Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (2024)

International rights to “Dreams,” the next film from Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco, whose “Memory” competed at Venice last year, will be sold by his regular partner the Match Factory.

“I usually work with the Match Factory, and we have an ongoing collaboration,” he tells Variety at Karlovy Vary Film Festival. “So, yeah, I like to stick with people [I know]. Why change when things are working out? It’s a great company. And I have certain distributors in certain countries that keep buying my films. And that’s, I think, how you build audiences.”

He says that he is still editing the film, so it may not be ready for Venice. “I don’t think it would be ready. I wouldn’t want to rush it. And I’m here [in Karlovy Vary]. I’m not obsessed with rushing [to finish films].”

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“Dreams” will star Jessica Chastain, who also headlined “Memory,” as well as Rupert Friend and Isaac Hernández. The film, which shot in San Francisco and Mexico City last year, centers on a wealthy socialite, played by Chastain, who has a romance with a Mexican ballet dancer, played by Hernández.

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It has been speculated that, on a broader level, the film also touches on the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, but Franco is reluctant to say that. “No, I wouldn’t explain [it like that], not even after the film comes out, because I think that’s up to audiences to figure out. All I can tell you is that, as I often do, I tried to not make it too simple.” However, he does confirm that this relationship between the two countries is one aspect to the film. “Well, yeah. I shot the film in San Francisco and Mexico City, in both places, so, yeah, it does involve the two countries and how we relate to each other.”

Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (3)

Franco says that the film flowed naturally from his collaboration with Chastain on “Memory.” “‘Dreams’ started – I don’t want to talk too much about the movie because I’m still fully figuring out what it is – when I talked about it with Jessica on a lunch break [on the set of ‘Memory’]. I told her I’m not pitching you something, I’m just telling you that I’ve been thinking a lot about these things that I’ve had for years in my mind. And she said: ‘Let’s do it.’ So, it’s fair to say that ‘Dreams’ came out of that good collaboration and momentum that we were having. And we were both clever enough to say, ‘Let’s keep at it,’ because it’s hard to find this good vibe and to understand each other so well.”

Franco says that it’s likely he’ll make a third film with Chastain. “We’re pretty sure we will. A third and a fourth,” he says, adding he will also likely shoot more films with Tim Roth, who starred in the director’s “Chronic” and “Sundown.”

Franco emphasizes that a lot could change during the editing of “Dreams,” including the title. “That’s why I’m always the producer of my movies. Because if tomorrow I wake up and I want to change everything around [then I can]. I was talking to Steven Soderbergh [also a guest at Karlovy Vary] about how he changed his Kafka movie around, and he was telling me at the time he would never have had the freedom to do this. And now he produces his stuff, and he has all the freedom in the world. I relate a lot to that. It’s hard, because a movie can cost a few million bucks, so to make a personal expression out of something that’s so expensive, and involves so many people, that’s the challenge.”

Franco knows that he is fortunate to be in a position where, as both director and producer of his films, he can dictate the pace of production, and work with those he wants to work with. “I’m open to collaborating with anyone as long as … It’s a dictatorship, you know, it’s not a democracy. There is no other way to [do it]. Just as a painter is dictating what he paints and a writer what he writes. That doesn’t mean you don’t collaborate. Using music as an example: You have a producer, and a record can be massively affected by who’s producing it. But still, the musician is calling the shots.”

He says he doesn’t have “final cut” in his contract as there is no contract, given he is the producer. And although Chastain’s Freckle Films is a co-producer, she respects him enough to let him do what he needs to do. “I mean it’s clear that it’s my movie as it’s clear that she’s the actor. And, you know, we never have to talk about that,” he says.

Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (4)

Franco likes to give the actors the opportunity to interpret the script in the way they think works best, while still respecting the script. “There’s two things with the actors. On the one hand, usually, the main reason why they’re there is because we want to work together. But, more than that, because of the script. So, if they liked the script enough, and it’s always been the case, we won’t have big arguments, we’re on the same page. Having said that, I give them a lot of space to do what they got to do, but they’re very respectful and they follow [the script]. And they respect the script more than myself. Jessica always half joking would say: ‘I’m here to protect the scriptwriter from the director.’ Sometimes I wanted to shake things around and she was like: ‘No, take it easy. Let’s follow the script. And then let’s play around.’ She was always open to do whatever I wanted to do. But she was also saying, ‘Let’s first do what’s on the page, because it works.'”

Franco shoots chronologically, and leaves time in the schedule to reshoot scenes if needs be. “Sometimes it’s fast, and we just shoot what’s on the page. And if it works, we just keep moving on because you have a limited amount of days and weeks to shoot. But often by shooting what’s on the page, we – by accident, or because of the way an actor interprets what’s written – we find something new, and I don’t do rehearsals beforehand, so everything is kind of shaping up on the day. So, then we let it grow and transform and often we reshoot. A lot of what you see on screen are reshoots.

Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (5)

“I shoot my movies in chronological order, so I put them together, and on Saturdays, I sit – Jessica would always be there with me – and we see what we’ve done. And we would reshoot a lot. Because we would have new or better ideas or have a different angle. I will never pretend to know exactly what I’m doing, because that’s bullsh*t you know. You depend on the weather, you depend on many things.”

Reshooting scenes is always an option for Franco. “Because we’re shooting in chronological order, I know that I will always go back to almost every location. Because I don’t shoot coverage, it goes pretty fast in most cases. And when something’s not working, I just let it rest. I don’t torture myself and others, exhausting the thing, you know. I just let it rest. And I go and reflect on it, watch the material and try to understand why it wasn’t working. And then we reshoot it. So, you’re not wasting time by just hitting your head against the wall, so to speak.”

Franco is serving as a mentor to young European filmmakers at Karlovy Vary who were selected for the Future Frames program, and used his second feature “After Lucia” to illustrate how he navigated the challenges of making films at an early point in his career, and how that film led on to making “Chronic.” He explains that he didn’t go to film school but learned by making short films, which – by necessity – he had to fund himself, and not much has changed. “I still feel very much like the same filmmaker that I was when I was making the short films, in many ways. I didn’t go to film school, unlike all these participants, so I had to fight for it in a different way, without realizing it. I was the writer, director, producer, sometimes photographer. I would shoot on film, because it was ’99 or something. I would take the film stock to the lab. So, I kind of took it for granted that if you want to make a film, you have to do everything. And that kind of stayed with me throughout the whole process up until now. That’s why I still do pretty much everything. I work with fantastic people, but I never put the faith of my film in someone else’s hands. I’m always the writer, and the main producer. And I will never stop. I would never push a film to wait for an actor or something. I just shoot what I have to shoot.

“So, I would try to tell that to the young people: Don’t push a film a year because you’re looking for more money from more countries, because, you know, then you don’t know if COVID is coming or whatever. Just make the film and then make another one. Keep it simple, which is never the case. It’s so hard to make movies. People sometimes think that money is too important and often money gets in the way of a good film.”

Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (6)

Franco says that his mood at the time affects what kind of film he then goes on to make. He cites the difficult experience of making “New Order,” which led to “Sundown.” “I went through three or four very rough years. Making ‘New Order’ put me deeper into that personal crisis, because it was such a challenging thing that I didn’t know if I was going to pull it off. And ‘Sundown’ definitely came from that crisis … that existentialist movie that I did. But then I shot ‘New Order’ and ‘Sundown,’ and I felt good about them. And I was in a better place in my life, professionally and also personally. I was more at ease with life in general.”

That positive mood, in turn, led to “Memory,” which he had been inclined to make as a revenge thriller but his sister, Victoria Franco, persuaded him not to go down that dark track.

“She kind of challenged me. She said, ‘That’s easy for you because you’ve done that kind of thing before.’ And that’s why that was my first automatic kind of place to go. And she was right. She’s pretty much the only person I hear. I talked to a lot of people, in this case, Jessica and Peter, or if I’m working with Tim, you know, but my sister comes before everyone because it’s early on in the process. And also, because like we were commenting earlier, I was in a different mood. I was like, Yeah, I actually don’t want to go to that exclusively dark place. Not because I’m afraid of it, you know, I’ve done it before. But exactly, because I can make better use of my emotional present, you know?”

Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (7)

The audience is an active participant in Franco’s films, in terms of how they interpret it and form their own view of it.

“I think the hardest thing to achieve is exactly that: to provide the audience with an experience that is … where the filmmaker is not expressing ideas in an absolute way, you know, there’s space for interpretation. And the characters are not like good and bad. A good drama should be something that every actor in the movie and in every scene is right and wrong at the same time, and if you achieved that, as a writer, and the actors are good enough to play that, it’s a much more interesting experience for the audience, because then there’s space for… you know, it becomes something more subjective, as opposed to just saying this is right, and that is wrong.”

Michel Franco’s ‘Dreams,’ Starring Jessica Chastain, to Be Sold by the Match Factory (EXCLUSIVE) (2024)
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