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An Interview with Maude Michaud, Director of Dys-

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2017

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First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't already know you?


Iím a writer-director based in Montreal, Canada. Iíve written and directed a feature films (Dys-), as well as over a dozen short films that have toured the international festival circuit, and a documentary web series.


What got you into making movies in the first place, and have you received any formal training on the subject?


Iíve always been a storyteller. When I was a kid, I was a huge cinephile, I loved reading books and writing stories. I was also into theatre acting, which allowed me to get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes aspect and of all the work that goes into creating entertainment. I was utterly fascinated by all this and started reading about films and how they were madeÖ Then one day it just clicked. All of these things came together and I realized that making films would be the best way for me to indulge in all my passions. So, when I was 16, I borrowed my dadís video camera and made a first short film just to try it out and I was immediately hooked. Then, I went to film school and received a more formal training.


Going through your filmography, one can't help but notice quite a few of your movies are of the horror variety. Is that a genre at all dear to you, and why (not)?


Iíve always loved horror films and it is definitely a genre that is very dear to me. I feel the genre offers endless storytelling possibilities. You can really let your imagination go wild and take the audience on a crazy journey, which would be harder to pull off within the more rigid structure of other film genres. Horror is also a really rich genre when it comes to dealing with complex subject matters or problematic issues. Thereís nothing I love more than a good horror film with a message. All that being said, I love all genres and I have experimented with a variety of styles, but I always find myself drawn back to horror.


As far as I know, your debut feature Dys- is about to be released - so what's that one about?


Dys- is about a couple that is forced to barricade themselves in their apartment due to a viral outbreak. The problem is that they were already on the verge of breaking up, so being confined in this small space together really pushes them over the edge. Tension rises and they both descend into madness as they are forced to face their own demons and the secrets they have kept from each other.


How did the project come into being in the first place, and why did you choose exactly that story for your debut feature?


I was at a point in my life where I was ready to make my first feature, so I managed to scratch together a small modest budget for it. Given my limited resources, I knew I had to build a story that was simple yet effective, with minimal locations. A ďtwo people in a roomĒ type of story, but with a twist. Around that time, I was fed up with the ubiquitous zombie revival so, when someone jokingly suggested I make a zombie movie, I replied that if ever I made one, it would have no zombies in it. When I realized that maybe this could work for my first feature, I brainstormed the idea from there!


What were your sources of inspiration when dreaming up Dys-?


I drew inspiration from a lot of different things! I was finishing my masterís degree while I was writing Dys-, so I canít help but feel itís a very cerebral film and that its content was subconsciously influenced by a lot of the readings I did about horror movies and feminism. I was also at a point in my life where I was questioning myself about my place in the world as a woman, societal pressures, the difference between wanting to do something and needing to do something, etc. I was also really into the work of Michael Haneke and Lars Von Trier, and I watched a lot of films either about similar themes (Antichrist, Possession) as well as stuff like Repulsion, Rosemaryís Baby, Audition, Shivers, etc. Somehow, this all came together and formed Dys-!


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


My directorial approach has two parts. First, I dissect the story in order to prioritize the characterís journey and really get things into place and find the right tone for optimal emotional impact. The story is always the most important thing for me and I want to make the audience feel something. Thatís why I work a lot with my actors prior to shooting to make sure we all have the same vision of what the story is and what part their character plays in it. Then, I spend as much time developing the best visual language to suit the story. Style and aesthetics can really emphasize certain aspects of the story or given meaning to specific moments, so I make sure every element is there to complement, support and optimize the story I want to tell.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Shannon Lark (Eva) [Shannon Lark interview - click here] was the first person on board. I met her a few years prior and I knew I wanted to work with her on a film project, I just didnít know which one yet! When I started writing Dys-, I immediately thought of her and wrote it with her in mind. She got involved very early in the process and did a phenomenal job of making the character - which is a very challenging role - come to life.

As for the role of Sam, I was holding auditions and Alex Goldrich walked in. Heís a stage actor and we had previously crossed paths before, but we had yet to work together. He read for two different roles, but I was instantly floored when he read the role of Sam. He had just the right mix of intensity and sensibility to portray both extremes of the character.

The role of James was hands down the hardest one to cast. I lost count of how many actors read for it and I had yet to find the right match (no one had given me the type of performance I was looking for). We were getting ready to begin pre-production when I reconnected with Dega Lazare who was an old friend I met in film school - heís also a writer/director - and who happened to be back in town. I told him all about my project and where I was at, and he asked me if he could audition ďjust for funĒ. He totally nailed the character and gave me exactly what I was looking for!

Iíve been wanting to work with Lynn Lowry ever since I met her during a film festival a few years back, I just hadnít found the right project yet. When I was casting for the small but impactful role of Evaís mom, I thought about her right away and how great it would be to have her on board and finally have the chance to have a first working experience. She accepted to be part of the project and was a pure delight to work with! Her participation is also a little nod to Shivers since Dys- also takes place in an apartment building in Montreal.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was a very quick and intense shoot due to the limited resources. Everything was condensed, we had a minimal crew and limited space, so we kept having to move the equipment around every day as whichever room we were not currently shooting in was used either as storage space or for makeup and catering. However, despite all this, the whole shoot went smoothly and there was a sort of ďfamily vibeĒ to the cast and crew, which was great!


The $64 question of course, when and where will your movie be released onto the general public?


It should be released early next year in the US on DVD/VOD. I unfortunately do not yet have a release date, but Iíll for sure put all the info online as soon as I get it! Itís been a long and complicated process to find a producer (the film came out on the festival circuit in 2014), but Iím glad I finally found the right match! The title will change to At The Door (for marketing reasons), but the rest of the film will remain the same.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Dys-?


The audience and critical reception has been good overall. Dys- is very polarizing; itís a love-it-or-hate-it film. Iím personally really proud that it elicit this kind of effect on people because it means I did a good job of making audience feel something, even if itís negative. Itís not a feel good movie and there is some very bothersome content in it, so of course some people are not gonna like it and itís totally fine. It has also won two public choice awards at different festivals, so this tells me that, despite being a difficult film, it still managed to find its audience and to reach the people that are into this kind of entertainment.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Iím currently working on getting a few projects off the ground, so I unfortunately do not have anything concrete to share just yet. I did however contribute to two anthology projects which should be coming out soon (Home Videos and Ted Bundy Had A Son). Iíll also be contributing again to the Soska Sisters [Soska Sisters interview - click here] annual blood drive PSA which will come out on YouTube in February 2018.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Dys-?


Before Dys-, I was mostly making short films and I often found myself trying to condense a big complex story into the short format. Dys- was very freeing because I was able to take the time I needed to properly tell the story. With my shorts, I also explored a variety of subgenres, tones, visual aesthetic and storytelling approaches.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I think of myself as a storyteller and film is a way for me to share a bit of myself and the crazy twisted stories I think of. In my approach, I see myself as a bit of a craftwoman; I put a lot of care and attention to details, whether itís through the actorsí performances, the use of film language or the story itself, because I like offering people that extra little reward when they take the time to really think about the film. I also like to think I have my own singular style, whether itís in the visual look of my films or the type of stories I tell. At least, thatís what Iím striving to achieve.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


There are so many, but the first ones that come to mind are: Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here], David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Sion Sono, Alfred Hitchcock, William Castle and David Fincher.


Your favourite movies?


Itís really hard to narrow it down, but Iíll go with: Santa Sangre, Lost Highway, Belle de Jour, La Fille sur le Pont, Secretary, Fight Club, Cheap Thrills, Les Yeux sans Visage and The Shining.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I donít know if itís because Iíve been making films for such a long time and I know how hard it is to get a film made, but I tend to always find redeeming qualities to the films I donít like. However, I really canít stand anything that is intentionally mean-spirited and/or that insults audiences.


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About me and my work:

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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Nope! Thank you so much for interviewing me! :)


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD