For our first interview dedicated to filmmakers linked to the Synthwave universe, we decided to contact the French directors ‘Steh Ickerman’. Raphael & Savitri has made several hight quality videos for various companies and recently a fantastic clip for ‘Carpenter Brut’. They concentrated themselves on the sequel of ‘Turbo Killer’ named ‘Blood Machines’ but also, in parallel, their first feature film ‘Ickerman’ . The interview therefore focuses on these subjects by disclosing their main cinematic influences and many other things. A good opportunity to support them in their projects, however ambitious that they are. Happy reading to all!
Retro Synthwave: Hello Raphaël and Savitri, could you tell us how you met each other? And did you study in a film school? If not, how did you achieve such quality in SFX?
Seth Ickerman: We come from the same city (Gap, in the French Alps) and we shared the same passion. We started making short films together then it became more and more serious. We really are self-taught. For years we’ve been doing films in our garage and been developing certain technics to make our own SFX. Maybe if our SFXs work this well it’s because we really try to give them a proper artistic dimension.
How did high circles like Samsung, LG and Ubisoft gave you some attention that quick?
We base our work on a highly important visual aspect. We give a real artistic direction to our projects on top of directing. That is why brands like it.
Everything started off with ‘Kaydara’ being the story of a bounty hunter chasing Neon from Matrix. What were your purposes to spend 6 years on such a project?
A youthful mistake!
We’re a little stuborn and always want to finish any project we take on. With ‘Kaydara’, we underestimated the difficulty of making such a film. But finally it was a very relevant exercise even tough we lost ourselves. Even if ‘Kaydara’ is an outdated film now, we find a certain nostalgia in it. Nevermind the result, the human experience was worth it and we invite you to check out the two hours making-of available online. We think the making-of is much more interesting than the film itself.
Your concept-name comes from a fusion of your two personnalities in one character. Will you give body to this name in one of your projects?
We’re currently developing a feature film called ‘Ickerman’, so it partly answers your question.
When we watch the ‘Ickerman’ teaser, we think of it as influenced by Blade Runner, The Fifth Element but also Drive. What do you think of filmmakers such as Ridley Scott, Luc Besson and Nicolas Winding Refn?
These three filmmakers did great films, even masterpieces. We feel close to directors having a vision. When you do science-fiction today, it’s complicated to ignore a classic like ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Close encounters of the third kind’ and ‘2001 Space Odyssey’, ‘Alien’, etc. But we have stored these films and forget them when we do ours. Being kids from the 80’s, we naturally feel influenced by this type of cinema, even if our goal is to try and find new paths and new universes.
Are you figuring out to propose projects to any English/American speaking production studios with or without Hollywood. Would you be ready to build yourselves an overseas career?
For the time being we focus on finding the right balance between our ambitions and the reality of filmmaking. We don’t want to make film just to make them. We want to find a real artistic interest into them. Building our own projects garanties this. We prefer creating project that might interest production studios. Like we’re doing today with Blood Machines. We want to make to projects we have in mind.
« We don’t want to make films just to make them. We want to find a real artistic interest into them. Building our own projects garanties this. »
Today, the French cinema industry doesn’t give much importance to filmmakers like you. That’s a bit of a shame considering people like Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur and others who are welcomed in English speaking production countries. What do you think of this?
That doesn’t really bother us. It’s difficult but we think that it’s up to the next generation. On our side, we make our projects without asking some huge help from the system. In that way, we hope doing what we do with all the energy we can put into it. It’s by making projects exist that we can inject fresh air into the French film industry.
Let’s talk about ‘Turbo Killer’. How is the project born? How did you gather such a crew around you for an astonishing result like this one?
We like Carpenter Brut’s music and used one of his track in one of our projects. After that he checked our work out and asked us to work on a music video for him. The budget wasn’t very big but we wanted to make it. We developed a script which was too ambitous and made all the post-production ourselves. The crew was very small and was there just on set, which was essentially a green screen.
How close are you to Synthwave?
We like Carpenter Brut because we see a real identity in his music. He creates particular melodies and it speaks to us. And when you see him on stage, there are real musicians and real instruments. Not only a Macbook with pre-loaded tracks. It’s personal, organic and energetic. More specifically, we’re close to Synthwave in the sense that it gives us this nostalgic feeling. But it’s not just a question of sounds, we’re expecting music to tell us something. We also like to get back to the roots and listen to Blade Runner’s soundtrack which stays one of the best soundtracks ever.
When we look at what you do, we can only be admiring because the effects are on the top. Do you think you’ll stay in this science-fiction universe or could you change and direct actors in a more organic environment?
We don’t think that directing actors can be more organic in a classic environment than in a science-fiction universe. For example Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner is fantastic.
We love actors and intend to put them on top in our future projects. For us, science-fiction is a way to talk about philosophical subjects. We just want to tell stories, with or without SFX.
« For us, science-fiction is a way to talk about philosophical subjects. We just want to tell stories, with or without SFX. »
Along with Carpenter Brut and your feature film, you’re working on the Turbo Killer sequel called ‘Blood Machines’. Where is this 30 minutes project for now?
Blood Machines is a regular film, punctuated with music sequences. A mix between Michael Jackson’s clips such as ‘Bad’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Captain EO’ and films like ‘The Wall’ or ‘Interstella 5555’ etc.
Right now we’re working on two big things: production and design. We’re also looking for others parteners to lock our budget and finishing an animation of the film. A sort of storyboard in 3D of the full film.
On Kickstarter you went over 185000€ with 3000 donators for ‘Blood Machines’. Quite a nice amount. Do you need more?
The Kickstarter is over but we still have a page for people wanting to help us: bloodmachines.com.
Blood Machines is a huge project which could be done in the classic way. We also want to find the balance between a ‘garage-made movie’ and a profesionnal piece of work. The film will be released anyway, but for sure Kickstarter represents only a part of the whole budget.
A few words on our website ‘Retro Synthwave’ lighting up the 80’s universe throughout designers, musicians but talented people like you?
A lot of bloggers, journalists, producers and directors were kids in the 80’s like us and share this common nostalgia for this neon lights universe and giving it today a new look. Congratulations for your website and for being part of this ‘Retro’ fashion with passion.