Audrey Clinet, présidente de l’association EROÏN, qui regroupe des réalisatrices de courts-métrages

Short and sweet

Interview with Audrey Clinet, supporter of female film-makers

In a male-dominated profession, EROÏN campaigns to support women behind the camera. On the eve of the fourth annual EROÏN gala showing on the Champs Elysées, K caught up with its president, young French film-maker Audrey Clinet.

Audrey Clinet, présidente de l’association EROÏN, qui regroupe des réalisatrices de courts-métrages

How can you tell when a film has been directed by a woman? According to Audrey Clinet, you cannot.

Clinet, 28, founded the association EROÏN in early 2014 to promote women behind the camera, saying “It’s the one thing I really wanted to fight for in the movie industry – the place of women as directors. Each time I go to see screenings it’s all male directors; women directors are very rare.”

Indeed, according to Film Fatales, an American collective of women feature directors, women direct less than five per cent of the top grossing Hollywood films and less than 15 percent of independent features.

Working as an artistic director for nightclubs and then as an actress, Clinet moved behind the camera and wrote her own first short film, Parallèle, about a couple meeting in the Paris metro, in 2012. She had her debut directing experience in 2014 with Boomerang, a 60-second film about the morning after a one-night stand, shot with a mobile phone.

As she explains, shorts are a great way for directors to learn the ropes before attempting a full-length feature, and the format also gives young film-makers  access to festivals, where they can be seen and make valuable professional contacts.

Audrey Clinet, présidente de l’association EROÏN, qui regroupe des réalisatrices de courts-métrages

Short shrift

Back in 2012 Clinet wanted to screen Parallèle as part of a Paris festival of short films (Le Jour le Plus Court/The Shortest Day), but the organisers told her she was too late for a spot—unless she could find other short films with which to show hers. So she did and found a movie theatre to boot, choosing a theme that would set the collection apart.

“I knew there would be screenings all over Paris that day,” she says, “and I had to find something of my own that corresponded to my values and allowed me to stand apart. The theme of women directors came to me right away.”

The pictures were so well received that she knew she had to do it again. She developed the idea of EROÏN - choosing nine films per year directed by women, French and foreign, in all genres from comedy to sci-fi. She is adamant that the films be not only about women’s issues. “I want to bring new energy, to include everyone, not close the door to men.”

I want to bring new energy, to include everyone, not close the door to men.

Most of all, “I want to disprove the idea that women are less talented,” she says. This is a common belief that penalises women: producers are more hesitant to fund their projects, so they have more difficulty getting films made.

Citing Kathryn Bigelow, whose film about a bomb disposal team in Iraq, The Hurt Locker, won an Oscar for Best Director, Clinet also wants to show that female directors can talk about anything and not just ‘chick flicks’, which is another misconception.

Wide angle

Having participated in Le Jour le Plus Court for three years, Clinet has also started to present short film programmes elsewhere and at other times of the year, and was invited to screen five shorts at the Cannes film festival in 2015.

Audrey Clinet, présidente de l’association EROÏN, qui regroupe des réalisatrices de courts-métrages

She attends numerous festivals, and is also sent movies to consider. She is constantly on the lookout for the best short films by women to make up a rich and varied programme, watching around a hundred a year before selecting nine.

Her selections so far have included a drama, Bittersweet Sixteen by American director Clara Leac, the story of a pregnant 17-year-old girl and a reference to the law in many states that holds women criminally liable for actions (such as drinking alcohol) that might harm an unborn foetus.

Just Like Us (Planter Les Choux) is a dramatic comedy and the first film directed by Karine Blanc, a French producer. Starring two well-known actors, Romane Bohringer and Patrick Chesnais, it’s the story of a single mother with nobody to watch her baby on the day of an important job interview, and an elevator that breaks down at the wrong moment.

Blanc was unaware of EROÏN before Clinet expressed an interest. “It’s interesting to have this outlet”, she says. “Audrey is very energetic; she does a lot to get her programme out there, and the opportunity to meet other female directors is interesting, too.”

Audrey Clinet, présidente de l’association EROÏN, qui regroupe des réalisatrices de courts-métrages

Coralie Fargeat’s Reality + is an award-winning sci-fi film about a brain chip that gives people the physique of their dreams for twelve hours. Rich in special effects, it was the most expensively made short in Eroin’s 2014 selection. Clinet insists, “It’s false to say a woman can’t manage a big budget and that women don’t like action, only romantic comedies.”

Feminine approach

As for EROÏN’s own budget, it’s bare bones for now, so Clinet manages by working with a team of volunteers. She spent last summer in the United States, seeking partnerships, festivals where she can screen her selections, and financing.

This culminated in September when she held her first American screening in a restaurant in Los Angeles, of three short comedies. Looking to the future, she envisages EROÏN being a label of quality as well as a network—even a family—for the women involved.

I want to disprove the idea that women are less talented.

And she hopes that EROÏN can help change people’s minds. “But we have to do it gently, not heavy-handedly, with all the feminine subtlety we can muster”, she says. “I’m very happy when men come up to me at the end of a screening and say, ‘Ah, it’s great, I didn’t know women could direct movies so well.’”