Interview with Philippe Audi-Dor, Writer & Director of Feature Film Wasp

Shot in the South of France, Wasp follows Olivier (Simon Haycock) and James’s (Hugo Bolton) romantic break to Provence and its sudden interruption by the brisk arrival of Caroline (Elly Condron). Everything is calm as they bask in their idyllic settings, though Olivier finds himself more and more intrigued by the young woman. Winner of Best International Feature and Best Actress at Film Out San Diego, writer-director Philippe Audi-Dor’s debut feature film is turning heads at film festivals worldwide and has screened at Raindance Film Festival, Boston LGBT Film Festival, Roze Filmdagen Amsterdam, and more. We speak to Audi-Dor about the making of Wasp and his experience working on set with a trio of vibrant, emerging artists.

ASFF: Wasp follows Olivier and James’s romantic break and its interruption by a flirtatious intrusion from an old friend. What inspired you to write and direct this piece
At the time of writing I was going through a lot – coming to terms with my sexuality, discovering the realities of a first committed relationship, starting a new life studying in an arts school (Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins). When writing the screenplay I didn’t know it would one day actually be produced – it was more of a cathartic experience. I had many feelings rushing through my heart and mind, and putting them on paper was a way for me to deal with it all. So though the facts are fictional, the whole film is based on what I was experiencing emotionally. You could say it’s some sort of emotional auto-biography of my 23 year old self. It was only after finishing my MA that I took the script out of a drawer (well, opened a Word document rather), and decided to direct it. I felt the story represented queer (used here meaning anything non-heterosexual) people in a way we don’t usually see on screen, and wanted to help normalise that queerness by bringing this story to the big screen.

ASFF: The word ‘wasp’ conjures up a wealth of connotations. What were you trying to capture when choosing this title for the film?
To me, wasps evoke both a sense of summer (hot sunshine, cool swimming pools, cocktails) as well as danger, which corresponds perfectly to the core atmosphere of our film. For this reason, I couldn’t imagine any other title. The opening sequence is my way of saying that even amongst the beautiful Provencal nature hides something dangerous – symbolised by the wasp. It will find its way into the house where the characters are staying, and will do everything in its power to survive there.
The way these insects behave is fascinating. Contrary to a bee, a wasp can sting repeatedly without fear of putting its life in danger. I feel the slightly reckless way in which the characters behave reflects this quite accurately. I also recently learned that the venom in wasps contains a pheromone that causes nearby wasps to become more aggressive. I personally believe that all three characters become a ‘wasp’ at one point or another of the film, as they eventually all end up ‘stinging’ each other – as if one’s venom had triggered aggressiveness in the others. And last but not least, I love knowing that after a male wasp mates with its Queen, it dies shortly afterwards.

ASFF: Your feature film has been selected for screening at Raindance and Boston LGBT Film Festival to name a few. LGBT films have been getting a lot of awareness at the moment, what do you feel the reception is like for it?
So far the reception for it has been extremely positive, and I’m so grateful for it! At one point I was scared that the LGBT community might not embrace this story of sexual fluidity. Though some – usually YouTube ‘haters’ who haven’t seen the film – are still sceptic about it, feeling it might represent homosexuality in a negative light. But most people who watch the film understand that its focus isn’t sexual orientation but simply the difficulties and many facets of love.
I think it’s for that reason that Wasp is also being invited to non-LGBT festivals, which is very exciting. The film truly does appeal to both LGBT and mainstream audiences alike. Being one of the 11 UK films selected at the Raindance Film Festival is simply amazing, and our next step is going to the Beirut International Film Festival. To be showing in a Middle Eastern country where some people are still imprisoned because of their homosexuality is, quite simply, incredible. It is the kind of moment that truly helps build bridges between different communities and nurture a much-needed dialogue. Lebanon is a leading country in matters of LGBT equality in the region, and I couldn’t be more proud to have Wasp being screened there.

ASFF: You’ve garnered quite a lot of attention for this, your debut film. What were you expecting when you began filming?
At the time of production, my wildest dream was to have it released on DVD in the UK. We were an independent crew of 20 year olds all working on our first feature. We had an infinite amount of passion and belief in the film, but you try to stay realistic and not get ahead of yourself. Two years down the line, it’s safe to say the film’s reception completely blew my expectations! Festivals around the world, distribution deals in major countries, etc. The doors this film has opened to me, the fully rounded understanding I now have of the industry, the lessons I have taken away from this whole adventure – all I can say is that I now can’t wait to film the next one!

ASFF: Simon Haycock has already been praised for his work in Wasp. Can you describe your experience of working with him on set?
Simon is a truly great actor. Not only for his on screen presence and acting range, but also for the way he is on set: professional, friendly, hard working and committed. Filming a feature can be a pretty gruelling process, so you want to make sure you are surrounded by the right kind of people – actors included. The entire cast on this production was amazingly talented, and I am so glad that this film has helped put them on the industry’s radar. Elly (Condron) went on to win the Best Actress in a Feature award at the Film Out San Diego festival, while Hugo (Bolton) was nominated for Best Actor in the festival’s audience awards category, but lost to James Franco – still, it’s an amazing achievement. I loved working with all three of them. Hopefully I’ll be able to work with them again before their fees skyrocket out of range for an independent filmmaker like me.

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1. Still from Wasp (Blue Shadows Films).