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Cleo Tellier about Her Short Film About Child Abuse “The Silence”

Cleo Tellier about Her Short Film About Child Abuse “The Silence”

Cleo Tellier is a French-Canadian actress known for the role of Émilie in the 15 season TV show Virginie and also the role of Flora in the Emmy-nominated show, 30 Vies. She can also be seen in Degrassi as Rheanne and in various TV shows and national commercials. Her latest project puts Cleo behind the lens as she puts a spotlight on child abuse in her short film “The Silence.”

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Synopsis: Ann, Leslie, Isabelle and Jerome used to be four out of the two millions children in foster care in the world. Before their life in foster care, they were forgotten, abused, unseen and unloved. Today, they decide to break the silence of child abuse to share their story with the world in a poetic, heartbreaking way. 

You’ve recently directed a short-film “The Silence”. What type of film is it? What can you tell me about this film?

The Silence is an alternative documentary about child abuse. It’s an intercut of four monologues written by child abuse survivors, incorporated with strong moving images shot in studio. The style of the re-enactments is very unrealistic. I actually just finished shooting last weekend, so I’m starting post-production this week. Hopefully, it will be screened in film festivals!

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What made you want to make a film about child abuse?

I think it’s such an important subject. Fortunately for me, I was not sexually or physically abused as a child. However, many of my friends and family members were victims of child abuse. I grew up in an environment where I was asked to keep it quiet. I was asked not to tell. Even if I have not seen the abuse, I disagree with this teaching. Child abuse is wrong and there’s no reason that could make it acceptable to keep it quiet. The silence of child abuse needs to be broken. This film is my way of breaking the silence of child abuse. It’s my way of telling everyone around me that I don’t want to keep it quiet anymore. As a society, it’s everyone’s responsibility to make sure that our children don’t suffer from abuse. With this film, I’m hoping that I can help some people to break the silence of child abuse…

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How was it to work with this crew and actors? 

My short film was unionised; it is an ACTRA production so I had the chance to work with incredible actors. My director of photography, Nathan Riddell, is by far one of the most talented students I met at my school. He understood my style of filmmaking since day one and was totally into the project since the beginning. I feel so lucky that I met Nathan. I hope to work with him again in the future. The crew and the actors were amazing; everyone was so supportive of the project. 

How is working with child actors different from working with adults?

It’s very different. We were rolling much more than usual because with kids, you never know when you’ll be able to get something really good out of them. All the rehearsals were shot in case they turned out great. My DOP had to help me with some of the directing. For many shots, the kids had to look right into the camera. I was directing them during the shots but some of them would turn around to look at me while I was talking to them. I had to ask Nathan to direct them during the shot. Directing very young kids requires so much patience, but the actors I chose were all professionals, they’ve been on set before and knew how it worked. It made my life easier!

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Xavier Dolan has influenced your filmmaking style and your work. Would you say that the similar factors and filmmakers have influenced both of you?

Yes, Xavier has always been an inspiration for me. When I was younger, I was very impressed with his dubbing career and talent. It seemed like he was always so successful. I wanted to become just like him. However, we have many things in common (personality but also filmmaking style) and I don’t think that it’s related. For example, I always loved slow motion (even before Xavier’s first film “I Killed My Mother”). In fact, I’d like to make the first feature film fully in slow motion!!! Xavier and I both grew up in the same kind of environment, at the same place and time. We both have a strong acting background and have similarities in terms of personality. I think it makes sense that the same factors and people have influenced us. 

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