Annie St-Pierre’s live-action short film Like the Ones I Used to Know (Les Grandes Claques) focuses on a father who goes to his former in-laws’ house to collect his children on Christmas Eve. The short was helmed by women in key positions and won four Oscar-qualifying Awards, including honors at Heartland Film: Indy Shorts International Film Festival and Best Direction at SXSW.
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“We shot Like the Ones I Used to Know in four days,” recalls St-Pierre. “Time was one of our main challenges: we had outdoor winter scenes, scenes in a car, a house full of actors, extras day and night and kids on the set, but we also had faith and a very good team. So, we decided to be as light and fast as possible in order to save time and be able to have three to four takes per shot.’
St-Pierre says the production realized it would be almost impossible to reset all the lights for every shot, so they were integrated into the set, requiring only slight adjustment.
“For me, it was important to create a real Christmas ambiance in every room,” she explains, “a place where all the actors would feel free to move and not surrounded by the pressure of a set. (DP) Etienne Roussy and I were seduced by ‘80s films with this low-light aesthetic: grainy, all shot [on] film. With our budget, it wasn’t possible to shoot on film, so our idea was to choose a light camera (Arri Alexa Mini) and find a lens that would give us that texture - a feel from the ‘80s, without a ‘gadget’ look.”
The team performed many different lenses, working with Post-Moderne Camera to find the look they wanted.
“I knew that the Christmas lights would be an important part of the outside and inside the car aesthetic, so we became obsessed by the bokeh and the shape produced by the different lens. We finally chose the Neo Super Baltar and were happy with the result.”
Julien Alix served as colorist on the short.
“I wanted to keep the treatment subtle, since I was confident that the artistic direction of the film, set design and CCM, were already bringing us back to the 80s,” says St-Pierre.
Another challenge in making the short was the need for snow. The shoot was planned for January, helping to ensure a white Christmas. As luck would have it, a huge storm covered all of Quebec just two days before shooting began.
“Driving, parking the trucks, setting the outside…everything was difficult, but we were just so relieved and happy to be in a real winter,” concludes the filmmaker.