Interview: Serge Ioan Celebidachi & James Olivier
Interview done by Helen Wheels
Serge Ioan Celebidachi and James Olivier’s feature-length script, “Where Do the Clouds Go?” is a story about an afternoon bike ride that ends in tragedy when Dan, a happy-go-lucky young-teen, gets into serious accident that leaves him in a coma.
Dan’s body is walking a thin line between life and death, in the intensive care unit of a Bucharest hospital, while his soul weighs the consequences to determine whether the fight to stay alive is worth the struggle.
“Where Do the Clouds Go?” is a page-turner. I enjoyed the read and the concept, and I’m excited to find out more!
1. Where did you all grow up? What influenced you to become a writer?
We both grew up in Paris, France.
SC: I grew up in Paris in a very visual and dynamic environment, being the son of a painter and a musician. Thus, imaginary worlds were part of my childhood. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to write stories. And I felt very compelled to write them visually as much as with words.
JO: I was born in London and moved to Paris when I was 11 years old. That’s when Serge and I met. I did not come from a particularly artistic family but fell in love with movies at a young age. Writing was a means to an end, the end being making films.
2. How did you meet? What was the first project you worked on together?
SC: We actually went to school together in Paris. At age 15, my father brought me back from Japan the latest Video 8 Sony video camera, which we immediately used to film our first short film called “Toi” (“You”). At the time, we both were taking acting classes in our spare time. Thus, the obvious choice was for James to act in the film while I would try and start my dream job: direct it.
3. How does the process of writing a script differ with a partner as opposed to writing alone?
SC: Writing alone can be very lonely and dangerously self-centered in my humble view. I personally enjoy picking the brain of a colleague I highly respect. I almost would not consider this exercise possible without James these days. Beyond a fundamental trust and a deep degree of analysis which I have found in him, we seem to complement each other rather well. Dialogues come alive better when a certain “ping-pong” between the parties while the overall impact is always measured carefully by each of us throughout the writing process. Perhaps, sharing similar life philosophies does help as well.
4. Celebidachi directed, “Octav”, the last film that you wrote together. Is that the same plan for “Where Do The Clouds Go”? How do you decide who will Direct, and what role does the other writer take, if any during the production?
SC: Yes possibly. I personally do write with images in my mind. So does James I believe. Thus, I would not be surprised if James makes the jump one day as well. We do share many visuals references obviously. Regarding “Clouds”, I believe James is tempted to step up into production and endorse the executive producer’s suit to strengthen further our collaborative efforts.
JO: The difference being that Serge is a highly trained and qualified director while I am not! What I can do is offer my vision and opinion on certain aspects, including interpretations of the screenplay, although Serge and I are usually on the same page in that regard. I also spent part of my career as an actor and can bring my perspective from a performer’s point of view.
5. “Where Do the Clouds Go?” seems as if it could be based on a true story. Was there a specific experience that sparked the concept? How did you build upon the initial idea?
SC: The story is closely based on the tragic story of a close friend of mine. We even took and integrated his own poems in the script. The irony is that he does not see it as a sad event but as a blessing to be reborn again. Thus, we tried to honor that idea by sharing his undisputed love for life above all as well as his sincere desire to help the society he lives in to become better.
JO: Speaking with the man whose experience this story is based on is quite inspiring. He sees life with a very unusual perspective; innocent naivety mixed with disarming depth and wisdom. As if he had been places and seen things that nobody else has. This has very much flavored the tone and the intended look of the story.
6. What sort of device would you use as a director to differentiate the physical world from that of the alternate reality where Dan’s soul resides? What are the clues in the script?
SC: Our first draft was originally called “Shadow’s Light” and suggests immediately a play between light and shade. Striking images, full of contrast will be found in Dan’s mind while the reality is duller and cruder. In addition, while Dan fights to come back to life in a “traditional” narrative (horizontal) progression, he seems to remain “frozen” in the coma, as indicated by the different time references, which creates a parallel vertical reality.
7. Dan’s mentor in the spirit realm is “The Guide of the Premises”. Please describe how you envision this character (human, spirit, etc), and the role he plays in Dan’s ultimate decision. What is his goal for Dan?
SC: Perhaps the less we (the writers) say about him the more relevant he actually becomes. He should be what each reader – eventually each viewer – sees in him. Could he be God, maybe Death, or a ghost, a delirium, or even an alter ego or just the materialization of Dan’s deepest wish: to have someone come at his rescue asap? At the end, Dan has to face his own choices and it is him who chooses life and makes his own discoveries.
JO: While Serge and I may have our own interpretations of who/what/why the Guide of the Premises is, he must remain a character that allows for each reader’s set of beliefs, philosophies and sensitivities. He is whoever YOU think he is.
8. What lesson do you hope to teach your audience?
SC: To teach would presume to be a teacher, which sounds pretentious and far from our intent. If anything, we are here to pass a touching story that advocates life as its main prerogative and reminds us perhaps that we all somehow touch other people’s lives and therefore each and every life on the earth has its place and meaningful experiences to share.
Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications. Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.