Meet: John Danvoye

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Two years on from its initial release, John Danvoye’s short film Interference is still making waves and winning awards. We meet the young director to trail his past and discuss his future.

Having first gained recognition after winning the Audience Award at The Graduate Showcase at the BFI in 2012, Interference came to earn itself a winning streak reputation. Since its release, the short film has won a Cinematography Award at the 2013 Encounters Short Film Festival, Best Student Short at the 2014 LSFF and The Prix de la Trois award from the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival is the latest of prizes the short has collected this year.

‘It’s weird you know, Interference came out two years ago and it’s still winning stuff. That feels good,’ says the 27 year old Belgium born film director. The short, which stretches to 5.41 minutes is a silent ‘dramadie’ (the combination of comedy and drama) and comically examines one’s attempt to control their environment to the point of insanity, which is stylistically reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s, Amelie.

Humble in nature, John is appreciative for the positive response and the awards that have followed thus far but makes a point of explaining that Interference’s success was only thanks to his enthusiastic and talented crew. Having graduated with a master’s degree in Journalism and Communication, the young director pursued filmmaking on foreign soil and migrated to the UK to attend the London Film Academy for a one-year filmmaking diploma.

Three years later, John is dividing his time between working at the London Film Academy whilst currently acting as a first assistant director, and also continuing to create and work on his own directorial projects. It is difficult, he admits. ‘Having a steady job would be helpful, I wouldn’t need to worry about rent and bills but then that would mean I wouldn’t be able to create. With first assistant director gigs I can learn more and meet new people but I’m no longer in the position to do things just for the experience.’ Financial concerns are, as for any upcoming filmmaker, a constant worry. Although money has its obvious attractions, John expresses gratitude at what he and many others have achieved with the limited funds that have been available to them, ‘the thing about creativity (is) if you’ve got nothing, you have to create.’ he explains, cautiously adding, ‘but if you’ve got everything, you can’t really create anymore.’

Whilst juggling various projects and keeping himself financially afloat, John managed to complete what he considers his second ‘real’ directorial short film, Overexposed. Again a silent film, Overexposed stars John’s father, a comedian and mime artist who also helped co-write the script. It appears storytelling is laced within the strands of the young filmmaker’s DNA. Similar to Interference, the short is light and humorous. Set in the late 1800s in a photography studio, it looks at an incompetent photographer and his exasperated female customer, making for an entertaining clash of personalities and patience with an unexpected end. Made on what John describes as ‘pocket money’, the short relies heavily on visual language and music to communicate with its audience. Using a melody on the piano played by the King of Belgium’s very own pianist, Hugues Marechal, the music is worked into the structure of the narrative, giving the story rhythm which is something the director views as a necessity when telling a visual tale.

Having decided that his next short film, The Lighthouse Guardian will yet again be stripped of dialogue, John seeks to invite audiences to step into the screen and roam within his world, rather than merely presenting it to them. This being due to the basic principal of respecting your viewers, ‘I don’t like to treat audiences as stupid, their imaginative enough that I don’t need to explain every scene, not everything has to be obvious. And it’s good for me as well, I really enjoy talking to people, they’re interpretations always intrigue and inspire me.’

‘By the time I am 30 years old, I’d like to be in pre-production.’ With an idea already in mind for his first feature film that could see a romance between the quirky leading character of Interference, Erin and the protagonist in The Lighthouse Guardian, John aims to raise funds and attract investors through the completion of his three short projects. However, he declares he is working on his writing, as he doesn’t see the possibility of a 90-minute silent feature being very alluring. Alongside that dream sits the hope that he will achieve status as a distinctive storyteller, ‘I’d like to be one of those directors that when you see one shot, you know it’s them.’