To embody the message – POOL dives deeper with Emilie Lesgourgues

To embody the message
POOL dives deeper with Emilie Lesgourgues

Emilie Lesgourgues and her team’s two films Drifted (2023) and
Thunder Between Us (2022) have been screened at POOL festival.


Article by Silja Tuovinen
Images from the archive of Emilie Lesgourgues


Perhaps a familiar 90’s children’s experience: sitting at the back of the parents’ car, travelling somewhere, listening to music and letting imagination run wild. This is one of the oldest memories Emilie Lesgourgues, a French director and post-productionist, can dig up when trying to understand her love and need for making films. “I’d say my desire to make films came from music, from long car journeys as a child to see my grandparents or great-grandparents. We were always listening to music in the car, and I was watching the scenery go by – I know, it sounds cliché and cheesy – but I was imagining stories and situations.”

Around the time of those car rides Emilie, started to discover music videos, at first secretly during the night on TV and later more actively through the access offered by the internet. Music videos were now able to be repeated and obsessed over, including also the infamous videos of cats and of people falling. Emilie herself fell in love with music videos by directors such as Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, Michel Gondry, Anton Corbijn and Tamra Davis. For her this discovery of music videos was a remarkable one: “I said to myself, that’s what I want to do!”

Not having any equipment for doing her own filming, Emilie found a way to download and gather clips and play around with editing to her favourite songs. And there you go, a practice was born. Today Emilie lives in Paris, and after working for several years in post-production for commercials, music videos and cinematic fiction, she continues, in parallel, to direct her own commercials, music videos and experimental projects.

From the making of Drifted (2023)

Knowing what a vision requires technically

Depending on the way you shoot or the technique you use you’re not telling the same story

After high school Emilie chose, what could be pointed out as a “wise decision” to study editing and post-production, while in the back of her head also desiring of a career as a film director. Emilie tells me “I decided to go down this path of study, because I wanted to be able to take control of any stage in the production of my projects, to be able to finalize my films. For me, editing was the closest thing to directing I could get to.”

When Emilie today has a vision, she knows exactly what is required of it technically, and how those technical decisions are also part of telling the story. ”Depending on the way you shoot or the technique you use you’re not telling the same story” Emilie tells me. Knowing technique as thoroughly as Emilie does helps her in knowing all that is possible in filmmaking. “I know what I want. I sometimes have a 40-pages document with references for everything the: the light, the make-up, the set design, the music, the camera movements – everything. It is important for the team to be on the same page.”

Learning directing came as a byproduct for Emilie during her studies as she discovered different techniques and methods through working on different projects, rubbing shoulders with directors and asking them questions. Emilie discovered that “in reality, I don’t think there’s an instruction manual for directing, I think each director has his or her own method.”

When Emilie is not shooting a film, which is a point of great frustration for her, she turns to obsess over images and work with photography projects: “every day, I feed myself with images.” Then again when Emilie is working on her projects she could spend hours, days or weeks on the same image to achieve the result she has in mind. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s like a kind of meditation for me.”

From the making of Drifted (2023)

Filmmaker’s admiration on dance

Watching Emilie’s films offers a filmmaker’s view on how to use dance and movement in the storytelling of a film. In somewhat similar style to some character-driven music videos, Emilie’s films have a personality around whom the film’s theme revolves. Emilie reflects on having clear character in the film by stating that “I think it comes from a need to have somebody in the project to hold or embody the message.”

This question of embodiment of message is where dance and movement really come into play as a method of storytelling. “I’m convinced that you can express absolutely anything through movement. It’s an infinite source to explore.” Emilie ponders that it might be easier for her to connect with dance film than film with dialogue in it, and that this might be an experience shared more widely with people. “I often choose to work on the theme of dance and movement, because it’s something that moves me enormously, it makes me feel all kinds of emotions, and it’s a subject I’m particularly sensitive and attentive to.”

For me, it’s a different kind of writing, one that’s less conventional, perhaps with fewer rules, less framed, which makes the process freer

But how does one go about planning and writing dance film as compared to narrative film? Emilie shares her view: “for me, it’s a different kind of writing, one that’s less conventional, perhaps with fewer rules, less framed, which makes the process freer. For me, writing movement means first linking it to a sound, then cutting it up narratively to make sure it’s consistent with my story, and then thinking visually, how to capture the movement technically. I’ll then think about what type of camera and what movements to use to best accompany this dance.”

In the film Drifted (2023) Emilie wanted to tell the story of how the body reacts to a situation that is too difficult to bear emotionally. In making the film she was searching for corporality, intimacy and a perfect balance between image and sound.

During the shoot Emilie played a music playlist with different pieces expressing different emotions, and Aloise Sauvage, the choreographer and dancer, followed this thread. “I let her translate the music with her body, the pieces followed one another, and it was as if they were having a conversation with her body. I’m passionate about music and I’m keen to create images that elevate the music without taking its place.”

For Emilie it is never just a question of getting a performer to do some dance: “it’s essential to connect the dancer deeply with the character he or she is called upon to embody. I think this approach is in line with narrative cinema. It’s imperative that the link between the performer and the proposed character be strong. To achieve this, it’s necessary to work the character in tandem with the choreography, positions in space, body expressions, staging, technique and other aspects. Without this solid link, it’s impossible to connect and share with the audience.”

From the making of Drifted (2023). On the left director Emilie Lesgourgues, on the right choreographer and dancer Aloise Sauvage.

Translating from the heart

Let us imagine again little Emilie at the backseat of her parent’s car listening to music, gazing at the scenery, deep in her imagination. Emilie reflects today: “the real beauty of filmmaking lies in the ability to translate an idea you hold close to your heart and share it with others – to federate, connect and give birth to a powerful work. That’s where the beauty lies for me. If my projects have the power to move people as they have moved me, that’s a fundamental achievement in my eyes.”


*Born in Bordeaux, France in 1991
*Currently lives and works in Paris
*Studied editing and post-production in Bordeaux
*Directed experimental films, music videos and commercials
*Next to her work as a director she also works with luxury companies in post-production
*Favourite film: Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire
*Work examples:
The Reebok Club C Vegan campaign (director)
Mntclva’s video clip, 31 st Century (director)
Odezenne – Vilaine (editor)
Ocean Niagara – M83 (editorial assistant)
Orelsan BTS tour 2022(director)