Four Scenes With Anne-Sophie: Writer, director, actress
PRESENT DAY: CITYWALK, UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, HOLLYWOOD
Bruce Springsteen is wailing from a gigantic movie screen on the side of a Las Vegas-like building--all lights and facades. Everything is high gloss: the giant, neon-strung guitar jutting into the sky out front of the Hard Rock Cafe sits kitty-corner to the AMC Theatre, which is painted with enormous popcorn kernels falling down its face.
Climbing into the sky and on the side of shops, bright neon lights spell out the ubiquitous CityWalk brand name, declaring that this is Universal City. This is Hollywood.
It's November 12, 2008 and the red-carpet premiere of Faded Memories. Tonight's starlet: 17-year-old Anne-Sophie Dutoit (pronounced "doo-twah"). She wrote, directed and starred in the movie--her first feature film.
Her glossed lips are parted in a near constant smile. This is her moment. Media people call out for her attention: "Anne-Sophie. Over here." "Anne-Sophie. Look this way." "Anne-Sophie, we want to talk to you: What was it like playing Cassandra in your movie? How did you direct and write the script?"
Flashes pop. Video cameras push in here and there; microphones jostle for space. There are hugs, kisses and congratulations. Cast and crew members from the year-long project join Anne-Sophie behind the red-velvet rope. Anne-Sophie's French mother, Marie-Sophie, who was a producer on the movie, flits back and forth in her black dress and red-saucer of a wire hat--all smiles and bright red lipstick.
Staying out of the limelight is Anne-Sophie's father, Ivan. A partner in Anne-Sophie's production company, Anne-Sophie Films, Ivan plays the behind-the-scenes role--he arranged the nearly $1 million in financing for Faded Memories through contacts in Canada and Switzerland (his home country). Tonight he's recording the red-carpet scene with his handheld Sony camera.
It's a crazy scene with everyone talking at once. Action, movement, posturing. They all want a piece of Anne-Sophie. Eventually the flurry takes everyone into the theatre. The lights dim and for 88 minutes Anne-Sophie's creation moves across the big screen.
FLASHBACK: LORRAINE, CANADA
It gets snowy here, nothing like LA. Forty minutes outside of Montreal--the countryside, nature. There are a lot of trees. Anne-Sophie is nine years old. She's riding a bicycle off into the woods; her friends are running after her. In her mind, the bicycle is a horse; she and her friends are being chased by witches. They're fleeing for their lives. Her black hair is trailing after her in the wind.
She's sitting alone in her room, bored after being punished for some childish offense. She grabs a notebook and starts writing a script--the script of a child:
MADDY SAYS: bla, bla, bla.
… Then the music starts.
AND THEN: bla, bla, bla.
It's about high school kids. They're disappearing for some reason. Then they team up and turn against the mean principal.
But the writing isn't enough to fulfill her imagination; she needs lights, cameras and actors. She enlists her friend Arianne and her younger brother, John Sebastian. Anne-Sophie borrows a handheld camera from her dad, a script doctor and analyst in the Canadian film industry. She tells Arianne her lines. John Sebastian gets his instruction. Anne-Sophie enlists her dad's help as the cameraman.
She says, "cut." The scene ends. Now she tries something different. She tells her dad to film from a different angle. She gives Arianne new lines. John Sebastian gets a new role. Anne-Sophie is directing for the first time.
Three years later, she tells her parents that it's time to move back to Santa Monica, where she was born. "I need to go back for the movies. Just sell the house." They do.
FLASH FORWARD: LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Fifteen-year-old Anne-Sophie is shooting a short film on the backlot of Universal Studios. Scenes for Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed here. She's attending a directing course at the Universal Studios branch of the New York Film Academy. They want her to make a one-minute film with one actor.
She has a different plan: 16 actors and 150 extras. She films the seven-minute short, Marked, in four hours. This film, about a young girl dealing with sexual assault, wins the Jury Award at the 2007 Jacksonville Film Festival for best student film and the Best Young Filmmaker Award at the 2007 Swansea Film Festival. Making the film solidifies Anne-Sophie's passion.
This is what she wants to do with her life.
PRESENT DAY: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS BACKLOT
It's the morning after the premiere, but not too early--the after-party lasted until midnight. The sky is as clear as it gets in LA and it's already 85 degrees. In a month, Anne-Sophie will turn 18. She's wearing a black T-shirt with bold, white lettering--New York Film Academy--a pair of casual blue jeans, silver sandals and pink-rimmed '80s sunglasses.
Anne-Sophie is doing a photo shoot and an interview. There are some props: a director's chair, a movie camera, a light stand and a bullhorn. She's on the set where she filmed Marked: gray cobblestone roads, stucco and stone buildings, a concrete fountain with winged lions perched on pedestals. Her hair stirs in the breeze and Anne-Sophie talks about making Faded Memories.
It wasn't easy convincing financiers and industry suits to back her movie. She was only 14 when she wrote the script and 16 when she started production. They told her that she couldn't be the writer, director and actress. She needed to pick one aspect and stick with it. Instead she wrote, directed, and starred in a 16-minute short version of Faded Memories titled Kara's File. Armed with natural charisma and visual proof of her ability, she made the circuit again and gained the backing she needed to produce Faded Memories.
She's now in pre-production for her next feature, Blue Winter. But her goal is to grow Anne-Sophie Films into a big production company that produces other directors' films as well. She wants to back people who are talented and real. She wants to become a major Hollywood player.
Faded Memories is only the beginning.
Interview with Anne-Sophie
NOV. 13, 2008: UNIVERSAL STUDIOS BACKLOT, LITTLE EUROPE SET
What inspired you to write Faded Memories? What was the idea behind it?
It's usually my feelings… When I wrote Faded Memories, I was feeling really different and lonely… The idea was to take a girl that was really awkward--you know, she was different in every way possible--and to make her meet this other person who was totally different in a different way. In every single way they were different, [to show] how opposites can attract.
How did you get past the age barrier?
At first, you walk in the room, and people are like, "OK, what is this?" But then they meet me and see that I'm confident; I know what I want. And I don't act like a kid; I don't act like an adult; I act like Anne-Sophie; and they're like, "OK, then maybe this girl's got something and we're going to give her a chance."
Tell us about your parents.
My dad's a partner in my production company and he coordinates everything… My mom's always behind me on set. She's the producer. My mom is like my homie… she's really excited and hyper, and my dad's the cool dude. So, my parents are opposite and that's what's really amazing.
You started a production company, Anne-Sophie Films. What are your goals for it?
I want to produce other peoples' movies. I want to help filmmakers and just show people that if you have a talent and you have a goal… you should do it.
You help out with special-needs kids. Tell us more about that.
When I was in high school I was helping a special ed. class and these people were just so interesting and funny. I just think they're amazing, and I just want to help them in any way. If they want something, I just want to make their dream happen.
What do you do when you're not making movies?
I like to just hang out with my friends: dance, talk, laugh. I laugh all the time; I smile all the time. I love anything that has to do with the outdoors--I'm a big fan of that.
How do you define a rich life?
A rich life for me is just to have your family, your friends, just feeling happy, you know--just walking around in the forest, and you're just happy. I think that's being rich, just having people around you that love you, you love them… Just having a smile like you mean it.
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