“My projects are simple, keeping on cutting good films with good directors.” – Hervé Schneid

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Herve Schneid by Oksna Kanivets
Herve Schneid by Oksna Kanivets

Award winning editor Hervé Schneid is one of the most well respected editors working in film today. He has collaborated with a number of directors including Sally Potter, Lars Von Trier, Mike Figgis, Regis Wargnier, Bille August, Jean-François Richet, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Volker Schloendorff. From his earlier work on Lars Von Trier’s Cannes prize winning  ‘’Europa’’ which established his international reputation and earned him his first award, the Danish Robert for best editing, his varied career has spanned Hollywood blockbusters such as  ‘’Alien: Resurrection’’  to French art-house classics like  ‘’Delicatessen’’,  for which he won the Cesar for best editing in 1992. This was the beginning of a long-term collaboration with world-renowned filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet, that has seen him work on some of the biggest French breakout hits of the past twenty years.

Exclusive Interview with Hervé Schneid – Editor

NY Glam: Tell us a little about yourself, growing up and your passions.

I grew up in a little industrial town near the border with Belgium and Luxembourg.

I discovered still photography pretty young and really loved it, but ended up studying medecine, as an artistic career seemed something unreal. My great chance was to faint too often in the dissection classes. So I quit and found myself by pure luck in a cutting room in Israel. I knew nothing about editing but I knew that I had found my nest. I spent the next two years working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week for free, the happiest moments of my young life. And it has been lasting ever since.

I am not really a producer, I am an editor who became a producer through love and necessity. Victoria wanted to shoot Olma Djon very quickly, and we had no time to find investors, so as husband and wife, and partners in our company Olma Djon Productions, we auto-produced it, as we did for her previous short feature film. 

NY Glam: Did you have any specific influences growing up that lead you towards the film industry?

In my childhood, nothing connected me with the film industry, apart from the cine-club where I spent most of my time. I’d see six films each weekend, devouring american, russian, italian cinema. I guess it planted the seed, even if I had never imagine working in films one day.

NY Glam: What are you currently working on?

I just finished my very first serie called « ZeroZeroZero ». A great one and a half year adventure with wonderful directors : Stefano Sollima, Janus Metz and Pablo Trapero.

I had the chance to cut most of this dark and so ambitious serie in Rome, an amazing city which I fell in love with.

I should be cutting now Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s next film « Big Bug », but a virus came up…

I have cut all his films and I am always impatiently looking forward to be spending time in my cutting room with him, it is such a privilege ! I guess we’ll have to wait a little more…

In the meantime I am giving a hand to another dear friend of mine, Siegfried. I have cut all his films too, and we take advantage of my free time to fine cut his next film « Bengali Variation », a wonderful hide and seek love story he shot in India.

NY Glam: What were your main responsibilities on this film?

On « Olma Djon » I was not only the editor (I wouldn’t have let anyone else cut it of course), but I tried myself as a producer too. This film was her debut, and she had this crazy idea to shoot it in Kazakhstan. It was so bold that I decided to co-produce it with her. We are talking about an independent cinema with a very low budget and a very huge ambition, this is a real challenge ! I went out of my comfort zone (my cutting room) and put myself in the snowy Kazakhstan minus 20°C, to help this incredibly challenging project. I was so lucky and happy to be able to get a total support from my friend Arman Assenov whom I met when I was cutting « Amanat », by Satybaldy Narymbetov. He and his daughter Arielle Assenova co-produced the Kazakh part, providing camera, grip, transportation, costumes, etc… This adventure could’nt have happened without their complete support.

I have been in love with Kazakhstan and his people since I first discovered the country six years ago, and showing the very soul of Kazakhstan through Victoria’s eyes was an incredibly intense experience.

Back in Paris, I organized the post production, the easy part for me. All my long time friends in the industry not only accepted to come on board, but insisted on giving us without counting all their time and talent. I will never thank them enough for their friendship and the level of their commitment.

NY Glam: Can you tell us about your experience in working with the director and actors in this film?

What was my experience working with a director who is my wife ? That’s a very interesting question. We both had to forget we were a couple, and start acting as editor and director.

We have a lot in common, but her vision and touch are unique, and I listened carefully to her explanations about the way she wanted the story told, in order to mold my soul into her’s.

She made me become a better person helping me to dig deeper in myself while cutting « Olma Djon » 

Actors have been incredible. With such a low budget, we needed a total devotion, total collaboration. They gave it. The level of their commitment was amazing. For example, Natasha was 5 month pregnant and she didn’t hesitate one second to follow Victoria, and I assure you that it was really cold out there, at night in the snow.

And they delivered such great performances !

NY Glam: What was the most important thing for this movie to achieve from a narrative and character standpoint?

This film nearly is a silent movie. So you need to tell the story without words. Or with very few. And it is about connection and communication. So you need to find a different way for story telling, you need to be in the core of the story, every little detail can play for or against it. It is a very delicate and very intense process.

NY Glam: What other films have you produced?

Only Victoria’s previous short film « Menin Kazynam ». I am a one director’s producer.

But my career as an editor spans over 40 years and I have been so lucky to meet all these great directors whith whom I shared so many incredibly creative experiences.    

NY Glam: What makes a film interesting for you? What are three qualities that you look for in a movie?

When I choose a film to edit, I know that I will spend a lot of time with the director, and this time is my life, so I have to choose a good and interesting person. The quality of the director is my main concern. Of course the script has its importance too. And I am always looking for a cinematic ambition.

NY Glam: What project helped you launch your career?

I have no career as a producer, as « Olma Djon » is our first feature film. So let’s assume that it will be the launching one.

As an editor, two of my first films were decisive : « Europa » by Lars Von Trier, and « Delicatessen » by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. They gave me the French and Danish award for best editing the same year, which was a great way to launch a career.  

NY Glam: What are you most proud of? Describe your biggest accomplishment to date?

In the last couple of years, I have learned to go out of my comfort zone, on both personal and professional levels, to find a new me, and I discovered a complete new world.

NY Glam: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’re super excited about?

As everyone in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s team, I can’t wait for his new film to start. He is experimenting something new each time, always with a bold ambition, and with the love of the well done craft.

NY Glam: What advice would you give to someone who is aspiring to enter the film industry, especially as a producer?

I can’t give a specific advice as a producer, but (and this is true for everything) you need to love what you do. So don’t listen to anyone and follow your heart.

NY Glam: Can you discuss any future projects or direction you are taking in regard to film making?

My projects are simple, keeping on cutting good films with good directors.

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