Filmmaker and actress Mieke Daneels is an artist who gives her whole self to what she does. She undresses all that is not real to her artistic and self-revealing work. A confession as an experimental poem. With "Rouge", she won the prizes as finalist for Best Script for an Experimental Feature Film, semi-finalist for Best Actress in an Experimental Feature Film, and finalist for Best Soundtrack in an Experimental Feature Film.
You ask me to tell your readers a little bit about myself.
And ask me some questions…
Rouge was finalist as best screenplay and soundtrack, did you expect these results?
What were the main motivations behind the creation of Rouge?
Why did you choose experimental cinema instead of something more conventional?
The selection of the soundtrack also earned Rouge a distinct classification. Please tell us about it.
Your performance in Rouge was incredibly immersive. Were you ever afraid of exposing yourself emotionally in such a raw and vulnerable manner?
What was the most challenging part of producing Rouge?
What is your main objective as a filmmaker?
What do you consider unforgivable for a filmmaker?
What is your greatest fear as a filmmaker?
What are you top 5 favorite films?
Who is your favorite filmmaker, and what would you ask them if you met them in person?)
There are those days when I live from my bed, especially when I need concentration.
A coloring book and lots of clothes in the closet and scattered around the room. There is a gentle breeze, you can hear it from the rustling of the leaves of the large fig tree, which is almost growing through the window of the room. I believe it's the largest fig tree in Belgium and the surrounding area, definitely in Ghent, where I live, in the middle of the city, with my 4 children and pets. It's a busy affair (it can be) in the middle of an oasis of calm in the city. It sounds contradictory but feels very natural.
The dog lies next to me on the yellow carpet, her legs stretched out, her long ears tucked between her legs, and her snout resting on the soft wool of the carpet. She always seeks my presence, she is like my shadow.
She looks thoughtfully at my latte, which has now turned lukewarm, as I had forgotten that it was next to me; I was distracted by a new art idea (film/drawing/construction/sculpture) in my head. That's how it went with Rouge, my third film, my second feature film. Intuitively starting from an idea in my head.
It was the Corona era. We were isolated, with few social contacts or interactions. The world became small, even though it was a global epidemic. We were forced to face ourselves. I entered into dialogue with myself. Discovered my other voices. And found a story in it that I wanted to tell. A creative process to give the feeling a place. To express my own (or others') sorrows and worries in life through visual language. As a means of processing, as comfort, as empathy in the form of a poetic visual language. About loneliness, being alone, and yet not being alone, because we consist of various characters. Our voices that guide us and influence us throughout our lives. Connected to that is motherhood. The surreal fact that we share a body with our baby, pregnancy and then giving it away again, the birth. I searched in my image bank (on my computer) for how I would tell this story. I created puzzle pieces. I made an image collage and looked for music (FMA, free music archive) to accompany it or vice versa, when I find music that gives me a certain feeling that I want to convey, I search for images. I work associatively. I make connections between sound and image that ultimately tell the story. Nothing is predetermined. The film is formed gradually, and when the puzzle pieces fall into place and the puzzle/the image is formed, I create the dialogue. I use words to say what I want to say. That's why I always work with voiceovers in my films. The dialogue comes last. This method/sequence of the process in making my films suits me best and feels like a very natural process. This approach could be called experimental; in my case, it was not consciously chosen but it came about naturally. I also haven't studied film. That's why this way of working is my own. It may have an experimental character because it deviates from a standard production process... but for me, it feels very natural and personal.
For me, something more conventional would feel experimental... and forced. That's why I wouldn't talk about a (conscious) choice to work experimentally. I'm also not sure if I would label my films as experimental; I prefer not to put a name on them.
I use my environment and surroundings as props in my films. I see myself the same way, as a prop in my film, I use myself to convey a mood, a story. I objectify myself and become a tool, in this case as an actress, to tell a story. That's why I don't feel vulnerable even though I dare to openly express myself in acting/performing. I don't see it as myself, but rather as becoming an object, I objectify myself. My children and pets also have to endure being my props. They are my source of inspiration, and I enjoy capturing them on film. They play a role in all of my films. However, they are not actors and have no ambitions in that regard. I also objectify them and distance myself from them during filming or editing. This allows me to do the editing work. I create distance from myself. It's not about me or them. While the story, the atmosphere I want to show, indeed comes from my living reality or fantasy. If you are open to life, you will find a tremendous amount of poetry in it, even though it can be very raw and heartbreaking. I continue to find this beautiful and fascinating. That's what I want to show in my films/work. I don't want to tell a defined story, but rather convey moods or feelings and situations taken from life that touch me and that I want to express/process through visual language, mainly through film or drawings. I create, and my audience is free to interpret my images. I only provide them with a guide. I create puzzle pieces for myself and my audience; we solve the puzzle in our own way. The soundtrack is therefore important in my work. It enhances the images, even if it often presents a contradiction between music and visuals, but that makes it interesting and creates the right feeling that I want to achieve. Life often feels contradictory to me, which feels very natural. Juxtaposition is a core concept in my work as a filmmaker. It is my visual language to convey something. Because I like to tell something with my films, even if it's in a very subtle way without imposing the story on my audience. That's why I consider the recognition as a finalist for Best Screenplay and Soundtrack to be particularly important! I could only hope for it, but it was beyond my expectations. I'm very happy that I have been able to reach my audience! It gives me courage to continue working based on my feelings, through associations and intuition, by means of juxtaposition.
I see film as an art form that combines image, sound, and language. As a filmmaker, my intention is to convey something by combining these three elements. I want to evoke a feeling or touch people. By using juxtaposition, placing sound and images as contrasting elements side by side, bringing them together, we can reveal the similarities and differences, and confront the audience with a certain feeling/atmosphere. This makes film as a visual language very captivating and poetic, and that's what I want to achieve as a filmmaker. It would be frustrating for me to create a work that doesn't evoke much emotion. To come in and leave without being deeply moved. For me, a good film can lie in something small, a good dialogue, a beautiful performance, a poignant scene, an unexpected plot, a unique story, a strong soundtrack, styling, settings, props... the feeling it leaves with me... Comfort, joy, new hope, recognition.
I get choice stress when I have to list my favorite films. Over the years, I've seen a lot of great films. Films that have touched me in one way or another.
A short list of films that come to mind right now: "Swimming Pool" by François Ozon, "Sweetie" by Jane Campion, "I Killed My Mother" by Xavier Dolan, "Fargo" by the Coen Brothers, "Dancer in the Dark" by Lars Von Trier, "Pina" by Wim Wenders, "Triangle of Sadness" and "The Square" by Ruben Östlund, "Aftersun" by Charlotte Wells, "AN APPROPRIATED SELF-PORTRAIT" by Maria José Alós...
And if I were to encounter one of my film heroes, I'm afraid I would be too shy to even look in their direction. It's a shame to be so shy... but if it were different, I would undoubtedly ask them if I could have a small role (as a prop ) in their work. In any case, it would be fantastic to be on set, observing how they work. And if I had even more courage, I would ask them to play a role in my film. That would be fun, if I ever overcome my shyness and timidity.
I don't attach any importance to the technical aspect of a film, whether it's well-made or not. Personally, the technical aspect is mediocre in my work, partly because I don't attach much importance to it and overlook it. It doesn't determine whether I love a film or not. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate craftsmanship; it's just not a requirement for me. For me, it's mostly about the poetry that can be found in the film in various ways...
There's a quote from an artist (can't remember who) that stuck with me... "I'm not a politician who needs a majority." This gives me so much freedom and motivation to continue creating in my work, whether it's in my films, drawings, or renovations...
This makes creating, filmmaking, and producing a game and at the same time my hobby and passion. For me, producing "Rouge" was about playing and enjoying... The only aspect of producing that doesn't suit me is selling and convincing people of my work and my vision of my process. And then putting it all into proposals to get subsidies/income/money/collaboration. That's why I make my films without financial means, it gives me freedom in my being and creating, which is a priority for me. The challenging part of producing a film, for me, is selling it, which is why film festivals like yours are crucial for me. Networking is terrible for me because of my damn shyness, almost bordering on being averse to people... although I do enjoy being in a crowd. There's another contradiction.