Vincent René-Lortie directs ‘Sit Still’.
Alone in a vacant school, we follow seven-year-old Adeline on an intimate and exhaustive journey of self-expression as she navigates her emotions through Krump.
Words from Vincent below:
At the beginning of this project, what were the initial questions and conversations about?
VINCENT RENÉ-LORTIE: I wanted to make a film about the frustration children can feel when they are not listened to. Young people think and see the world differently than adults. We often believe we are more evolved, more intelligent, and sometimes dismiss feelings and ideas that children are trying to communicate to us. That’s why I came up with the idea that except for the dance, everything in the film would look, sound, and feel as still as possible. By accomplishing this, all of our attention would then be put on Addie’s performance. No matter how old or tall she is, it forces the viewer to really listen to what she has to say.
And everything went very smoothly thereafter. Brady Kendall from Alaskan Tapes jumped into the project with us, we found the perfect school, and my team that I have been working with for several years also joined the adventure! It was very fun, honestly. I felt like I had full artistic liberty, and the whole creation process was very exciting.
I wanted to make a film about the frustration children can feel when they are not listened to.
How did you thread the emotional notes into the choreography?
VINCENT: Even though it was an abstract dance film, it was important for me to find a narrative structure that would lead the audience through different emotions. Creating this with Adeline and Russell was the most special thing about this project. Because the young dancer was 7, we couldn’t create a complex choreography from start to finish. Russell then really worked with her on particular movements, and also on her body language.
Then we worked on the emotions. It’s funny how sharing feelings for a child is much simpler and straightforward than for an adult. A lot of our rehearsals were about discussing those emotions. We were talking about her experience at school, bullying, being different, being happy or sad. And then, together, we found ways and tools to express these emotions. One of them, the one we used the most, was that we played music that represented those feelings. And the rest was done deal. She improvised throughout the whole shooting day, and I knew where and when I needed one particular emotion.
It took me a while to understand that, but I believe that somehow, this project gave Addie and me a place to express something immensely personal in our own ways. The blending of our ideas and experiences has made for a unique and special collaboration that I feel really lucky to have been part of.
If the pandemic had not happened last year, do you think this film would have been made?
VINCENT: Before, you could easily imagine a scene in a bus full of people stuck within two meters, now you can’t! So for sure, when I was brainstorming on this concept, my imagination was very restricted by our COVID guidelines. But I believe restrictions make a better project. Without them, we cannot focus. After all, I think this film was the safest I’ve done since the start of the pandemic. A young girl dances alone in an empty school with large rooms… what more could you ask for? So to answer your question, I don’t believe this project would have been the same, but the limitations in which I worked nevertheless gave the best possible film, with or without COVID.
Restrictions make a better project. Without them, we cannot focus.
What are you reading at the moment?
VINCENT: Everything I’m reading and watching right now has to do with a film I’ve been working on for several months and which deals with a character evolving in a juvenile center where I come from, in Quebec. The last thing I read was a series of poems and texts written by young men living in one of these centers. And I’m also re-watching several of my favorite movies that inspired the creation of this film, like ‘A Prophet’ by Jacques Audiard, ‘Fruitvale Station’ by Ryan Coogler, and ‘Fish Tank’ by Andrea Arnold. We’re shooting this film at the start of the summer and that’s mostly what I’m going to be working on between now and then.