1.Your film, ‘Le Ballon Bleu’,
takes part in our festival. What is ‘Le Ballon Bleu’ about?
‘Le Ballon Bleu’ is our love letter to the 1956 classic French film ‘Le Ballon Rouge’. That film has a single scene when the boy with the red balloon passes a girl with a blue balloon, and their balloons share a moment of trying to be with each other. Then the little girl with the blue balloon keeps walking, and we never see her again. So, my writing/producing partner and I asked ourselves: what's her side of the story? And why do the balloons seem to know each other? We had been wanting to tell a story about how complicated it can sometimes be for people to connect—how so often fear gets in the way—and then we realized this needed to be a story about the balloons and why THEY are trying to connect. A love story between the balloons!! When we realized that, we knew we had a great story worthy of making into a film. Like the original French film, our film embodies childhood innocence and the magic that can exist in the world around us which adults tend to ignore but children see so clearly. Our film tells the girl’s side of the story and what could be the origin story for the red and blue balloons. So, there are two story lines that ultimately connect: the balloons trying to find each other again, and the children trying to find a true friend.
2.What were your requirements for actors to take a part of your film?
The casting of the film was crucial. We wanted to honor the original film and capture the innocence of childhood through the performances. Nathalie Cheron introduced us to two fabulous casting agents, Fanny de Donceel and Nsani Mayala, to find the perfect cast of children, and we then set our production schedule during their school holiday. Working with children in Paris is very regulated by the French government (as it should be to protect them), and we only had 4 hours a day for 5 days to film all of their scenes. That relegated our shoot to exactly 20 hours, and we needed to be intricately prepared. It was the most incredible production experience I’ve ever had.
3.How did you communicate with the cameraman?
I operated the camera along with my producing partner, Jon Bachmann. We shot on iPhone and chose to use the iPhone 7+ because we had adapters that allowed us to use Zeiss prime lenses. We also used the FiLMiC App which allows for greater control of the iPhone camera settings and can give the look and feel of your footage a much more ‘filmic’ quality. Most people who see the film are blown away to find out we shot on an iPhone.
4.What locations did you choose for your project? And why?
We filmed on location in Paris using many of the same locations as the 1956 classic French film to connect the two stories visually. We actually designed the film (and story) so that it could be intercut seamlessly with the original. But, Paris has changed so much since 1956, so we needed to get creative. We filmed additional footage for b-roll and visual effects plates in Versailles, because it wasn’t destroyed and rebuilt in WWII and still has many more older looking structures and facades.
5.Why should distributors buy your film?
It’s magical!! The story is told visually with very little dialogue and can easily show in any language in the world. It’s evocative of the magic of cinema and is accessible to a wide audience with a lighter subject matter—something that is unusual for a live action short film. Most live action short films deal with very dark, heavy or disturbing subject matter, because it’s difficult to tell a compelling story in a very short amount of time without being shocking or tapping into an audience’s fears. Whereas animated short films often succeed by doing the opposite. They appeal to the lighter side of our emotions and tap into our basic human needs for love, kindness, and acceptance. So, we let ourselves be inspired that way and envisioned the film as if it were animated but filmed it live action. We’d love for Pixar to see our film for that reason.
6.What expression elements did you use in your project? How would you characterize your work?
I love the magic of cinema and am always working to create films that move and inspire an audience. With this project, we told a simple, magical love story in a light-hearted, classical way about two balloons trying to reunite who inadvertently help two children finally find a true friend.
7.At what festivals have you had success? Has the film already premiered? If so, where?
We have only begun entering film festivals since the film was completed earlier this year (2022). We premiered at the DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) Film Festival and won the award for Best Drama Short Film. We then screened at the San Diego Children’s Film Festival and the Wales International Children’s Film Festival, where we won the award for Best Original Score. The incredible Josh Nelson scored the film from beginning to end. We were honored to be one of only 4 live action short films chosen from the United States to screen at the Academy and Bafta-qualifying Foyle Film Festival in Northern Ireland, and we’re equally honored to take part in the Prague International Film Awards.
8.What motivated you to become a filmmaker?
I have always loved films and television. My mother moved us around the country a lot, and going to the movies was my constant, my grounding, my escape, no matter where we were living.
9.Which movies are your favorites?
This is my favorite topic but least favorite question!! Far too many to name in every genre. I love movies so much. I can’t even begin to name just a few.
10.What topics do you like to explore in your work?
The human condition, friendship, and self-discovery. Many of my characters start off having not learned yet that they chose their point of view of life.
11.What genre do you like to shoot and why?
I love magical realism, thrillers, heist… it depends on the story I want to tell. Genre can be a conduit for telling certain type of stories that in another genre might not be as interesting.
12.What project would you like to shoot one day, and what would it be about?
I’m currently developing a limited series based on Gwen Strauss’s incredible book THE NINE. It’s the incredible true story about nine young women spies for the French resistance during WWII who were captured and imprisoned in the same concentration camp. They become friends and decide to use their training as spies to escape together and evade capture for ten days traveling on foot through Nazi Germany until they reach freedom in France. It’s a story of empathy and heroism from a point of view you don’t normally see in a piece about WWII.
13.How has COVID affected your film life?
It coincided with me having my first baby, which was fortunate timing for me, but it also put a pause on bringing in funds to finish ‘Le Ballon Bleu’. However, having an elongated time in post-production gave us the chance to try things we probably wouldn’t have had the time to experiment with otherwise.
14.What do you do if you're not thinking about a movie? What are your hobbies?
I love traveling and am excited to be able to do more of it again. I’m also a professional TV editor and screenwriter, so whether I’m working on my stories or someone else’s, I’m always at work creatively.
15.What projects do you plan to shoot in the future?
I have many I want to direct, some just to produce, some still need writing. But, for now I am concentrating on THE NINE (see number 12).
Katherine Griffin is originally from Bloomington, Indiana and lived in 3 states, 10 cities, and 17 different addresses by the time she turned 18. Movies and television became her consistent past-time.
She attended PCPA for
performing arts and UCLA for screenwriting. She works as a writer, director,
editor, and producer on television, films, and documentaries. She has been
nominated for seven Primetime Emmy Awards with one win for editing Top Chef.
Her screenplays and pilots have been semi-finalists in the Nicholl Fellowship,
Cinestory Fellowship, Zoetrope Screenplay Competition, Austin Screenwriting
Competition, Page Screenwriting Awards, Tracking Board, and the UCLA
She collaborated on
the feature screenplays for Stardust and Barge on the Seine with acclaimed film
director Alfonso Arau. She is co-producer of the award-winning feature
documentary Laddie: The Man Behind The Movies about the life and career of Alan
Ladd, Jr. She was selected to be a part of Shonda Rhimes Masterclass on
becoming a Showrunner, and has been invited to direct the International
Screenwriting Association table read workshop at the Sundance Film Festival three
years in a row,
Most recently, Katherine was hired by Disney+ Latin America to be one of two directors to design the look, feel and tone, and oversee casting, for their upcoming 10 episode series filming in Mexico. She recently completed directing the short film Le Ballon Bleu, shot entirely on location in Paris.