LBB Film Club in association withLBB
LBB Film Club: Forever Young
London, UK
Director Michel Arribehaute on an epic movie mashup and re-enactment created during the French lockdown period, writes LBB's Nisna Mahtani

Following on from their debut short film, ‘Anything for Love’, directors and brothers Michel Arribehaute and Nicolas [Nico] Arribehaute, alongside their children Sacha and Robinson, created an epic mashup and re-enactment of all of their favourite films. Produced during the French lockdown period, ‘Forever Young’ is a celebration of numerous TV shows and movies that Michel and Nico have introduced their children to, celebrating all the good things about creativity and youth. 

With references to the classic movies Ghost, The A-Team, Dirty Dancing, Harry Potter, Star Wars and many, many more, the spot builds on the first film by showcasing a purposeful evolution and faster pace. With an innovative reuse of wigs and costumes, multiple green screens and two lockdowns worth of dedication, Michel, Nico, Sacha and Robinson have created an homage to all the greats. Now calling themselves 4 The Cool, the fathers and sons team hope they will be able to work together long into the future, especially since they all enjoyed the process so much.

Michel speaks to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about creating a second short film with 4 The Cool. 

LBB> This short film follows on from ‘Anything for Love’ which also featured your two boys. Can you tell us what inspired this piece?

Michel>  For this one we had no limit in our inspirations. This is everything we like, and got told by our kids, in seven minutes, it’s a personal story reflected by them. Our education in filmmaking universe comes from watching multiple films, TV shows, and anime which we couldn’t get enough of. It seems random to say that, but that’s how I feel we learned, and we really did.

When it was about working on the initial idea with the kids and Nico, I remembered the craftwork at the Comicon with Sam Raimi – I would love him to watch our short, to be honest – answering a guy who wanted to know the secret to become a successful director, he said, “My advice to young filmmakers is to make a movie every week in Super 8 or hi-def, write every night, and every weekend, shoot for two days.”

That’s what Nico and I always did, good or not we always tried and we showed it, to people we know, then to people we don’t know to get honest feedback, and when good feedback came from anonymous people - we understood we could do something - and we still continue doing personal projects. So, our entire education comes from that lesson from Sam Raimi and we wanted to use it as a trigger for our film. 

I also remembered an interview with Robert Rodriguez who explained how he started shooting everything around him, in his village in Mexico. For him, everyone was a potential actor, every place was a potential location… And that’s something we try to do as well. Today it’s about working with our kids and we’re lucky enough to have brilliant little boys who love doing it. They are the most creative people we know - so yes they inspired us too, as Sam did. 

He [Sam] said - do a film every week, the kids wanted to do one, a story was launched. 

LBB> What were Sacha and Robinson’s thoughts on creating a second film and how involved were they in the process?

Michel> The story is a true one. It’s 100% scripted yes, but based on true moments we lived in during quarantine. The kids came to us asking to create a film together instead of doing home-school, saying, “Maybe it’s time for us to learn something else. How to use a camera, editing software…”

At first, we said no, it’s too much work, too much pressure because of covid and project cancellations. But they are kids and so they asked again the day after. And the day after… One day Sacha, said, “you’ve got nothing else to do”, and it really resonated with us, that line even made it into the film.

The main concept in Anything for Love was about spending quality time out of the screens and teaching them to spend time together for real. This time the lesson was for us, so we had to help them in their creative adventure. So yes, creating a short film came from them! That’s why they are credited as directors. It’s not fake, they really did do that and they were involved in all steps of the process, watching movies was the first of them. Every morning, home-school was about watching a classic (our classics), taking notes, screengrabs,  speaking about it, and film after film they started to share ideas with us. Writing, thinking, doing zoom calls all four - somewhere, our collective was born. 

LBB> Was there anything the boys were keen to include in this piece that you perhaps didn’t include in the first film?

Michel> Everything about screens. It’s a concept thing, but we never wanted to show screens as a bad thing in Anything for Love, just that real life is important and we need to find the right balance. But screens, cameras, tools, communication, these boys are born in the middle of insane technologies - it’s natural for them - so we just decided to teach them how to use it in the best way possible, with the right mindset. Using technology in the right way is like having superpowers.

Anything for Love was about real life, this one about everything else - dreams, goals, achieving something special… We told them any ideas were a good idea to us and we will do our best to find a way to achieve anything… Again we never wanted to limit theirs and our creativity - I think we were kind of perfect producers.

They were only eight years old in Anything for Love and we thought a year later, we could include more comedy, more dialogue, and I think this is the main thing we wanted to push for because more comedy is where we honestly want to go in the future. So, we wrote the dialogue while imagining the storyline, and they smashed everything. 

LBB> While the first short film had an airiness to it, this one feels more purposeful, confident and planned - was that the aim?

Michel> Absolutely, that’s the evolution we want to give to our work. We wanted to achieve this without losing authenticity and that’s the challenge. Nico and I were documentary filmmakers when we started in advertising and LBB was the first to speak about us - I remember I told Addison [Capper] that yes we love sport, we love realness and honest stories… But we’re guys with funny ideas too and our main challenge was about finding a way to enter the comedy universe.

Perhaps that’s the reason we adapted the kids' ideas to match our comedy purpose. But this story feels more confident, because that’s what we wanted to show - we feel ready, we feel confident in the way we create good pieces of work from nothing. Hopefully this convinces people to give us different opportunities, other than just docu-style projects. 

LBB> Were there any challenges to shooting during the French lockdown period?

Michel> We like filming the authentic, so when it’s about shooting kids doing a film, we do it for real! We didn’t shoot during the first lockdown - it was full of restrictions - so we used the time to prep the project and started to shoot the film between the lockdowns in the summer. Then, we continued during the second which gave us more freedom as we live close to each other. Within a one kilometre area in the middle of our home, we’ve got a forest and one kilometre from my place we’ve got a beach - so it was the perfect playground to do everything legally. but obviously, 90% of everything had been created in that garage and Nico's house - but the concept had to be real.

So no big challenges - we wrote the story around all the compromises we had to accept because of covid and lockdowns, so it was not a big deal.

LBB> What was the scriptwriting process like and how long did it take to create?

Michel> As I said we scripted it during the first lockdown, started to shoot during summer and finished during the second lockdown. We made scriptwriting like a big and long home-school session, watching films, explaining them, imagining dialogue, every day came with a new idea. Before writing, the most important thing was to choose everything we could be able to create and with that base, it was easier to imagine a storyline. 

You can feel it a bit in Anything for Love, but the two kids are really different characters and to us, their differences and how they can complement each other is a great starting point. My son Sacha cares about everything, Rob is more confident even if he fakes it – he never shows any doubts. My son always needs to be reassured and I can tell this project absolutely changed the way he deals with challenges, he is so much more confident today. Their personalities are always the starting point, after which I am always keen, as an editor, to try to make editing part of the writing. I never wanted it to be a linear story as it should have been like a documentary… That’s again a big difference between Forever Young and Anything for Love. Here our edit tells the story and so the storyline follows some classic comedy rules – the challenge, the doubts, the beginning of a success, the hard work and character evolution, the failure, the resilience and the final success. It’s classic, yes, but it works! 

LBB> We have to talk about the costumes – which are so fitting – how did you source them all?

Michel> This is where most of our global budget went (exactly 481 euros). We sourced some wigs and costumes, most of the creativity was here because one costume can fit many characters. For example, Daniel Larusso’s Kimono in ‘Karate Kid’  is the same costume as Doc Brown in ‘Back to the Future’. John snow’s wig is same than The ‘Flashdance’ girl - any piece of costumes had three or four appearances within the film.

My girlfriend bought vintage items based on the films we planned to shoot and for everything we missed, we were able to source it anywhere and everywhere, AliExpress, sports shops, even personal stuff in our parent's house. Creating some pieces ourselves, it was just about watching, looking, exploring, creating. It was an amazing and fun part of the game and the goal was always the same, it didn't need to fit perfectly. 

When well used, the imperfection is great. For instance, we always kept the glasses on for Rob and that kind of detail makes the whole thing charming. But it was great to show them how much talent is involved in creating a piece of film!  

LBB> Sacha and Robinson helped write the piece, are the main characters and even did some filming. Have they shown a preference for any particular aspect of the process?

Michel> They do love everything, they do love spending time with us and it became a routine. They took it seriously, like it was a part of their lives and even though they liked being involved as directors, acting is what they loved the most. They feel comfortable in front of the camera, they love seeing themselves - are really happy and proud when we said to them one take was a great one. 

They liked directing, yes, but when it came to writing, it sounded to them more like an everyday job to do. Acting is playing, screaming, flying, running in the forest with a weapon, being everything you want to be.

LBB> You reference so many iconic movies and TV shows, have the boys watched them all and do they have a favourite?

Michel> For some, they could watch only just parts as they were a bit difficult to follow like most of the [Stanley] Kubricks, so it was just about watching extracts. But yes they know all the pieces. 

I can say my Sacha is really into science fiction. He is a dreamer and Nico’s Rob spent six months after this shoot in Miyagi’s dojo, watching Karate Kid every week! 

LBB> How long did it take to create the film? Talk us through the timescale.

Michel> We released the film january 2022 but we started from a conversation we had with the kids during the first lockdown, around april 2020. We didn’t solidly work on it for two years, it was just a matter of organization, the idea, the writing, finding scenes the kids liked and also deciding how to create in a too-small dodgy garage with no equipment for chroma key (and no special skills). It t took us a LOT of time.

So we really started to shoot august 2020 when we integrated it into our personal schedule. The goal was to make one scene a day, but if the kids were in a good mood we could do two or three. There were scenes that didn’t go well, we probably imagined 150 in total and we were only able to shoot on tuesday and friday evenings and occasionally, saturday mornings. It was integrated like an extra school activity, football, music, skateboarding and making a short film! The kids adapted to this, they’d plan scenes after school on a friday and they’d practice dialogue in the car. They were amazingly professional.

Then, the second lockdown started, so we had even more time. All extra school activities were cancelled - so we were able to finish in december by shooting on wednesdays and sundays, again no more than two scenes each time. At 10 years old we always wanted it fun for them, a game. But this wasn’t the hardest part, post production was, because I had no clue how to create it after all the work was done. Believe me, the green screen you see in films are real and the one we built was with some construction lighting! There was not enough space and I was absolutely not prepared to use chroma key. I learned that the internet is your friend, always. 

I know how to edit so there was no problem with that and I was confident that in my ability of telling stories and building them. That was a pleasure but 2021 was also the busiest year for us in advertising. We did great projects in France, the UK, Switzerland, Spain, and Canada, spending time on everything else than our project. Any free time I had, I was able to work on the film, without any kind of pressure. Nico did the animations, we imagined new ideas, new ways of telling the story, we making the kids record new dialogue to use as voiceovers.

If I look back, we worked very hard on this, I finished the edit/post in autumn 2021 (just after a two month project for the RBC in Canada). In the first edit, not all of the VFX was done, the titles and grade were to be finished but the film was there, we created something from scratch with our kids in a garage, a thousand euro camera and €481.

So Nico took the draft edit in december and worked on the sound while I finished the post and all the finer details.

LBB> What has the response to this piece been like, compared to the first one?

Michel> Anything for Love moved people, it’s fresh, the kids are super young. The new one lets them have fun and that’s exactly what we were looking for, to show a different side. After it was finished, it took me two weeks to release it. I don't know why, maybe because it was part of my everyday life. 

We put it on Vimeo and now it's over, end of story. We can think about a new film, that’s how I feel about it, we did it and that was the only goal. Then we received a staff pick from Vimeo and we started to get interest, positive comments, and virtual high fives, it made me really proud as a dad, not as a filmmaker. I was proud because of what we we're representing as a family. Now we are starting to receive awards, as I wanted to see how this short could be received at award festivals, and it’s great, already been awarded and shortlisted six times!

LBB> What can we expect to see next?

Michel> I think that magic exists, I say it all the time to Sacha. One week after the release I had a conversation with Cynthia Okoye at Curtis Brown group in London, they represent directors for TV and cinema, and I never hide the fact we want to explore that universe too. We learned so much doing documentaries and advertising, I really think we’re ready now for a new step - drama and comedy. We just want to tell stories, so we joined the agency all because of a short film we did with our kids - a great story isn't it? 

In a few weeks, with Cynthia who is now our agent, we will start having meetings related to TV/feature projects and we’ll start looking for TV/Feature projects with Kira at Merman in the US too. She is a super creative and ambitious producer and understood what was our common ambition is, I am pretty sure we will have something concrete coming soon. 

So who knows what to expect next? Well, we’ve been educated by drama, by movies and by science fiction, so these meetings represent fiction becoming a reality to us. Hopefully one day I will be able to thank Sam Raimi in person for his tip! 
Today I can honestly say, I don’t really know what’s next, but things sound good. We love working in advertising, the challenges are always exciting and we put 200% into every opportunity. Just being happy to be here and doing our best is the main thing we want to teach to our kids – do it and do your best! That’s what this short film represents, no matter how this was created and how it looks today, we did our best as a team.

So yes honestly, I would love that one day, 4 The Cool becomes a real collective and so instead of only Michel and Nico, people would come to us all. We already did it in France, creating official campaigns for Decathlon and Hyatt group last year with the kids, clients and productions wanted them as they wanted us, so I guess my vision is a fair one. 

LBB> Would you like to share anything else?

Michel> Well, I just want to thank everyone who’s read this until the end!

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