Simon Cahn Interview
French filmmaker Simon Cahn has achieved a considerable amount in his reasonably short career to date. You may have seen Mourir Auprès De Toi, a film he co-directed with Spike Jonez for Olympia Le-Tan, or perhaps his phenomenal music video for Team Ghost's hit song 'Dead Film Star'. Other notable film projects have been commissioned by Louis Vuitton, Supreme and Nike. Whether putting his touch to art direction, photography or filmmaking, Simon is definitely someone to watch in the industry. We caught up with the man himself for a quick chat.
Jack Smylie: Hey Simon, tell us a bit about yourself.
Simon Cahn: I grew up in Paris. And still live and work in this great city. I'm a director of Shorts, Music Videos... And I also work as photo editor for the french fashion magazine Jalouse.
JS: Was there a point in your life when you decided you would like to make films?
SC: I think I always wanted to do this, since I was very young. I don't know exactly what gave me this envy. My father showed me a lot of great movies when I was just a kid, sometimes weird movies for a child, like Tod Browning's Freaks when i was 9. But I think those early moments of my life drew me to filmmaking. After, when you grow up, you realize it's not that easy.
JS: Your work is quite often drawn to fashion - is this a conscious decision? Are you, yourself, drawn to that industry?
SC: Fashion film making is a great thing, but I'm not sure it's where I want to go. I'm thinking more about real fiction and storytelling. I think the fact that I work in a fashion magazine pushed me to do films in Fashion, and with the expansion of the fashion film industry, their's a lot of things to do with this medium. Art direction and filmmaking are very close, that's also why more and more fashion photographers are now doing fashion films.
JS: Music videos also make up a fairly large bulk of your portfolio. How does music inspire your work, in general?
SC: Music video is really a great medium to try stuff, and also very good to train yourself and practice direction. It allows you so much creative freedom. Also, a really good way to show your work, with Internet now. Working on short films is different, you can only show your films in film festivals. With Music video, you can do basically whatever you want, you can do short films and hide them into a music video. I guess music, is a great way to increase creativity. I now try to put more and more storytelling in my videos.
JS: How do you choose which projects to get on board with?
SC: This is pretty simple. For music videos, if I really like the song, I do everything I can to find a cool idea to develop. Hanni El Khatib is a good example: when I listened to his album, I was like "I want to do a video for every song", even if I have to put my own money in the process.
JS: For a French filmmaker, you seem to take a lot from New York City life - what's the connection here?
SC: Yes, it's true. I lived for 2 years in NYC back in 2006, a lot of my closest friends are still there. My brother lives in New York also. This city is great for inspiration, I try to go there to visit my friends and family a couple of times a year.
JS: Mourir Auprès De Toi is one of my favorite shorts of the last couple of years - how did you come to be involved in this film?
SC: During a lunch with the designer Olympia Le Tan and Spike Jonze, and other friends. Spike fell in love with Olympia's book clutch and ask her if she could do a special one for him. She of course accepted, and as a joke, asked him to do a video for her brand. He accepted. Then, a few weeks later, I received an email where Spike was asking if I wanted to co-direct it. I couldn't believe it, Spike had always been a huge inspiration for me. In the beginning, this project was more a joke or a fantasy, we were more talking about it as a family small project (at the very beginning we taught we could do the animation by ourselves, which was of course impossible). But, as the project evolved, it looked more and more like a real short film. I think the cherry on the cake was when we learned the film was going to Cannes Film Festival.
JS: And how was it working alongside Spike Jonze? Had you met before that project?
SC: I met Spike Jonze 8 years ago in Paris when he was promoting his music video DVD. A friend of mine introduced me to him and he accepted to take a look at my early early project. Working with him, was amazing. I have a audio file of Spike, Olympia and I working on the script, it's hilarious. I think Spike has some really unique ways to work on his projects, like playing in real life the characters of Mourir Auprès De Toi to show the acting intentions to the animators. That was also really funny to do. Also, growing Skateboarding, it was a real privilege to work with the guy who did all the best skateboard videos.
JS: Aside from filmmaking, where else do you find your creative fix?
SC: I think I also like a lot working on art direction in Fashion Photography.
JS: Can you name a favorite project to date?
SC: Even if Mourir Auprès De Toi was a really long and hard project to do, I think it's my favorite one.
JS: What have you got lined up for the rest of 2012 and beyond?
SC: Two new videos I did just came out on internet. A short film for the magazine Jalouse called Une Fille Comme Les Autres Part 2, and a music video for the french band Team Ghost called Dead Film Star. As for the rest, you will see soon enough...
Photographer - Clément Pascal