The prophet is often undervalued in France, and so are young creatives, leading to an exodus at the expense of the national movie scene.
As strong and talented of an arts scene as France has, there is always a regulation or a hindrance why the establishment wouldn’t encourage it to thrive.
Yann Danh is one of those who experience this first hand. The 38 year old film maker from Paris has written, produced, and directed some remarkable short films. His latest one, A Tout Prix (English title: At All Costs) has been widely praised by critics and the public for the outstanding quality of its scriptwriting, directing, and acting.
Winning no less than four prestigious awards in 2013, including Best Thriller (Pentedattilo Film Festival, Italy), and Jury Favorite (Genre III Film Festival), it certainly created quite a stir among cinéastes – enough for Wallpaper Productions to take Yann under their wings and for American film producer Anthony Zuiker, creator of CSI, to purchase it.
And yet, Yann finds it hard to get traction in the established French film industry, and with it the commercial breakthrough. “France is very closed in that respect,” he says. It is certainly not for lack of talent.
Yann has been a movie aficionado all his life. As a teenager, he was inspired by all the big names in directing. Scorsese, Kubrick, Coppola, Spielberg, Leone, de Palma, Polanski….. He studied their work and aspired to follow in their footsteps. Fresh out of school, he started out studying at the film academy in Paris but quickly traded it in for practical experience in every nook and cranny of the film set.
Soon he had accumulated a comprehensive portfolio of shorts and videos. In a departure from that, A Tout Prix was originally intended as a long film but it would prove impossible to get it funded.
An intelligent thriller centering around three disgruntled former employees of a company who take their ex-manager hostage. When their ransom demand is rejected, they have no choice but to prove how far they can go. And they go far.
The film convinces through impeccable technical delivery with camera, lighting, music, effects, and cutting all cleverly playing into each other to build Hitchcock-style suspense, as well as superb, captivating acting performances by Simon Frenay, Pascal Henault, Franck Sarrabas, and Bruno Henry as the main protagonists.
Even an international big brand name is on board – Marc Duret, exquisite in the role of sleazy politician Thierry Cortal who interestingly enough defends and protects the establishment’s fiefdom. A subliminal reminder of the parallels to the French motion picture industry.
When Yann failed to get a producer to sign the long version of A Tout Prix, he eventually decided to turn it into a short film, shot in only five intense days of work. The final product certainly does not betray its slim €8,000 budget. “Quality filming does not have to cost much”, Yann says. “It’s a matter of visual artistry first and foremost.”
Yes, he would love to do long films, of course. And in fact, he is actually working on his first feature project, Implacable, with French production house Metaluna. But he feels that, more often than not, the young generation of film makers has to look for opportunities outside France, not only because of the difficulties to break into the circles who hold the purse strings but also because here, they are quickly put in one specific drawer.
He is interested in many different genres, from action to suspense and fantasy, and he would love to work with international film producers, especially in the UK and the US. Language is no barrier to him who speaks perfect English.
With work like A Tout Prix, so well received by critics and the public, Yann Danh is on a great way to make his way internationally. He is not the first and won’t be the last great French talent that had to seek fame and recognition outside the borders of the Héxagone. But find it he will, there is no doubt.
All images courtesy Yann Danh