Sylvain Despretz Interview

Bio: Sylvain Despretz is a freelance director and writer with a background in art and illustration. He mentored under Jean ”Moebius” Giraud –the late world-renowned graphic novel artist. For two decades Sylvain brought his unique style of storyboarding to A-list directors such as Roman Polanski, Tim Burton, J.J. Abrams, Mike Newell, Darren Aronofsky, and Stanley Kubrick, among notable others. His name appears in the credits of several top-grossing motion pictures, all of which lean on a full grasp of Visual Effects, with their advantages and pitfalls, notably Planet of the Apes, The Fifth Element, Harry Potter, The Fountain, Alien Resurrection, and Academy Award winners Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. Source:

AT WHAT COST? How Much Does it REALLY Cost Us to Go to the Movies?

To answer this question, we reached out to Independent film maker, Sylvain Despretz.

BU: With the resurgence of Superhero movies, it’s hardly a secret that Marvel and DC are the supernova of the movie scene. What’s happening here?

SD: It’s important to understand what happens to your money once you buy a movie ticket. People rush to the movie theater to see their childhood superheroes on the silver screen but what they don’t understand is the effect that has on the great film makers that have been pushed in to the shadows of this great cloud. I liken it to making a purchase from Amazon, instead of buying a CD or a book directly from the author on his website; sure, Amazon is convenient. You click, pay and your purchase is on its way (for free), but the behemoth business model is killing all the ma and pa stores and taking a huge percentage of sales while the authors get almost nothing. The artist then gets choked. In the movie business, great film makers are getting choked. They’re no longer given a shot because studios can clean-up with such huge profits all at once.

BU: So, how are we responsible for the fate of those film makers? And what can do to help?

SD: When you rush to see a movie on opening day, and pay money, you send a message to the businessmen that this is what we want…more Marvel, more DC. It’s like Pavlov’s dinner bell.  That’s why I said we need to think about the message we send with our cash. We are killing many film makers we once loved simply by not thinking about what we’re doing. When Steven Spielberg is ringing the alarm, saying that big tent pole movies are killing the craft, it’s time to pay attention to the call.

BU: But if people want to see the movies, there is no law against that. Everyone has a right to spend their money the way they like, right?

SD: True enough, but money matters. Where we spend it is a responsibility.

BU: This is eye opening and a little sobering.

SD: It should be. Storytelling is an art form, and when sequels are being pumped out as fast as the Flash can travel, then storytelling turns into a repetitive ritual. These movies are not written by human beings driven by passion and feelings, who have something to say to our humanity. These movies are concocted  by people in air-conditioned boardrooms, with spreadsheets.

BU: You do realize that some people may just call you a naysayer

SD: Of course they will, or worse, but some people may also say “Thank you for opening my eyes”. We use words like “comic book art” but there’s very little art left in the business. If you can be fired, it’s not art.

BU: I will be honest with you. I did not see this coming.

SD: That’s exactly my point. Some of the most damaging things we do, we do without realizing it.

BU: Are you saying we should never see Superhero movies?

SD: Not at all. I am saying we first need to be aware of the transformation that this new film churning is causing in film craft. The introduction of mega franchises has short-stopped an entire tradition in entertainment.

BU: Well, how we can change things?

SD: It’s rather simple. Rather than go to a movie on opening day, put off seeing it a week or two. It’s enough to impact the daily numbers and sends a message, because their decisions are based on opening weekend numbers. It’s just enough to shift the balance. And if we do, we might begin to see better storytelling given a chance to live, again…the kind of movies you want your kids to see because they are important to forming a profound sense of morality.

BU: What movies are you referring to specifically?

SD: Well, The Maltese Falcon, 2001, Fight Club, Vertigo, Die Hard, Doctor Zhivago, Matrix, …the movies that make everyone’s top 10 list, you know. The reason people actually love movies. Those reasons are not usually “Batman”, or “Spiderman”.

BU: What is the important message of the older movies?

SD: When you go back to the 1970’s, you had the opposite of Superheroes : Antiheroes, who were willing to risk it all for the greater good. Stories that dealt with the human condition. Even a disaster movie like Earthquake has a hero who commits a sacrifice. The polar opposite of what we see today. In the 80s, heroes began to create more destruction than the problem they came to fix. Now, heroes are more myth than reality.

I think that lasting stories are only the ones who raise our consciousness and open our hearts.

BU: What if you just go to just lose yourself in a movie…you’re not looking for the deeper soul meaning?

SD: That’s fine, too. What I am saying goes back to my original comment, however. We tell Hollywood what we want by how we spend our money. This is the best way of communicating this.

The irony of it all is that the original Superhero, Superman, was essentially stolen from its original creators, Seigel and Schuster. Their story is quite tragic, and DC hid the truth for a long time. If we’re interested in digging a little, the truth is out there.

BU: I have to admit this is very provocative and eye opening to say the least.

SD: You should look up Jerry Siegel’s story: how he tried to avenge his father’s death by creating “The Superman”:  he got tricked and DC got rich. That’s what we celebrate when we buy a ticket.

BU: Note to self * look up origin of Superman

(*noted below)

BU: I am aware of Joe Schuster and Jerry Seigel, however, but that’s another story. (*see below)

SD: I once heard this great line: “Salary is the money you are paid to abandon your dreams”. So, the moral of this story is that we have an obligation to society as a whole to become more aware of how our money changes things. And if we want real storytelling again, then we have to be willing to make a few small adjustments and it will happen.

BU: So, If You Build it, They Will Come? “.  *smiles.

SD: *laughs…yeah, something like that.