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M le Maudit "Khedira": An Interview with David Fitt

  • David Fitt Director

  • Abyssal Producer

  • David Fitt Producer

  • Antoine Desaintghislain Producer

  • M le Maudit Key Cast

  • Benjamin Morel Cinematographer

  • Vladimir Peeters Steady-cam operator

  • Xavier Cordonnier Assistant Camera

  • Fanny Boutonné Assistant Camera

  • Lucas Matichard Assistant to director

  • David Fitt Editor, Color grading

  • Federico Pelat CGI Artist

  • SUBHUMAN Motion design & typography

Please tell us a little about your background. Which one of your works is M le Maudit "Khedira"? I come from a photography background, having been to photography school. I started photography around 2008. I started filmmaking quite soon after it, with my first short film « Paris, Hiver 2010 » released in 2012. « Khedira » is a music video I directed for the French rap artist le Maudit, which we shot over the course of 2020 and released in 2021.

How did you become interested in directing and is making a music video a way for you to reach filmmaking? I’ve always loved movies as a kid, watching the same movies over and over again as kids did in the pre-internet era in the 90s. But it was only in 2009 when I was hired as a still photographer on a short film set that it all clicked. I was 21, and I hadn’t even entered photography school yet. I had no idea about how film shooting worked back then, but I got to witness all the mechanics of it. It fascinated me, and I remember thinking « so that’s how they do it! Now, I know ». It stuck in my head for a while. The following summer I wrote a screenplay, and with the help of some friends who just graduated from cinema school directed it in 2011.

Making music videos IS filmmaking—I don’t see how it wouldn’t be. It Maybe even more than other forms of films, this one requires dedication and full commitment. You get to be really creative because there really aren’t any boundaries nor expected form, as you don’t have to follow the rules of dramaturgy for example. But it also teaches you all you need to know about filmmaking. The budget is often really low, especially nowadays. So you got to improvise a lot and learn about other crew positions because most of the time you can’t hire a whole crew of experienced people and you got to do it yourself. Teaches you how to work with deadlines, clients, and expectations. It’s probably the best cinema school. And it’s free!

Many filmmakers began by making music videos. Some of them, such as David Fincher, continued to do so even when they became important great filmmakers. Please tell us about your interest in a music video. I’ve always been into music, whether it’s by practicing the piano and the guitar as a kid or teenager by hanging with lots of musicians—weirdly, my surroundings have always been full of them. Having discovered that my career as a musician was best if I remained an enthusiast listener rather than a practitioner, I realized that photography and music videos were a way to be engaged with the music scenes by doing what I do best: creating images and putting myself at the service of other musicians.

What freedom of action is there in making a music video that can also be used to make a film? I think there’s something to learn from that freedom. The only boundaries you set are in your head, and while there are a bit more boundaries when you’re creating a film, it helps you think outside of the box. You learn how to convey emotions only through images, without any dialog, and I think it’s the most important teaching you can get from it as a filmmaker: too many movies rely on endless explanatory talks, which in my opinion is wrong. The show, don’t tell. We're not writing a book.

As a director, do you have a visual or a textual mindset? Do you always have to have a text to work on or do you prefer to improvise freely? It’s always nice to start from the lyrics (unless the song has none). Gives me an appreciation of the mood of the song, which is what you want to work with when you direct a music video. Whether you’re literally illustrating the song, or completing it with a whole new meaning or layer of understanding, you got to start from there. But if you meant, do I rely on a script, then it depends. I almost always write something, like a synopsis and a shortlist break down at the very least. But also sometimes I don’t. Does this video require full improvisation? That’s what we did for the Julia Gaeta « Weight of You » music video. I had no narrative structure but I knew how I wanted it to look. There’s no preference, it’s all a matterof what serves the video the best. Who are your favorite filmmakers? And what music videos can you still watch with pleasure? Those have changed a lot throughout the years, but I think James Gray and David Lynch are the filmmakers that most inspired me. Gray for his acute sense of crushing dramaturgy. I can’t find another storyteller who’s been able to play with my feelings as much as he did. And Lynch for the mysteries and haunting images he’s created. He plays with things we know, but his surrealist approach is giving me what I’m often missing in movies: excitement about our own world. And something that is common to both: they have a great, good heart. Despite telling dark, dramatic, sad, or scary stories, you can see how much they love their characters and empathize with them, and how they always believe in the good within humans. I love that about them. I don’t watch many music videos anymore, but I’ll always love the ones that made an impression on me growing up: Queens of the Stone Age « Go with the Flow », Fat Boy Slim « Weapon of Choice », Marilyn Manson « The Nobodies», Michael Jackson« Ghosts », Limp Bizkit« Take a look around», Korn « A.D.I.D.A.S. », Robbie Williams« Supreme », Metallica « One », Cradle of Filth « Her Ghost in the Fog », Mudvayne « Dig », Rammstein « Sonne »… They all had crazy visuals, worlds, and vibes I had never seen before.

What role does music play in a movie? To me, it’s the icing on the cake. You can do without it, you don’t need it, but if used well in the right amount, it’ll enhance the flavor into new territories. It’s both optional and important. No music is music in itself. Silence can tell a lot.

How do you ensure that production is on schedule? To ensure this, I work with a producer! *laughing* But on my side, I try to be on time and deliver all documents needed to move forward, so my crew and colleagues aren’t stuck waiting for me instead of doing their jobs.

What do you think your greatest achievement is to date?

Having had the chance to work with some of my favorite music bands in the world.

What film or music video projects are you working on right now?

These days, I’m editing a music video I directed for an American musician, Tosten Larson. It’s gonna be quite different from what I shot before so I’m quite excited. I’m also working on several film projects, including two short films, with one scheduled for production next year with my friends from Abyssal, the Belgian production company that produced most of my music videos.

What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate?

Most of the time, it’s the budget that I had to accommodate with. It didn’t allow me to either get the comedians I wanted, shoot in specific locations, get some specific gear, or do some visuals wanted to do in post. So you have to be creative and come up with new ideas and solutions so the whole video doesn’t fall apart and is still good in the end.

So many filmmakers are releasing their works online. Do you have similar plans?

All my music videos are available online, on YouTube, and/or on Vimeo. As for the narrative films I’m working on, I have no idea yet, but I’m sure they'll end up online somewhere eventually.

What is the role and importance of film festivals in seeing cinematic works? Have these festivals helped you become known as a director?

I think they’re one of the best ways for us filmmakers to get seen by the industry. With the M le Mauditvideo, it’s the first time I sent my work to film festivals since my first short film, ten years ago. So I can’t answer your last question yet, but it’s definitely sparked some interest, like this interview we’re doing right now!


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