Interview: James Bort Discusses the Artful Femininity of his Oscar-shortlisted ‘Rise of a Star’

The drama of the ballet world has long been a source of inspiration for filmmakers. Indeed, films like “The Red Shoes” to “Black Swan” have delivered indelible portraits of women enduring the pressures to succeed. In James Boris’ short film “Rise of a Star“, a ballerina named Emma finds herself on the verge of stardom. But she is hiding a secret threaten that could potentially her career. Starring real-life prima ballerina Dorothée Gilbert and the legendary Catherine Deneuve, her personal journey to overcome society’s obstacles is conveyed with beautiful artistry. In a recent interview with Awards Circuit, James Bort explained how he used ballet, fashion and feminist themes to craft this empowering tale that was recently named to the Oscar shortlist for Best Live Action Short.

Shane Slater: Why did you choose a story centered around the ballet for your first film?

James Bort: Dance, dancers and everything surrounding the art is embedded in my work and life. My wife, who plays the main character in the movie, is Principal at Paris Opéra Ballet. We worked together on so many projects, films, campaign, choreography, etc. I also worked with Benjamin Millepied on a book and an exhibition and with lot of dancers and theaters in world. It’s a very inspiring art.

SS: Were you inspired by any other films about ballet?

JB: I wasn’t inspired by a film, but by what I see on stage and on backstage in ballet world. I took thousand pictures of dancers and ballets. I’ve also heard and seen many stories about the difficulties of being a woman in this world.

SS: Is this conflict between career and motherhood a common concern/struggle for many ballerinas?

JB: Yes, in many countries it’s very difficult to conciliate career and motherhood. Sadly, as recent news has shown us, despite the progressive discourse, there is a long way to achieve the equality everyone is talking about. Yet this movie is not an advocacy film. It is a human film. It is a woman’s film with women, a feminine film, following a heroine in her daily life. If it creates a conversation, the desire to move forward on these issues, then so much the better.

What mattered to me was to tell the story of a woman who, in the name of old habits, is asked to relinquish an essential part of her being to continue existing as an artist. Deep down, the simple and universal story I am trying to tell with “Rise of a Star” is that of a woman who is fighting to choose her own life.

SS: What was it like to work with a legend such as Catherine Deneuve?

JB: To work with Catherine Deneuve was an honor for me. I know she doesn’t like it when I say that, but she is an iconic women and a symbol of liberty and feminism. She’s one of the most inspiring women in the world. It’s my first movie and I have learned so much from her because she sees everything in the script and on set. We are both perfectionist, and she is so talented and professional that she can bring the ideas beyond all your wishes.

SS: I read that you have a background in fashion. What was your thinking behind some of the costume design, for example that striking red dress at the end?

JB: Yes, for the past 10 years I’ve been a fashion photographer and advertising director. It is a wonderful job. So many beautiful fashion brands worked with us on this movie. Yves Saint Laurent is one of them, and it was for me, a nod to her muse, Catherine Deneuve. Concerning the red dress, it’s an important character in the film. It symbolizes the strength and passion of the heroine but also femininity and motherhood.

Shane Slater: What’s next for you? Will you continue making films?

JB: Yes, my next step is to make a feature film. I’m currently writing it and it’s also about a woman. I hope to shoot it in 2019.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE |

ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT | LIVE ACTION SHORT |