Early last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Brooklyn-based indie filmmakers Rémy Bennett and Émilie Richard-Froozan, the BFF directors behind the upcoming film Buttercup Bill.
The film can best be described as a dream sequence, a vibrant story of two childhood friends, Patrick and Pernilla, more akin to siblings separated at birth, who reunite after a tragedy. “The genre is doomed love,” Rémy told me, “like people who have this electricity and chemistry but it just doesn’t work out.” It’s a psychosexual film that leaves viewers questioning the line between reality and nostalgia.
The co-directors have been friends since they met at an NYU acting program abroad when they were sixteen years old. “We had a great connection,” Rémy said. After the program, they attended separate colleges and continued to stay best friends. They have tackled other projects as well, collaborating on the short film Rufur, and pursuing other writing and acting jobs. This is the first full-length feature by either woman.
Buttercup Bill has an all-female crew behind it, something that is increasingly rare in both the independent and mainstream film industries. When I asked Rémy and Émilie about putting together their female production team, they said that “it wasn’t intentional.” This wasn't a particularly surprising answer, as many women I have spoken with in the media industry describe the the process of making art together as fully organic.
Émilie: “It’s kind of a big deal when women make movies. Because 99.9999% percent of filmmakers are men, the male gaze influences the filmmaking. I appreciate a film done by a woman. It’s not something you see ever! But – we are people. Who made a movie.”
The girls teamed up with the masterminds behind Black to Blonde Pictures (another group of friends) whom they met at a screening for one of their short films. Sadie Frost (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Emma Comley thoroughly enjoyed the girls’ aesthetic and agreed to produce the project. Thus – the process of creating Buttercup Bill began.
In explaining how the project began, Rémy said, “writing was the biggest thing for us. We sat down at Émilie’s apartment every night and wrote this. We both had day jobs, so we had to balance that, but we would sit in the apartment day in and day out – it took us a long time... We would sit down with a cigarette and some tea and just take notes. A lot it came out of our lives."
Émilie added, “it was also insanely organic in the sense that some people come into a movie knowing what will happen. We had a title, a location, and everything came from there. We didn’t plan for it – it just kind of happened on its own.”
Buttercup Bill was shot in sixteen days in rural Louisiana, although Rémy and Émilie stayed for eight and a half months. In order to work in the locations they wanted, the girls would often show up on someone’s doorstep with a bottle of wine. They slept on their friends’ couch during production and talked to the locals to get a feel for the place.
“It was the whole crew’s first feature film,” according to Émilie. “Everyone in the process had been on board with us since we wrote the script. We also all ended up living in the same house while we were filming the movie.”
This aspect of their production process mirrored the film’s vibes of intimacy and family-like togetherness. I thought that it was very homely and quite frankly – adorable.
My favorite aspect of the film was the portrayal of the human body - both in the costume choices and the sex scenes. When asked about the first, Rémy told me that all of it was basically her wardrobe. However, she had “started developing the costumes as soon as it started." They said the style was very much influenced by Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Lolita.
In regard to the latter, Rémy said that the overall goal was for the audience to “not necessarily [be told] how to feel about the sex scenes – they are just there for the audience to take them.”
Émilie: “Yeah everyone is so raw emotionally, of course they are going to be raw physically.”
Rémy: “Art has always been about the naked form.”
Their work here is no exception, raw in both its characters' naked bodies and the unflinching material itself.
Finally I asked: Now that all of this is over, how does it feel to be finished?
Rémy: “Like giving birth! But it hasn’t ended. There are so many different facets to it. We are going to our first film festival this coming week.”
Émilie: "It took us months to recover. It was such a personal project. It was just so crazy. We were joking when we were on our way home from the airport, like ‘see you never’.”
It was a pleasure speaking with these wonderful, talented women and learning more about their process behind such a momentous project. I look forward to witnessing what is sure to be a long and lustrous film career for both of them.
(BONUS: Both Haley Dekle of The Dirty Projectors and Alynda Lee Segarra of HFTRR perform in the film)
Buttercup Bill premieres at the MARFA Film Festival later this week.
Photos via Color Brigade Media and buttercupbill.com.