Gaëlle Denis participated in the Cross Channel Film Lab in 2014 – we spoke to her about her career so far, and what she learnt about using Stereo 3D film as an independent filmmaker.

CCFL Training Online Programme 2015 is open for applications.  To find out more about this unique programme, visit this page.

Read the interview below, learn a little more about Gaëlle’s experience of the Lab in this film about the Stereo 3D projects from 2014 below, and find out more about her project La Fille de l’Estuaire over here.


You’ve made some very successful short films – what do you enjoy most about that medium, and what have you found to be the biggest challenges of making the transition from short to feature?

Short films offer great opportunities to test various techniques, learn about the craft of filmmaking and learn how to adapt a format and a technique to each individual story.

In my shorts, I have experimented with animated oil painting on glass, stop motion, CGI, 2D animation, hybrid animation, VFX, live action, dance performance, commercials, theatre, Stereo 3D, video projection and opera.  I think I tried quite a lot of mediums and had lots of fun experimenting.

In 2012 I decided it was time to focus on making features and I started taking part in writing workshops like TorinoFilmLab, Groupe Ouest and Jerusalem Film Lab.  I would love to use the things I learnt so far when I make my feature.

It is a big step between writing a short and a feature.  It is very hard work, not that writing a feature is not fun, but coming from animation and being visual like me, setting out a 100-page Word document does not come naturally.

The wonderful thing about participating in these labs is I now realise that scriptwriting does not come naturally and easily to anyone!


For La Fille de l’Estuaire, you’re working with a co-writer, Christopher Andrews – how does that process work, and what do you most enjoy about that way of working?

Chris came to join me after I spent nine months developing the project at Le Groupe Ouest residence.  Marcel Beaulieu and Julien Lilti were script consultants there and were amazing support during the writing process.

Writing is quite a lonely process and working with a co-writer is a great way to communicate ideas back and forth, discuss what can work, or not.  People come with different backgrounds, different ways of thinking and seeing things.  This mutual listening and sharing of ideas can only enrich the film.

I’m a visual person so I like drawing the scenes, not necessarily storyboarding but seeing images of the characters, the landscapes.  I also love post-it notes and spend a lots of time putting the structure of the film on various post-its and covering the walls with them.  It makes it easier to share the process with a co-writer. People know it and often I get post-it notes packages for Christmas.


What was the most interesting thing that you explored in the Cross Channel Film Lab with La Fille de l’Estuaire?  How did the Stereo 3D exploration affect how you approached the story?

We explored the way in which Stereo 3D tends to be an immersive experience.  It was interesting to develop the story’s main character only focusing on her point of view.  In the previous draft, I allowed several characters’ point of view.  We shot some tests and discovered how the pace of the story could unfold much more slowly than in usual films.

Since the CCFL’s workshop, we are now focusing on one unique PoV and it works very well.  The story has gained in simplicity and efficiency.

Josephine Derobe and Gaelle Denis during Stereo 3D test shoots - CCFL 2014

What advice would you give a filmmaker hoping to make a feature film with a distinct Stereo 3D vision on a low budget?

Don’t restrict your idea to the technique as it will work well at the end.

To me the approach of Stereo 3D is the same as with any other film technique, it requires a thorough prep period.  It is the amount of prep and research that is important before your shoot.  So make sure you have access to location, crew a long time before the shoot.

Working with a stereographer that engages with your world is very important.

Thinking of the sound and the music before the shoot.  So when you shoot you know the pace, the rhythm of your film.

Shoot as if you were on 35mm, keep the crew focused, no time for a million takes, shoot what you really need.  Low budget probably means less time on set – so make sure every scene is essential to tell the story.  This needs to happen at the scriptwriting stage.

Ideally it is best if you can storyboard scenes and discuss them with the DoP and stereographer.

What are you working on right now?  What’s up next…? 

I am writing the third draft of La Fille de l’Estuaire with the support of BFI and Creative England.

Next step will be funding and producing the film I guess.  I will focus on the visual side of the project, working on visuals, researching photographic references and storyboarding some scenes.  I will also start research on sound and music, and start the process of casting and workshopping with dancers and choreographers.


CCFL Training Online Programme 2015 is open for applications.  To find out more about this unique programme, visit this page.