After seeing Kasia Dietz’s post about Jennifer Fox Geraghty’s project, “L’Amour (Or Less…),” I was incredibly intrigued by the title. What does that mean, love (or less…)?
L’Amour (Or Less…) is a web series in the making that shows a variety of answers to the question, “What happens when people from two different cultures try to form a romantic connection?” Jennifer, an American expat screenwriter and actress in Paris, and her talented team reenact true-life dating stories between an expatriate and a Frenchman or woman. Aren’t you curious to see what it’s really like to date a French person?
Here is the description of the first episode as seen on the website: “The pilot episode tells the story of Jane (an expat) and Pierre (a Frenchman) who meet in a champagne bar and… well, perhaps they find love, perhaps they find disaster, perhaps the truth is somewhere in between. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer for coffee to discuss her web series. She is smart, articulate, and hilarious! On top of that, you can see her passion, talent, and dedication to her project, which is currently on Kickstarter fundraising for the pilot episode. I’ll give you the link to donate now because I am absolutely certain that you will want to support this artistic endeavor.
My interview with Jennifer was so much fun. Hope you enjoy getting to know this fabulous artist and her incredible project as much as I did!
Why did you come to Paris?
I was on my way to Prague to look for a location for a script I had written. That fell through, so instead I came to Paris for a week. There was something about it that felt like home, like I was supposed to be here. I found myself writing all the time. I thought, anywhere where I can write this easily, I should be.
Did you have any second thoughts when you were back in New York after this trip?
No hesitation. I leap before I look. I went back home, knowing for sure that I wanted to move, and I looked into how to do that.
[A full explanation of how to apply for visas and her experiences with the application process can be found in detail on her blog, Jennyphoria.]
When did “L’Amour (Or Less…)” come about?
I spent the first year here writing. I wrote two feature-length screenplays. I was feeling very proud and accomplished because it’s a lot of work. The problem is that after you’ve written a screenplay, you’re like, “OMG, I finished it!” And your friends are like, “Greaaaat! Can I see it?” The problem is if I show you my screenplay, it’s not interesting, unless you’re used to reading screenplays. It’s a weird format; it’s strictly visual. You never write about what anyone is thinking. It’s all dialogue and pictures. I would describe what we’re saying, wearing, what our gestures are. But it’s strictly visual. What you’re thinking right now, I wouldn’t write. I’d say “She’s watching her intently.” It’s not fluid. It’s not like reading a novel where you see the pictures in your head, and you’re in another world. It’s a bit more disjointed. The purpose of writing a screenplay is not for you to read it but to see it. So there’s a disconnect there where I’ve written these things but I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to show it to you.
It was a combination of the fact that I really wanted to show somebody something right away. I wanted to have something tangible that I had done. I wanted to show that I’d been doing something with this visa that I’d just been given, coupled with the fact that dating here is ridiculous, and I have all of these stories and my friends have all of these stories. I thought, in my personal life, I’ve been dating and figuring everything out, and my friends are, too. And I thought, why not put these two things together? So that’s how it happened.
So all of these are true stories?
The stories are mine and my friends’. They’re all true. There are twelve in the season, some are expat women and French men, expat men and French woman, and some homosexual stories.
I am fascinated by the cultural differences between us. I didn’t realize how American I was until I went on a date with a Frenchman. I had my assumptions and he had his and they were not the same.
What assumptions in particular?
All sorts of things. Tiny little things that you don’t think about, that you don’t realize.
I just started talking to my friends about it, and I would hear about their dates. Some of the stories were really awful and funny, and some of them were super romantic and lovely. Once I decided that I was going to do this series, I started asking my friends, “Tell me about a date that you’ve had. Tell me about one that was really terrible or one that was really romantic or one that was just really weird.” People love to talk about this stuff, so I got some great stories.
What are some of your favorites or little details that were standouts from the series?
Well, I’d rather not give too much away but what I really like is that they’re almost all unpredictable. At the end of every episode, we are going to say what actually happened in real life after the date.
Bicyclist and Mime from the pilot episode of “L’Amour (Or Less…)”
People are really going to love that. We need closure!
Right. Exactly. What I like about it is that people will see this really lovely wonderful romantic date, and then at the end we’ll see they never saw each other again. Or you’ll see this really horrible terrible tragic date, and they’ve been married for eight years. And I like that. Or sometimes you’ll think one thing is happening, and it’s really something completely different. But that’s exactly what the person who was in that experience experienced. So that’s what I like. I like that it’s shocking and confusing and bizarre – just like it really is.
That’s great because you’re actually living it with them then!
People have so many stereotypes about the French. People are fascinated by the French, Parisians in particular, and romance and what it means. They think that they’re either super romantic like the first guy (in the promo video) or total jerks like the second guy. And I’ve had people come up to me and ask me, “So what’s the truth? What do you really think? What’s the answer?” And there’s no answer. Everybody is different. That’s why it’s fascinating. Because there are some cultural things that are maybe true across the board but everybody is different and every story is different and they’re all interesting in their own way. That’s why it’s fascinating to me.
I like that I can’t show you an entire relationship in five minutes. I get to show you one experience, and then you know what happens because that’s how real life goes.
Will you ever have a part one or part two or interconnected stories, like in Love Actually?
Each story is one episode. No, because they’re true. I don’t want to orchestrate it. Sometimes people tell me, “Oh what if this happened? Or wouldn’t it be cool if that happened?” Unless it really happens, I don’t want it to be in there. I don’t want to manipulate anything. I take the true story, and I dramatize them. I ask the person, “What did you really say? What really happened?” If they have that information, I’ll use it. I’ll dramatize it a little bit and make up the dialogue but it’s what happened. I don’t want to make anything up; I don’t want to contrive anything. If you met at this restaurant, but we can’t film there, we’ll film at another restaurant. I’m okay with changing that. But I am not going to change anything significant. It’s important to the story that it be real; I think that’s what interesting about it. So no, there’d be no way to do the Love Actually bit, although I love that movie.
Are most of the stories in the series intercultural?
They’re all intercultural. It’s always an expatriate and a French person, and the expatriate can be from anywhere. That makes it more French. We are exploring dating the French.
In terms of the actors, where are they from? Would you specifically choose an actor to play a certain expat, say if one of the two people was Italian?
Right now, all of the expats are Anglophones. The people that we have are American, British, Canadian, and Australian. I don’t think I’d stick true to the original culture because I wouldn’t want to give away your story. It would be more about the actor’s talent than where they came from.
Another thing, characters always have the same names. Every expat woman is named Jane, and every Frenchman is named Pierre. Every expat man is named John, and every Frenchwoman is named Marie. There’s a level of anonymity. If you’re going to give me your story, you need to know that I am not going to exploit you. And also, him! If you’re telling me your story about your crappy date, I don’t want to make this guy feel bad because he was on the crappy date.
Your team is amazing! Where did you find them?
It just happened. I had met Alexis briefly before. Out of the blue, I sent her a message “Hey, can we talk? It’s nothing bad!” She said she would come onboard, and she knew someone who introduced us to the director of photography, and he brought some other members of the team and crew in. Alexis knew Marinelly, the actress who plays the Frenchwoman in the promo, and she knew the other two main actors. I knew a bunch of people. When you’re in that world, you tend to meet people who are in that world.
Honestly, it just happened. We’d say, “Oh god, we really need an editor!” And someone would go, “I know an editor!” And they’d be like, “Oh! Your project is amazing! Yes, I’ll do it for free!” Everyone worked for free, which is amazing because they’re all professional.
Director/Writer/Producer – Helen Alexis Yonov
Director of Photography – Gregory Turbellier
Unit Production Manager – Renata Pepper
That just shows how amazing your project is and how inspired people are by it.
I think it was a combination of them liking the idea and them liking our passion for the project.
I think so, too!
That’s why we need the money now. They agreed to do the pilot for free in the hopes that it would get picked up and they’d get paid to do it later.
How does Kickstarter work?
The funding will go to you but you pay 5% to Kickstarter and 5% to Amazon, and you have to pay for all the incentives. $5,500 is what we are trying to raise for this kickstarter fundraiser, which is to cover the costs for the pilot. Only a little under $1,000 more to go!
I wish I had $5,000 so I could tell my sister’s story of meeting her husband here in Paris!
A few of your favorite places in Paris:
What is your favorite quartier?
I really like to go to different places all the time, but I love the 19th. I love Buttes Chaumont. I love the canal. I love that it feels authentic French and not touristy. I love picnicking along the canal.
What’s in your picnic basket?
(Laughs) Wine. And sometimes some food. (Laughs)
Those are the best kinds of picnics!
Wine, cheese, charcuterie, bread, the usual.
What was the location of your most romantic date in Paris?
It was everywhere. We just walked and talked and went to museums.
A question about your adorable dog Moxie: What’s it like moving a dog across the world and having her in Paris?
Moving her was tough because she had to go in the cargo hold. Having her here is great. She loves it! You know, they say that Parisians are so rude. If you want a Parisian to be nice to you, get a dog. (PatriciaParisienne laughs.) They come up to you, they play with her, they just love her. She loves that! She gets to come with me to more places, like a restaurant, a picnic, a friend’s house. It seems much more dog-friendly here. She can come with me on the train. By law, she’s allowed in every apartment and every hotel. And she loves baguettes!
Thank you so much for your time!
Once again, here’s the link to the Kickstarter fundraising page and the official L’Amour (Or Less…) page. With six days left of the campaign and just under $1000 to go, every penny helps!