In 2015 the grand prize, Palme D’Or, of 68th Cannes International Film Festival was awarded to the social drama “Dheepan” with unanimous decision of the jury.

Lilith Sokhakyan, Paris-based correspondent of Kinoashkharh, has talked to young scriptwriter, co-author of the film “DheepanNoé Debré about the pleasant consequences of winning Palme D’Or, Coen brothers, Jacques Audiard and several professional subtleties.

“Noé, how did you decide to become a screenwriter?”

“It was due to Coen brothers. I was obsessed with their films. I remember it was 15-16 years ago that I realized that I wanted to do something in the cinema sphere. And as I was also fond of fiction the profession of the scriptwriter came to me automatically. At that time there were not many specialized school. Moving from Strasbourg to Paris firstly I gained some knowledge in this sphere, later I studied literature, Latin and philosophy at Sorbonne University. Certainly all that became a good basis for my future profession as a scriptwriter.”

“Was it unexpected for you to appear on Cannes red carpet as a winner?”

“When I was 20 years old I met Thomas Bidegain and became his student. He introduced me to Jacques Audiard and other prominent artists. First of all the cooperation with those people was unexpected and unbelievable for me. And Cannes Film Festival, of course, has a great symbolic significance in France and it is a great honor to appear there. The greatest artists of the sphere have worked on the film “Dheepan” and for whom Cannes Film festival is an ordinary event. Jacques Audiard’s all films have been submitted to different nominations of the film festival. I am a lucky person to work with them.”

“Has the Palme D’Or changed anything in your life?”

“It made me more self-confident. I make offers of cooperation more courageously to those scriptwriters or directors whom I have dreamed of working with. The prize won at Cannes Film Festival increases the attention towards your works. Recently I have sent an offer of cooperation to Thomas Vinterberg. I hope that it will work out.”


“The presidents of 68th Cannes Film Festival were Coen brothers. Did you manage to communicate with them?”

“Unfortunately very little. At the end of the festival an event was organized in honor of the winners. I saw them during that celebration. Joel was communicating with people, but Ethan was trying to avoid everyone. I was very excited but I controlled myself, approached Ethan, introduced myself and told him that I had become a screenwriter due to their films. He smiled and replied: “There is no need to thank me, we have probably screwed up your life (laughing).”

“The last film of Coen brothers entitled “Ave, César” touches upon the phenomenon of undeserved oblivion of a group of screenwriters. Is it so?”

“It is partially true. But I think this issue is more common to Hollywood where mainly producers and actors appear on the top of the world. The things are different in France. Here literature enjoys great respect. There is one thing that I like most about my profession: in case a film succeeds it not the screenwriter who appears in the center of attention and fame, but if the film fails to succeed he will surely not be among the first artists to pin blame on. A week director or bad actors will be criticized and few people will point out an incomplete script (laughing).”

“Finally, who is the real creator of the film eventually?”

“It is one of the most difficult questions. I totally agree to consider the director the creator of a film. But I think cinema is a collective art. If I am not mistaken David Fincher mentioned in one of his interviews that film making is like drawing, only in the former case you stand 50 meters from the picture and the brush is hold by 150 men. In fact a film is the result of endless discussions and collaboration between hundreds of people. But the bandleader is, of course, the director.”

“Do you prefer to work alone or with a team as a scriptwriter?”

“Team working has only positive sides. You learn a lot of new things during the process. Due to the discussion bad ideas immediately become obvious, whereas, when you work alone you spend a lot of energy, work out an idea that turns out to be silly the next day or some time later. Joint work helps to save time and energy.”

“Can a scriptwriter become a writer easily?”

“It is possible but it isn’t so easy. Both professions deal with writing but at the same time they are quite different from each other. For example I have a style of a scriptwriter, but I don’t have writer’s style. I think they should not be united. Sometimes I think of becoming a writer especially when I am fond of literature. But I don’t intend to turn a film script into a book and present it to the public judgement. Instead I would like to create something valuable. A book should be more than a pleasant reading.”

“What advice would you give to the young readers of Kinoashkharh?”

“There is a fundamental advice: if you feel that you can shoot a film, you should do it. Thanks to the limitless opportunities of the 21st century it is even possible to shoot a film by phone if there is a wish. 40 years ago that whole activity would cost much and would be difficult to implement, but now everything has changed. So the interested people should shoot a lot and, of course, shouldn’t wait for permission. I would also like to give a professional advice which I would like to have been given years ago. The cinema academy taught us that the film is based on a conflict and in order to develop the script we need to create contradictions. I have realized that in addition to the conflict the films is also interesting with its relations between the heroes: a character himself is not so interesting as his relationships with other characters. I think the script will not fail if that contact is dynamic.”

“It is also one of the important rules of fiction.”

“Yes, but the phenomenon of inner journey can be found in literature. The reader can enclose himself in the character’s head and only follow his thoughts during the whole book. Unfortunately one does not have access to that inner world in the film, only the outer form is available.”

“In the end let me ask you a few short questions. Which is the best film for Noé Debré?”

“It is certainly “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Miloš Forman.”

“To kill or to save the hero at the end of the film?”

“It is difficult to answer that question. For example we were accused of “a happy ending” regarding “Dheepan”. But Jacques Audiard has an interesting interpretation related to that issue. The death of the leading hero at the end of the film indicates the incomplete work of the scriptwriter. Writing a happy ending requires greater efforts. I prefer to give the hero something that he hasn’t even wanted in the end. As the song You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones puts it “whatever we want and whatever we actually need are two completely different things. I am for such endings.”

“When hearing the word Armenia what is the first thing that comes to your mind?”

“Unfortunately the first thing is the genocide. The Armenian community is so big in France. Then, of course, Charles Azynavour (laughing).”

“Have you already found your formula of happiness?”

“Frankly speaking, I have stopped looking for it.”

Lilith Sokhakyan

Special for Kinoashkharh