“CinefestOZ is a perfect fit for Paris Syndrome,” says writer and actress, Alice Foulcher. “It’s a French/Australian focused festival – and we were Australians making our little film in France. It’s a match made in heaven.” Penned by the actress, and directed by Foulcher’s regular collaborator, Gregory Erdstein, the seven-minute short has a delightfully pithy synopsis: Two Australians spend a day in Paris together, discussing life, politics and the universe. You couldn’t do that in Australia – people would just think you’re a wanker.
The project was born out of an eight-month artist’s residency that Foulcher and Erdstein – who have worked together on the previous shorts, Going, Going, Why Ryan Is On Detention, Picking Up at Auschwitz, and A Bit Rich – enjoyed in Paris. “It was incredible,” Foulcher tells FilmInk. “It’s an amazing complex in the Marais with about 300 studios – all occupied by artists from different disciplines, such as dance, music, and visual art. It was a really creative environment to be a part of. Having that eight months to just focus on our filmmaking, away from the distractions of everyday life, was a once-in-a-lifetime luxury. We found that when we were out exploring Paris, we’d feel guilty that we weren’t working, but then we’d be in the studio feeling guilty that we weren’t making the most of Paris.”
With Paris literally at their doorstep, the duo couldn’t help but put it on screen. “I mean, it’s Paris,” Foulcher laughs. “It’s production designed for you! We had our 5D, some sound gear, and Lloyd Allison-Young – an Australian actor who was living there at the time. Paris Syndrome is a culmination of different conversations and experiences that we had during our time there. It was about getting beyond that postcard version of Paris that you imagine – to realities like the huge homeless problem and the underlying racism. Paris is an incredible city, but it’s also a real, complex place. Obviously that’s become very apparent in the past year. Paris Syndrome is also the third short film that we’ve made in an accidental trilogy on Awful Australians: the first was Picking Up At Auschwitz, which was followed by A Bit Rich.”
And if you’re thinking that, on paper, Paris Syndrome might bear a few similarities with a certain trilogy directed by Richard Linklater, then you wouldn’t be too far off beam. “It’s funny,” Foulcher smiles, “we realised after the fact that we’d actually shot in several of the places that they filmed Before Sunset, one of which Lloyd takes a piss on in broad daylight. So we both literally and figuratively took a piss on that idealised, romantic version of Paris. Also, the girl who takes a piss next to our picnic by the river is also based on a real experience. I swear there’s more going on in Paris Syndrome than urinating.”
And while Alice Foulcher might share the screen in Paris Syndrome with Lloyd Allison-Young, the real romance has been happening off-screen with her regular collaborator, Gregory Erdstein. Theirs is a fluent creative relationship: he usually directs, while Foulcher stars and writes, but they ultimately collaborate completely. “Having someone to write with and motivate you to get shit done is an incredible gift,” Foulcher says. “That he also happens to be my husband is pretty great for me, and nauseating for others, I’m sure. We’ve been collaborating in various ways since we met at The VCA Film School in 2008. In 2011, we co-wrote Picking Up At Auschwitz – which he directed and I acted in. We’ve found that to be a winning combination, and that’s how we’ve operated since. I’ve dabbled in different roles – I started in acting, then moved into writing and directing. I’ve produced out of necessity, but it’s definitely not a passion of mine. My heart is really with acting and writing, which is why Greggles and I complement each other so well. I love acting, but it’s obviously a tough gig. I don’t think I could be the kind of actor that waits by the phone for work to come to me. I like feeling a little bit more in control by being a part of the creative process. I’m very inspired by women like Lena Dunham, Amy Poehler, and Greta Gerwig. They’ve got the right idea.”
With a solid bedrock of short films (most of which have had impressive festival berths) grounding their career upswing, Foulcher and Erdstein have now made the jump to features, with their long-form debut, That’s Not Me, currently in post-production. “We’re nearing the final stages, which is really exciting,” Foulcher says. “It’s our first feature film, so it’s very much our baby! We’ve got a wonderful ensemble cast including Isabel Lucas, Richard Davies, Andrew O’Keefe, Steve Mouzakis, and others. They’re all hilarious. It’s been a great experience, and we’ve had an absolute dream team supporting us. Our producers recently took it to the MIFF 37 South market where we had really positive feedback, and hopefully we will have some exciting opportunities emerge from that.”
Paris Syndrome plays at The CinefestOZ Film Festival, which runs from August 24-28. To buy tickets to Paris Syndrome, head to the official site. For more on Paris Syndrome and Alice Foulcher, head to her production company, Moccasin.