The world of web series resembles the French New Wave
Matthieu Kassimo, director of the web series Seltsam, on the importance of festivals, his career and his web series
Matthieu Kassimo is the director of the web series Seltsam. The second season was nominated four times at the Seriale in 2020 and won the award for the Best Supporting Actor (Fabrice Robert) for his unique and charismatic appearance as a hairdresser. He convinced the jury with his ability to keep the lightness even in dramatic and bizarre moments and to take the audience on an exciting and mysterious journey. Seltsam is made for film fans appreciating the great visionaries like John Carpenter, Dario Argento, George Romero, Brian De Palma oder Tim Burton. Each episode tells a different story about paranormal activities and therefore offers references to famous movies or series such as The Twilight Zone - without imitating them too clearly. In the following interview Kassimo shares his opinions and experiences with web series festivals, his motivation to create films and his background.
left: Fabrice Robert, Season 2, Episode 4 | right: Director Matthieu Kassimo
Enrico Schierer: Matthieu, the first episode of the first season of Seltsam was nominated twice in France and the US and also in Russia and Great Britain and won the Gold Award at Spotlight Horror Film Awards in Atlanta 2016. What role do web series festivals or nominations and even awards play for you? Which experiences could you make from web series festivals?
Matthieu Kassimo: Well, that was quite an adventure. I always wanted to create a miniseries or a TV Show like The Twilight Zone, which consists of many short stories. It was very emotional to do it. I did not have any financial means to go on so I was very proud of it and then decided to make another season with a bigger budget, and we had a lot of people working on it.
Enrico Schierer: So you wouldn’t have had this opportunity without this reputation all over the world, right?
Matthieu Kassimo: Yeah, that was a starting point. It was quite an achievement to be selected at the festivals. I didn’t have any idea what would happen when I started making this project, so I knew that some people obviously liked it. It helped me in making the second season and convincing people to work with me.
Enrico Schierer: Later we will talk specifically about Seltsam again. But first I would like to talk about the special circumstances because of the actual crisis concerning especially artists and our cultural activities in general: Many exhibitions and locations or happenings like web series festivals have been cancelled. The Seriale made a step back to its natural environment and will be held online. What do you think of a purely virtual web series festival? Is it more productive to meet other producers, actors or potential partners in real life than online?
Matthieu Kassimo: I think meeting people in real life is better because you can exchange information in a more human way. But having a very big crisis all around the world I understand that many festivals have been cancelled. Making a festival virtually could be a blessing for this year, maybe it could be an option for the future, but I think you always have to work face to face with people. There is something strange about it when everything happens online. I guess we should try our best to just make it real and more human. But for this year it’s a blessing that there is such a happening.
Setphoto, Seltsam, © Aurélie Boivin
Enrico Schierer: Back to Seltsam. How did you come to choose the German term instead of the French term étrange or English strange?
Matthieu Kassimo: (laughs) I always have trouble to find the right title. And I was looking for something referring to something weird and creepy. So I started to search on the internet and I tried some languages. I tried Latin and actually I found the German term and thought wow, that’s cool and for non-German speaking French people it sounds strange and interesting. So it’s perfect to express the atmosphere of the series. I wanted the title to be meaningful.
Enrico Schierer: You have a very interesting professional career. You have very close ties to the theatre as you started a classical education as an actor at first. What was the step from Shakespeare adaptions to a web series like Seltsam? Because you didn’t start with web series directly…
Matthieu Kassimo: Well, like you said I come from the theatre world. But all my life I was in love with movies and I watched a lot of movies when I was young and still do it today. I always wanted to make films. Eventually I decided that I will overcome my fears and try to make a film, because when I was watching films I thought I can do this! Or I can do better. So I tried it, I directed my first film and then I felt that I can go on and try to make other films. But I have to say that coming from the theatre world makes it easier for me to talk to actors and to make them better, because I also was an actor, so I know the needs of the actors very well and therefore can do my job as well as possible. It is a very good option for me to make actors do exactly what I want.
Enrico Schierer: What are the benefits of web series to you?
Matthieu Kassimo: I think web series are a very good option for filmmakers and creators to be part of something bigger and to show our talents. You can upload your work to Youtube and everyone can watch it, which is a very good opportunity. Nowadays if you have a good camera and a good crew and actors you can do something, even if you don’t have a lot of financial means. I think that the world of the web series nowadays is more like what the French New Wave was in the late 50s and 60s. You can make films under the radar.
Setphoto, Seltsam, © Aurélie Boivin
Enrico Schierer: Will there be a third season of Seltsam?
Matthieu Kassimo: No, together with the other four directors we decided not to make another season. From the beginning it was planned to only do two seasons.
Enrico Schierer: So it is not really intended to find new partners to go on with the project? After all you are nominated in four categories.
Matthieu Kassimo: I don’t think we will proceed with this project. But if there is a producer or somebody who is interested in making a third season… I wouldn’t say no! (laughs) But for the time being I haven’t found any partners. I am working on another web series which I’m not producing but I am directing all the episodes with a friend of mine and I also play a part in it. It’s a TV Show based on the superhero world which will be called Power Up!. We are working on it and it was supposed to be produced in May and June but because of the crisis we couldn’t make it. So I hope we can do it in 2021. For my part I am working on several other projects including short films as well.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Interview: Enrico Schierer