The Mère Folle project has been a great adventure. We (Michelle and Mieke) have been continuously experimenting. Our working process is simple: we script, direct, operate cameras and edit the footage ourselves – with the help of our friends, and some subsidies. We have received support from AVEK (Finnish Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture) and from the art centre Kakelhallen, Åland (Finland). We also received some private funding, and benefit from ongoing support from de ateliers, Amsterdam, Goldsmiths College, University of London, the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA) and the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The lack of budget has been a constraint but, on the other hand, also a great source of freedom, we find, and a resource for creative thinking. Moreover, the project seems to attract lots of help from various directions. Many, many people have offered help, volunteering their time as actors, organisers in the different locations, translating the multi-lingual scripts, finding locations and other indispensable jobs. In the office in Amsterdam we are lucky to have a brilliant production manager in Margreet Vermeulen and Machteld Harmsen. Most of the film locations were made available to us graciously by the owners and directors of a variety of institutions.
We also worked in bouts, or rather, “shoots”. For example, in November 2008, by way of experiment, we shot the “abduction scene” in the garage of Françoise’s building in Paris. On April 2d, 2009, we shot the great Trial scene. Before this, on January 18th, 2009, the coldest day of the year in the Netherlands, we shot what became “the case for the defence”: a document of a former patient who, instead of being mad, is now playing foolishly.
The Summer of 2009 was a busy shooting period. In June 2009 we filmed some fragments of scenes on an island off Turku, Finland, where we set a “halfway house” in which former patients are trying to adapt to the world. And in Nokia we filmed the psychoanalytic treatment of Sissi, Françoise’s first patient who was a resounding failure for the young psychoanalyst, and is now working with a different doctor. In Amsterdam, the classical garden of the Maison Descartes was the set for the Courtyard scene, where we filmed on the hottest day so far that year. The next day, the Grande Salle scene was filmed in the 1920s building of the Art Institute “de ateliers” and the third day, in the Army Museum in Delft, we set Françoise’s premonitory dream. Then, in September, we returned to Paris to film a short scene where the Fools are chased away from the flea market in Vanves. The day after we shot the treatment of a patient called Herlat, towards the end of the book, in Françoise’s office.
The final shoot took place during the exceptionally cold period of January 2010 in Bullas, a small town in the South of Spain. Here we filmed several visits Françoise has made in the course of a few decades to an old friend of her father, Don Luís.
Like most filmmakers, we plan our filming on the basis of 4 preparatory processes:
1) we write the script on the basis of the book, our interpretation of it and the necessary reductions and changes to transform it into an audio- visual product.
2) we cast actors in the roles that need to be interpreted.
3) we make a storyboard, that begins to visualise the scene we are going to shoot.
4) we rehearse with the actors up to right before the shoot
As an example, we take The Trial scene: we include a storyboard of the same scene. we also have photographs from the rehearsal of the trial scene.