Scad Lacoste

“I’m vey optimistic about kids, generally,” said Miranda Richardson, a few hours before receiving the Etolie Award at the SCAD Lacoste Film Festival. “I think they’re great communicators and they seem to be more caring and aware of all sorts of things, and speaking out much more than any of us ever did.”

The Crying Game and Harry Potter star was speaking with MovieMaker in the library of the Maison Basse (French for “low house”) of the SCAD Lacoste grounds, in a building that was a former gambling den of the Marquis de Sade. The southern France location now includes the lush poolside lawn where the festival played films including Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black, Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, and Robert Altman’s Kansas City, which counts the prolific Richardson among its stars.

The audiences included Savannah College of Art and Design students, visiting for the summer from the SCAD campus in Savannah, as well as in-the-know members of the general public, who were welcome to join the free screenings.

Among those who dropped in for the Back to Black showing were Taylor-Johnson’s husband, actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who gamely posed for photos with students and SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace, as well as writer-actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her partner, Oscar winning playwright-screenwriter-director Martin McDonagh.

Miranda Richardson, left, receives the SCAD Lacoste Etolie Award. Courtesy of SCAD Lacoste.

The young people Richardson praised as great communicators were also great listeners throughout the fest, absorbing talks with Richardson, Gladiator costume designer Janty Yates, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Jeunet, in which they shared their advice about breaking into filmmaking.

SCAD — one of MovieMaker‘s stop film schools — teaches not just film but acting, photography, fashion, and a slew of other professions, so students enjoyed cross-discipline insights as well as fun anecdotes and repartee.

Yates, who won an Oscar for Gladiator and received SCAD’s Lifetime Achievement in Costume Design Award, gave the students some frank advice that applies to all careers in the arts:

“Designers sleep under their cutting tables when they don’t have anywhere else to sleep,” she said.

She advised them “to be very willing” to do what they need to do to break in and make a name for themselves, and to accept that it will involve some struggle.

SCAD Lacoste Grounds Students in History, With an Eye on the Future

The advice may have made the students all the more grateful to be spending the summer in a gorgeous mediterranean village in France’s Provence, a sun-kissed region known for lavender and cherry trees.

Janty Yates speaks to students at SCAD Lacoste. Courtesy of SCAD Lacoste.

Some of the SCAD classrooms and ateliers, or studios, are carved out of caves in the village of Lacoste, which ascends to a castle that is the former home of not only de Sade but also fashion designer Pierre Cardin. Fashion’s influence on Lacoste is everywhere, including in a SCAD exhibit, which drew a steady stream of tourists, dedicated to designer Jean Paul Gaultier’s artistic give and take with cinema. (The town, amusingly, has no relationship to the menswear brand.)

The castle was in magnificent view if you glanced to the right of the Maison Basse screen. And, just before the screening of Amelie, attendees were also blessed with a view of a double rainbow. Two lavender fields welcome visitors to Maison Basse. There is no overselling the natural and crafted beauty of Lacoste.

Jeunet, known for dystopian films like Delicatessen and City of Lost Children prior to the sunniness of 2001’s Amelie, brought things back to human scale with a charming recollection of how he delayed paying his taxes to pay for his first short film. He told the tax accessors he needed more time to pay, used the money to make his movie, and paid them back with the profits.

But he also reminded audience of his willingness to share flights of fancy, telling his audience that despite appearances, “I am Amelie.” He received the Auteur Award.

Taylor-Johnson’s film may have had the most obvious resonance for SCAD students, as it is the story of an artist, Winehouse, who is finding her astonishing voice. The director told MovieMaker she believed Winehouse’s artistry had been overshadowed by the tabloid fixation on the alcoholism that killed her at only 27.

Sam Taylor-Johnson, recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in Directing Award, stands alongside a lavender field with the village of Lacoste in the background. Courtesy of SCAD Lacoste.

“One of the things I wanted to remind people of, in a sense, is that she was so incredible creatively, and although her flame burned fast and short, I wanted to remind everyone of her brilliance,” said Taylor-Johnson, who received the Outstanding Achievement in Directing Award. “Because I felt like the tragedy of what happened to her and her mental health and addiction issues have really eclipsed her brilliance.”

The changes in the film industry are obvious and can seem overwhelming to people who grew up with film, and watching movies in theaters, and analog approaches to making art.

The medieval surroundings of SCAD Lacoste are a constant reminder of how much has changed in the last few centuries, and how the changes seem to accelerate every day: The former castle of de Sade was luxuriantly updated with impeccable furnishings during Cardin’s stay there, and is now a tourist destination that played over the speakers, during our visit, Taylor Swift.

But as Richardson noted, the passage of time doesn’t feel so pronounced to those who have lived through less or it. Which means SCAD students and other rising filmmakers don’t have to adapt from the past so much as they need to plan for the future.

“The good thing is that anyone coming into the profession now only knows what they know. So they don’t say, “Oh, it used to be like this…” — they’re just getting on with it. And there’s a fantastic resilience there.”

Main image: A screening of Gladiator at SCAD Lacoste. Courtesy of SCAD Lacoste.