As the mini-series “Vortex” continues this evening on France 2, Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun, its director, believes in his vision for this thriller unlike any other.
Tonight, France 2 is broadcasting the rest of its Vortex series of events. The opportunity for Slimane-Baptiste Berhou, its director, to narrate at our microphone his vision for this thriller unlike any other.
Allociné: How did you come to the Vortex project?
Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun: I came to Vortex after working on the Mental series for France TV Slash which caught the attention of Iris Bucher and Roman Turlure from Quad. They gave me a director’s casting. We don’t know enough, but even directors go through casting. This casting consisted of reading the first two episodes and expressing my vision for the project, my sensitivity, my technical competence for feasibility, my reading of the emotional framework, but also finding the balance between thriller, fantasy, technology, special effects and love. story that was central to the story.
What drew you to read the script?
It is a whole. The basic element, without which there is nothing, is still the story and the emotions. What will we look for in actors and characters? How are we going to make a spectator vibrate? I immediately saw in Vortex that the fantastic plot was really used to multiply the dilemmas and create very strong emotional situations. In my job, even if I have a technical and very geeky side, what excites me every day is talking to the actors. It is to listen to the lyrics, to look for the emotions. In Vortex, I felt that there was a very strong emotional heart and that we would be able to work towards something precise and beautiful.
I think it’s a series that shows something, that questions us and that can speak to everyone. How do you love more than one person? How to stop falling in love? The series also asks us about mourning. It’s really the heart of the series and the moment I said to myself “this series could be really great”.
Then, I read the first page and saw in the tone of the screenwriters that there was something that spoke to me. There was also a fiber of comedy to exploit. There was a freshness and a modernity. There was something really, really effective where I thought I could be part of the DNA of this writing.
And then, I’m an image maker. I really like working with light, camera, technique. I love the special effects. So there was also this pleasure as a technician to go into producing things that don’t exist. To ask productive questions that we never ask ourselves: how do we age and rejuvenate people? How to film this adventure on a beach in Brittany knowing that it has to be virtual and real?
The first sequence on the beach where Ludo finds the corpse is a bit of a pivot to the entire artistic direction of the series as it is this scene that will be filmed by drones. And it’s that drone video that will come back every time he’s in the vortex. This means that the weather for this scene will be the weather for the vortex for the next forty sequences. Since we could work the weather with special effects, that’s why we chose with the cinematographer a golden hour in the middle of the clouds. This is what gives the art direction of the series down to the poster. It took us four and a half days of clear sun to be able to add the clouds in post-production. All this was a kind of technical and artistic pleasure.
Was the technology used in Vortex already implemented from the start of the project or was it your proposal?
This is something that was already identified in advance by the production and Fix Studios teams that are internal to Quad. They had already searched a little and proposed this solution to Iris Bucher and Roman Turlure, the producers, who had confirmed it. But it was also submitted for my approval and I thought it was a good idea.
Is this your first time using this technology?
Yes. It’s a technology that’s widely used in filmmaking, but rarely used to make so many sequences. It is true that in Vortex, there are more than forty sequences that are performed entirely in virtual production, but it is not always the same. The main element of this is that Ludovic (Tomer Sisley) can never get wind of meeting Mélanie (Camille Claris) on the beach because he’s in a virtual reality room. And this is part of the respect for the fantastic universe that we had imposed on ourselves. So when we’re with her in this virtual reality room, Mélanie gets the smell, but not him. On the other hand, when we are with him at the beach, it can be dark, even raining, because we are not in virtual reality.
Whether it was Ludovic’s virtual side or Mélanie’s photorealistic side, Tomer couldn’t stand the wind. And this means changing the technology used in the LED wall. Suddenly it’s going to be 3D, suddenly it’s going to be flat to really be in something that was filmed on the beach. So it required us to practice sequence by sequence to know which technology to use according to the point of view we were in, so that no one would ask the question.
When we say at Vortex that’s 450 fake shots, which is a mountain in the size of such a series, what really pleases me is that they say “Is that so?! Good!“. What I want is for the love story to work and for us not to question ourselves. It’s not about demonstrating. In the same way, I didn’t want us to be ridiculous, but there are plans that exist in version 47 that will to say that the VFX people did 47 versions before we got it right.
Vortex is a project that allows each department to express their art. There was a cross-departmental enthusiasm that spilled over into the final product. At the end of the day, we’re not told the VFX are funny, they’re good and quality, but we’re not looking for the demo side of the style either.”see we have done digital renewalWe wanted all this to disappear behind the story of love and emotions.
How do you create “emotional tension” in a series like Vortex?
I don’t know if I’m under emotional stress. What I’m trying to do is do something right. While reading the text I listen to how it sounds, I listen to the needs of the actors so that the emotion is naturally expressed in their body. And if the emotional journey as planned by the sequence doesn’t work, we work with the actor or change the nature of certain lines to get what we need. It’s really a job to listen to the actor. One of my great pleasures is seeing the difference between the first take and the assembled one. The one where we went looking for something that was not attainable at first glance, but that we will bring to life in each sequence. For me, it’s really the heart of my work.
Did you change anything in the script?
I added the comedy. It’s something I really like. For a good story, there must be contrast in emotions. We had the drama part very strong, but we needed something lighter. The character of Agathe (Juliette Plumecocq-Mech), I really recreated with Juliette. Basically, Agathe was a much younger character and I found it interesting that the VR manager was the dean of the police station. I found it more original. I talked about it with the authors who agreed.
I met Juliet, we went over Agathe’s texts again and did a kind of fist ping pong. And she understood the deadpan character I wanted to make her. We ended up doing that and people on set were laughing. It works super well. I was very happy to see the authors laughing as they discovered the rushes. We need the character of Agathe. We see her very little, but when we do see her she scores. It’s something I’m very proud of. When you watch the first episode of Vortex, you don’t expect this comic dimension. And I think it adds to the palette of the series.