits. But really, fanfilm work is selfish at heart, yet made to share with fan friends. That’s why we don’t really link the idea of a sequel to “Shamelady’s success”. Here are the simple facts — We stopped having ideas when this particular story was completed. But you can’t stop having ideas ! And despite production difficulties we have many ideas. Sometimes, Eric said : “That’s it. No more.” Yet more often you hear him say : “Well, in the event of a new film - but there won’t be any new film ! - what if...” So it’s definitively foremost on our mind. We are already talking a couple of new stories. But with a different perspective. Shamelady is the big one - a 56 minutes example of “Look ! We can do it ! Casino, Aston Martin, great girls, big fights !” Once that point is made it’s unnecessary to try making it again. So other ideas are shorter and would be more easily made. It would be as if we were doing a collection of short stories, Shamelady being the longer one. Now remember this is all in our mind. We’ve got to finish Shamelady. Anyway the first thing you will read on the end titles is... “James Bond Will Return” !