Guy-Roger Duvert has delivered an award-winning sci-fi experience with his film 2047 Virtual Revolution. In my recent review I found Duvert’s take on the morality of virtual gaming to be quite unique, while at the same time evoking the look and feel of the Blade Runner universe in an expertly executed homage. I decided to pick the brain of this talented French composer, writer and director for more on how his vision came to be.
Hoju Koolander: Who are the most influential filmmakers in your life that inspired you to enter the world of cinema? Which of their films captured your imagination?
Guy-Roger Duvert: Ridley Scott is probably the first director who had such an impact on me. Blade Runner is a cult film for me, and he is a genius in terms of directing and for his choices of music. I entered the world of cinema as a film music composer first, not as a director, and while I was listening to many soundtracks before that, Gladiator is the film that got me to drop what I was doing to start a career as a composer.
Recently, another director became my number one reference, though: Christopher Nolan. I love almost all of his films, but if I had to quote one, that would be Inception, which is perfect, according to me, or Interstellar, which manages to remain amazing (despite its plot holes). Peter Jackson, with his Lord of the Rings trilogy is also a strong reference to me.
HK: You are the writer, director and composer of 2047 Virtual Revolution. Was it always the plan to have that much creative control over the project?
Guy-Roger Duvert: Yes. The way I see it, either I work on spec, like I used to do when I worked as just a composer and in that case, I have no problem following someone else’s directions and not having control. But if the project is personal, then in that case I need to be in control, to make sure that I get the desired result. That doesn’t mean collaborations aren’t possible.
For a TV show I’m working on, if we get greenlit, I’m planning on hiring writers to assist me, for instance. On a specific project, if I need a kind of music I’m not familiar with and that needs to have a certain style I haven’t mastered, I’m not opposed to work with other composers. But I love writing, I love directing, and I love composing. So why would I frustrate myself by preventing me from doing one of these activities?
HK: It’s often theorized that filmmakers who have too much control can become insulated in the process and lose sight of what is working and what is not on the film. How did you go about avoiding this pitfall to create an award winning and satisfying movie experience?
Guy-Roger Duvert: It is indeed definitely a risk. What I do is I get a lot of feedback, and I analyze it. If an argument convinces me, or if too many people are saying more or less the same thing, that means it’s something I need to pay attention to. Also, I put no useless ego in the film. My aim is that the movie works, not that everything in it is mine.
So, at the end, I embrace all the suggestions that my crew and actors can propose. But my job, after, is to filter these propositions to see what to keep and what to refuse, and to make sure that each new idea actually fits my general vision of the film. The idea of shooting all the futuristic post apocalyptic on shoulder and not on dollies, rails or steady cams, was proposed by my DP, and I thought it was a great idea.
Adding more humor to Nash, the lead role, was proposed by the actor, Mike Dopud, and I thought it was a welcomed improvement to the character. And it goes on like this in each department.
HK: 2047 Virtual Revolution pays homage to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in a beautiful way. Do you feel that using this aesthetic enhances or detracts from the film standing on it’s own as a work of unique science fiction?
Guy-Rogert Duvert: Probably both. In a way, not that many movies try to be a pure tech noir film, and I feel that in that regard, we succeeded in creating this visual world, which is hopefully an eye candy for the viewers. Some have indeed criticized it, indeed, saying that having dirty streets and rain in a future with flying cars, it’s already been done in Blade Runner.
But, again, the idea was to make a tech noir movie, which is a mix between retro film noir and sci fi thriller movies. Firstly, it makes sense that we would have moody atmospheres, rain, a half-loser hero who likes his bottle of whiskey, a ‘femme fatale’. These are the codes of film noir.
Secondly, it feels normal to have flying cars, cybernetic prostheses. It’s like if you were making a western, that would be ridiculous to blame you for having horses, saloons, and gunfights, because it’s already been done before!
But, while we indeed totally respected the codes, I feel we managed to stay original, by adding this European touch to the city. Most sci-fi films are set in North America or in Asia. Having all these old European elements in the background gives the film a real identity that makes it unique compared to similar movies.
HK: Was 2047 Virtual Revolution conceived in anticipation of Blade Runner 2049 or has this been a longstanding passion project that just needed the right cinematic environment to greenlight it?
Guy-Roger Duvert: The idea of the film came to me in 2005, and I wrote the script in 2014. At that time, I didn’t know there was going to be a new Blade Runner. So, no, Blade Runner 2049 had nothing to do with our project. The fact that it was released one year after, just proves that there is a real expectation from the audience to see more cyberpunk movies. And hopefully, we’ll get more.
HK: The message of the film seems to lean heavily in favor of individuals being able to choose their own reality, especially as it relates to immersive online gaming experiences. Are you a gamer yourself and how did that influence the development of this story?
Guy-Roger Duvert: Yes, I am a gamer, and this, of course, totally influenced the story. Basically, I am like the main character: torn. On one side, for philosophical reasons, I have a problem seeing mankind become vegetables linked to machines, but on the other side, I can’t wait for the technology to be available and try it!
So, I feel this topic is very important, and our societies will have to answer the questions asked in the film. I am a bit surprised by the fact that the politicians don’t pay much attention to this yet, but it will happen. The film’s main purpose is simply to entertain. But if it can also help create a reflection, a debate, that means we reached all of our goals.
To come back to my being a gamer, I think that this helped me set very realistic virtual worlds in the film. The way people behave in them, how they interract, even some of the vocabulary they use, are based on my own observations while online.
HK: Do you feel that we are already entering the type of future presented in the film?
Guy-Roger Duvert: Definitely. I actually have no doubt about it. Some studies even already include as a possible ‘catastrophic risk’ (these risks that could destroy our civilization, such as a mega volcano, or climate change, or an asteroid…), the fact that mankind flees reality into virtual worlds.
I’m convinced this will happen. How it will happen, though, will depends on the discussion we have before that, and how we prepare ourselves for it.
HK: The CG work in the film is particularly impressive, especially the cityscapes. What kind of collaboration did you have with the CGI team to keep their work from looking too artificial and distracting to the viewer?
Guy-Roger Duvert: One very strong idea was to almost always mix up old/retro and futuristic elements. Not only does it respect the tech noir codes, but also, it makes this future more realistic, more organic, more believable.
If you go to Paris today, you will see the modern Louvres pyramid (pretty modern) in the middle of the Louvres museum itself (which is pretty old). We didn’t destroy the old buildings to make new ones. New ones rose in the middle of ancient ones. We kept the same idea in most of the film. Also, I followed a philosophy that helped us avoiding looking too artificial: always preferring real locations. It means more work, more problems to deal with, but also a better production value.
Only one day was shot in a studio. All the rest of the film was shot in real locations, which makes it so realistic. Our CGI team didn’t have to create full environment, like what was done in the episodes 1,2 and 3 of Star Wars, for instance, where actors were playing in front of a green screen all the time. They had to add elements to an already existing and real environment.
HK: Your cast gives some great performances and includes sci-fi television veteran, Jane Badler. Was it her work on the V mini-series and TV show that inspired her casting or did she join the production through standard auditioning?
Guy-Roger Duvert: Answer C. Actually, I hadn’t thought about her at first, even if I watched V and liked her performance in it. At first, the actor I had in mind was Blair Brown, who played Nina Sharp in the TV show Fringe. The character Dina was actually inspired by Nina Sharp (which explains the similarity between the names). But Blair Brown wasn’t available, as she was working on Orange Is the New Black. I had to find somebody else.
I met a filmmaker who had recently worked with Jane Badler, and who told me he could introduce us. And I realized that Jane was a perfect fit for that role. So, she didn’t audition for the role. We just spoke about it together, to make sure we understood the character the same way, and she was in.
Mike Dopud didn’t audition either. I had noticed him in Stargate Universe, at the time, and found that he had an amazing charisma, and that he was lead role material. So, I knew perfectly well he was perfect for the role too. For the rest of the cast, I was very traditional, with regular auditions.
HK: As 2047 continues to gain acclaim from critics and viewers alike, do you feel that you would want to revisit that universe you have created or was this a stand alone story to you?
Guy-Roger Duvert: Actually, while I also have other unrelated films in the pipe, I am very attached to this world we created with 2047 VR, and we have many projects related to it.
First, there is a board game, published by Matagot, that will be released worldwide in a few months. Second, there is also a comic book, which is a prequel to the film, that is about to be released in France. I need to prospect in the US to have it distributed there too.
And, most of all, we are working on a TV show based on the film. Different stories, but same world, and some recurring characters from the film. The TV show starts one year before the events of the film, and we follow 3 characters in 3 different countries: one female teenager in Asia, one female young woman in the US, working for Interpol, and in France, Nash, the lead role of the film.
This show is extremely exciting, and I really hope we’ll get it greenlighted. Right now, we’re actually signing a partnership with the second biggest French TV production company, to propose the show in the US to the main outlets there (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu…etc). So, send us good vibes, and you might be able to see more of our cyberpunk universe soon.
We thank, Guy-Roger Duvert for his insight. 2047 Virtual Revolution is available now from Wild Eye Releasing.