“Mégantic”: as sensitive as it is spectacular

“Mégantic”: as sensitive as it is spectacular


Alexis Durand-Brault has gone from advertising to the big screen, from cinematography to production. In each of the series he produces, there is a visual research that makes it unique. The sequence shots of To the rescue of Béatrice like the graphics of Portrait-robot attest to this.

With his accomplice Sophie Lorain, he also produced Sortez-moi de moi and Désobéir, which recounts the fight of Chantal Daigle . For Mégantic, he immersed himself in the heart of one of the worst railway disasters, in the center of a tightly knit town whose true protagonists have become friends. 

It is to pay homage to them that he has delivered a series as sensitive as it is spectacular. Because as they say over there, as long as you are in people's memory, you stay alive.

You mentioned the will to do, despite the pain of events, a luminous series. How did you work on the image?

When I read the texts, the notion of fire was unavoidable, so the warm light imposed itself. No question of playing with the cold light by contrast. That's why there is a slightly yellow light. Throughout the show, we have integrated light points everywhere. To give ” glow “. Even if it's subtle. It adds a little dreamlike side. It's a show that could be hard because of its subject. It was expensive. We want people to listen to it. We could have gone there believed, but we are not making a documentary. Light like music allows us to take a step back, to see things differently. And from the beginning, it was clear to me that the camera was always going to be right in the middle. It's immersive production.

It's a “choral” series. We see similar scenes from one episode to another through the eyes of different characters. How do these scenes turn out?

I hate shooting more than one camera. We therefore shot each scene by adjusting it according to the point of view of each of the characters. The intensity is not always the same since we see it according to our perception. It's subtle, but the viewer doesn't quite feel the same emotion. For scenes with lots of explosions, I used 2-6 cameras. It was real fire, real explosions. For the action scenes, I want to avoid having too much cutting. I make few plans. I find it important that people have a sense of geography. It's like stepping into a tube. You're just sucked in by the story, by the point of view of the characters.

The actors had intense scores to perform. How did they manage to reproduce this level of play for several takes?

It's all a question of time. We could have taken 45 minutes to an hour to place a scene. I had time to try things with the actors. If they're not sure, I can lead them through. The scene where Luc Senay's character receives his daughter's body in a small box took five hours to shoot. It's creation that we do.

This project must have taken you into unexplored areas, if only technically.

We did business with Louis Craig, who worked on a hundred major American films. It takes expertise to manage fire, explosions, propane. When you start a fire, it costs $1,000 a minute in propane. It doesn't go out with the snap of your fingers. You have to maximize your plans. With the artificers, we saw that there were 12,000 ways to create explosions. We had to recreate a fire geyser as it had been reported. My job was also to manage the danger. For actors, I can't always use stuntmen. Sometimes there are things I need to add in post, but otherwise it's generally all true. Playing firefighter was the dream of many little guys. Scenes like that, we don't often have the chance to do them in Quebec.

Where did you reproduce the city of Mégantic?

We went to Ormstown. Artistic director Jules Ricard recreated a dozen facades, including that of the Musi-Café. But there was no railway or church. We added them in 3 D. We also added a piece of street to have the right geography. Making the city destroyed was work too. It was reproduced in a snow dump in Longueuil. It was important that the people of Mégantic recognize their city. Out of respect for them.

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