Exclusive Interview with Hearth (Foyer) Director Sophie B Jacques: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Hearth is an extraordinary thriller short film which tells the tale of a woman who comes home after renting her home out to a couple. However, she will NEVER know the shocking details of what the couple did in her humble adobe….or will she? We spoke to the fascinating director Sophie B Jacques about where the inspiration for Hearth came from,  the cast and the Oscar nominated director Marianne Farley who stars in this film, what she wants people to take away from the film and her upcoming projects.

Hi Sophie, how are you doing?

I’m doing great, thanks! I love this time of year where there’s increasingly more light outside. Plus, our film “Hearth” (Foyer) is currently on a hot streak of festival projections. It’s so nice to reach the point where we get to share the fruit of our hard work with varied audiences and get such positive feedback.

Congratulations on your amazing new short film “Hearth”. You did direct it but you also wrote the story for it. Where did the idea come from?

A few years ago, I used to rent my apartment on Airbnb quite often, and one day, I accepted this one couple. The more I was looking at their picture, the more I was starting to regret having them stay at my place. So to reassure myself, I thought: what’s the worst thing that could happen? Well…

There’s almost no dialogue in this film so during the casting human expressions were probably the most important thing you were looking for? How did the cast come together?

While I was writing the script, I had quite a hard time imagining how Emilie (the landlord) would look like. Then I met Marilyn Castonguay during SODEC’s Cours écrire ton court competition. She was responsible for coordinating the reading of the scenarios in front of the audience at the very end of the contest. I already enjoyed her work as an actress, but it was the first time I got to meet her in person. As soon as she entered the room, I was astonished by her energy, and I remember thinking to myself: that’s her, I want her to play Emilie. She later confessed to me that she really loved the script and that she would feel honored to be take part in the project. I was really thrilled, I had found Emilie.

For Alice, I had a clearer casting idea in mind. I wanted Alice to evoke grace, pureness and peaceful strength, that would contrast well with the dark side of her actions. Marianne Farley imposes respect through her elegance and her maturity, which brings even more power to the character. Although she is very friendly in real life, Marianne has given Alice an icy demeanor, that makes her appear unapproachable and terrifying.

As for Tom, from the very beginning I had imagined him as extremely bright, with a curious sensitivity. When I first met Joël Marin, we had a truly captivating discussion, and I immediately recommended him to the producers. We then reunited him and Marianne to confirm the chemistry and we were all stunned by the authenticity of his acting skills. Joël’s drive is so unique and enigmatic. He had exactly what it took to bring an extra layer of complexity to the character.

In terms of preparation, I wanted to prioritize meetings over rehearsals. I met several times with the actors to talk about the story, the characters and their backstory. It helped building up the complicity between us, and feeling more comfortable on set.

Did you ever use applications like Homestay, HomeAway or Airbnb to rent a room/house like in this film? If so, what was your best and worst experience with it? Wasn’t probably as bad as the things happening in the movie.

Yes, I did put up my apartment for rent on Airbnb several times back in 2014 and 2015. Fortunately, I didn’t have any bad experience… but that actually came as a surprise to me. When my guests would leave, I used to come back home looking for traces they would have left, but sometimes I couldn’t find any, and that’s exactly what scared me. If something bad had taken place in my home in my absence, I would probably never know…

Were there any plans to turn this short film into a full-feature movie, in which we might have seen how or if Emilie discovered what happened, or was it always supposed to be a short one?

“Hearth” (Foyer) is meant to be a short incursion into the lives of its three characters. That’s one of the things I like the most about short films: you get to enter into a very small part of the intimacy of people. During the film, you gather very limited information about them, and at the end, you end up with a whole bunch of questions that you’ll have to answer for yourself. It’s interesting to me because it involves a lot of imagination from the audience, leading to different perspectives and opinions. The film keeps growing in the viewers’ mind, based on their own perceptions.

What do you hope people will take away with them after watching the film?

I guess the key point I want people to take away is the idea that in any specific place, time is the only thing that separates us from what has already happened there. I find it interesting to get the viewers wondering about what might have already happened in the places they live in or next to. I like imagining them pondering about the secrets their homes hide, buried in the memory of time.

The film was already screened at the Cleveland International Film Festival and Vancouver International Women In Film Festival. Are there any other film festivals you’re heading to with your movie?

Yes, “Hearth” (Foyer) screened in Clermont-Ferrand (Talent tout court) , and it also won the people’s choice award in the Shoot No Matter What section at Regard, Saguenay’s international short film festival. We are very excited by the upcoming screenings at other film festivals, which will be announced shortly.

Where did your passion for film come from?

In my childhood, my family and I used to watch movies together pretty often. I enjoyed laughing, sharing emotions and talking about the film with them afterwards. Those were really precious moments to me. Later, I studied and worked as a photographer, as I was appealed by the emotions that images can evoke. But at some point, I missed team work and I felt that photography fell short of satisfying my inspiration and artistic vision. Despite the old adage saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, I felt like I wanted to say so much more.

 Which films and directors have inspired you the most so far?

Many of them, but I would say the most impactful so far are Misery (Rob Reiner), Coen brothers (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet), Michael Haneke (Funny Games, Amour), David Fincher (Gone Girl, Fight Club, Seven)…

Do you have any advice for people out there who wants to get a foot in the door of the film industry?

Trust your gut feeling when it comes to choosing topics to tackle. Work hard, never give up and trust your intuition.

One last question: Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment?

I’m working on a short film inspired by my high school experiences. I thought that by choosing a girls’ school, interpersonal conflicts would be minimal since most girls are sweet and kind… well, not exactly! I am also writing a feature film that I would describe as a horror tale influenced by childhood cinematographic references.

Liselotte Vanophem, Film and Celebrity Reporter – Just Celebrity Magazine


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