He is one of the rare French people who has made a name for himself thanks to the production of series. David Hourreguepresident of the jury of the short format contest, he is a regular at the festival hobby series. In 2019 he caused a sensation with the team of shame of france, of which he directed the first six seasons for France.tv Slash. In 2021, the series Germinal, which he directed for France Télévisions, aroused great emotion during its world premiere in the old mining town of Wallers Arenberg. The standing ovation from the audience at the end of the first two episodes, each lasting 52 minutes, matched the generosity and sincerity of the director, who won the audience award at the Lille-Hauts de France festival. At 43, he talks to 20 minutes of his trade, with the ardor of a twentysomething.
In the face of a plethora of series, what makes a series stand out?
Today, we cannot consider the analysis of the world of series without taking into account the plethoric side of the offer. A good series, today more than ever, is a series that does not deny its nature and that goes to the bottom of its note of intention from the stylistic point of view. Half measures are no longer the key word. There is alleged cynicism in Successionthe knightly peaks in game of Thronesthe romantic in The Bridgerton Chronicle. People want real proposals. So the half-fig, half-grape period of trying to please as many people as possible has passed.
Why distinguish between short and long format series? Does this distinction seem relevant to you?
No, it is absolutely irrelevant. And I lived it, I realized Germinal and Pity. When Pity It blew up in its season 3, very objectively, it was hard to miss the series. We asked ourselves this question with the jury of short formats. We are supposed to judge with great benevolence the works done to provoke a vibration in us. We understand the concern for the legibility of the festival to be categorized, but we see that there are different formats within the short format. And we realize that we will judge these works by the same criteria as for a long series. Did I vibrate? Spoke to me? Was I impressed by the performance? Did I understand the process? Did I get carried away? Simply. I agree with you, but I understand why and how.
There is a series that you did that we know less about, it’s “Cut”, was this experience a good lesson for you?
After making my short film, where I had given everything I had, my money, my time, my energy and my faith, I was hoping that it would catch the attention of certain producers, who are talking to me today. And Terence Films are the only ones that came, except for a few pubs. When Terence Films came along with this project, I was a bit unsettled at first. I can’t find myself there, there isn’t a sequence that I would have wanted to bring to the screen on my own. But I found such sincerity in the approach and such joy in doing what they were doing, that I completely took my side. It was also a call to humility. I said to myself: “If that is all we offer you at the moment, it is because you cannot claim anything else”. I took this as an amazing opportunity. I had 7-8 sequences a day to shoot. When I got to the set, I said to myself: “This sequence doesn’t speak to you right now “T”, but what are you going to be able to find so that it speaks to the actor, to the editor, so that it speaks to you as a director and takes you to the viewer? “When you shoot seven sequences a day, you have to be very fast and make the best decisions in the shortest possible time. In the end, I still have an incredible tenderness for what is sometimes noted as a series of flows.” court He taught me 80% of what I do today.
Do you feel freer when you’re self-taught and haven’t gone to film school?
On the set, when the pressure is enormous like in GerminalI tell the teams, “We’re doing something magical. “Obviously when you have a €12m budget on your shoulders, the pressure reminds you of that, but I think I walk into the set every day knowing how far you’ve come to get, how lucky this one is. I walked out on the starting line, surrounded by people I thought were much more talented than me, and today I’m doing the job I dreamed of. It took a lot of perseverance. And yes, it is a freedom, even creative. I always tell myself: “If you are here it is because we trust you, so express yourself! “. The worst thing would be to have taken this path and finally be satisfied with following the line.
Is the opposition between cinema and series still relevant?
Five years ago, my agent advised me to make a feature film after Pity. I had offers. But the horizon line has changed. Making a series is as valid and important as making a first film today. We are talking about creativity and the freedom to search. In terms of media, the borders are thinner than ever. When you make a first feature film, if you do it well, you will have between 1.5 million and 2 million euros to do it. It is strange to say that 1.5 million euros is the normal budget for a 52-minute episode. I want to believe in a kind of wheel of time. People there are addicted to series… I admit to being very sensitive and currently in high demand for a shorter experience. Finding the intensity of cinema in the series, that’s all we’re looking for. There is not a note of intention that I see today that does not speak of a series with a cinematographic vocation.
We have the impression that the writers have taken over the world of series, how do you live with that?
I believe in collective strength. Not long ago, in movies, it was “a production of,” with the writer’s name and the director’s name in smaller letters. It is consistent, the producer is the one who creates the equation that leads to this. Producers are often identified as talent scouts, people who resource talent, but it takes talent to create this equation. Every day I see series saved in the editing bank and that we pay more attention to the authors, and that is normal. But what would stop the publishers, when everyone agrees this is the project’s third script, from claiming the same exposure soon? I always find it hard not to see something rather selfish in it. I understand that someone who has been invisible wants to appear. But the reality of creating a series, a film or any artistic work is always much more complex. Yes, it is a delicate subject. The reality is that we all work together and the teams that work best together often end up with the best project.
Would you see yourself directing just one episode of a series?
It’s funny, because they’re offering it to me right now. It’s complicated, it would have to be a very special series for me to go there. I never had that relationship… Otherwise, I wouldn’t have stayed three years later. PityI would not have followed Germinal, when they offered me Mixed. What made the difference was that they told me: “You come and take over the series.” I need this freedom instead of wondering if I’m going to mess with the codes too much. Intervening as a special guest in episodes is not my priority at the moment.
What marks your style?
It is constantly evolving. The reality is that I approach all my sequences with complete sincerity. I show the events, the looks, as I see them on a day-to-day basis. In Skam, the sequences of kisses or love impulses that have remained in the collective imagination, there is nothing to manipulate there, I only brought to the screen the vision I had, as an adolescent, of those moments larger than life. I try to listen to myself. I am not fixed on a particular grammar. Jean-Pierre Jeunet recently said that having too strong a style was the best way to become a past. I want to believe that history imposes itself on me, we return to the importance of the authors. I love being challenged by a story, feeling in danger, that’s what makes me more creative.
Victor Hugo said: “Form is from below what rises to the surface”…
It’s one of my hobbies!
What series have blew your mind lately in terms of production?
I was very impressed with the pilot, exclusively the pilot, of yellow jackets, an outstanding director and writer. The object is quite impressive, there is nothing to beat it, American know-how brought to its climax. I am in love with the performances of the actors of Succession. Even if I find season 3 to be a sin of pride, it was necessary to stop at the absolutely insane season 2 finale. But, we must continue, it is capitalism. Perhaps that is the problem with the series, knowing when to stop. I recently discovered the first three seasons of game of Thrones, wondering why people had become so addicted and, more importantly, why such a large audience had become addicted. Even if the series is quite macho in its first seasons, I was still quite impressed by this work that exudes craftsmanship. I like to feel like a lot of people sat around the table wondering how to make the best series possible. And I can feel it miles away.
What are your future projects?
For months I have been developing a project very close to my heart that takes place at the beginning of the 14th century, about the Middle Ages seen through a female gaze. And I can assure you that we are not far from the project of my life!