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Mar 9, 2022

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Beaux Rêves: Aisling Chin-Yee remembers Jean-Marc Vallée

Beaux Rêves: Aisling Chin-Yee remembers Jean-Marc Vallée

Playlist: A Valleé of Sound

By Aisling Chin-Yee

It is Saturday, January 8th, 2022. The soft piano tones of Alexandra Stréliski’s song, Le Départ, flow across me and into the space of my home as I stare into the emptiness. 

I have been stranded on this island for the past two weeks since you died. Each morning I wake up, wondering if you are done with death yet, ready to come back and tell me about your experience, what you saw and learned. You always have stories. You always come home to Montreal. 

But, you haven’t come back, and I am stranded on our island in the St. Lawrence River. Montreal has an unreal quality without you. Like it exists only in my mind, a rock being hit by waves of despair. 

“Tides, just like the ocean. Listen.” I can hear your voice clearly, just as we stood only a few weeks ago, on the banks of the fleuve St. Laurent. Cold dark water flowing, our breath in the air, and the ice crushing under our feet. The melody of a Quebecois winter. 

My mind slips again, sliding around memories. Each thought dislodged like a stone in a current. I find myself staring at the pack of matches that I placed next to a burning candle. They are from the restaurant Ivy on the Shore. My mind cuts to a dinner in Santa Monica. A box of your favourite chocolate chip cookies. A walk on the beach at sunset. The way you gravitated towards moving water like a seabird. 

“Wish You Were Here!” is emblazoned innocently on the pack of matches like a soft pink beach holiday postcard. My mind cuts to one of our early conversations. I told you my favourite song was Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd. You said yours was Shine on You Crazy Diamond, from the same album. “Serendipity!” you had exclaimed. 

I wish you were here. 

The words now sound like a desperate plea. How they echo around this empty room.

And, these are the good moments. 

This is happening a lot. My life mimics the same heartache and pain, wonder, and rhythm that Jean-Marc captured in his work. This strong and sensitive artist, known for his innate ability to translate the complexities of the human experience into images and music so personal that the viewer finds themselves in the character's perspective. 

I decide to facetime someone. “Call a friend,” was recommended as a coping tool for grief. I pull up my phone, and see the last call is with him, on December 25th, 2021. I look at the time stamp. Just hours before it happened. My thoughts cut to our last conversation. A grainy low-angle image of his face, wrapped in a Varvatos scarf, his iPhone propped up in the cupholder as he drives from Montreal to Quebec. I was in Nova Scotia, about to sit down with my family for Christmas dinner. “Call me when you arrive at the chalet. Drive safe,” I said.

I remember not hearing from him that evening, which was odd. I remember texting him before I went to bed early that night: “Hope you arrived safely! Call me tomorrow. Going to sleep now. Beaux rêves.”

I remember the phone call from your son the following day. 

These are the unbearable moments. 

It feels like I am back in the cutting room with Jean-Marc, as he masterfully creates the intangible sense of sorrow, nostalgia, and heartache through perspective, music, and memory. “Thought cuts,” the term coined by Michal Zak to describe Jean-Marc’s sensorial flash cuts, reflections, and memories, so slim and powerful, like sharp rays of light escaping a moving curtain.  

Art mimicking life, or vice versa? You always blurred these lines. Now everything feels more blurry than ever. I am having a hard time recalling when you weren’t in my life. This concept is as alien as the idea that you are gone forever. Leaving me nothing but the memories to cling to. 

My mind cuts to our first meeting. 

I met Jean-Marc in Ottawa, Canada, at the Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts in May of 2015. With six other artists, he was being honoured for his achievements and contributions to Canadian culture. The celebration included short films about each honoree, made by an up-and-coming filmmaker. I was one of those filmmakers and stood at the opening reception with my fellow hires, trying to find something to eat before the ceremony started.

Tall, handsome, with strong, broad shoulders, Jean-Marc stood by the bar, hands in pockets, flanked by his two sons, Alex and Émile. The three of them, eye to eye in height, decked in matching black suits. A striking sight, in this room filled with retired parliamentarians, and Canada’s most cherished artists and socialites over sixty-five. 

He turned as we approached as if he sensed the presence of his fellow cineastes. A boyish smile, and those big eyes, the color of the ocean in the morning, locked with mine. I was hit with a bolt of awareness, a flash of connection. One that would reoccur, over the next seven years, never fading, only deepening. 

When Jean-Marc looked at you, you felt like the only person in the room. He had an intensity, windowed by his expressive and curious eyes, revealing his restless soul. He was a sensory scientist, captivated by the world around him, always trying to figure out what made it so. He craved to understand the world, and humans, on a cellular and emotional level. He craved to be understood by these same creatures. This desire buzzed in his every movement. 

He was always observing, an empathic explorer, searching to understand the curious behaviors of humans. And, in large gatherings, he was charming and playful, but enigmatic. A trait that was borne out of his need to protect his space, his mind, and his time.

He always had a glint of a private joke in his eyes, about the absurdity of these types of social events. The repeat conversations. The moments of humble gratitude when someone would thank him for making C.R.A.Z.Y. or the comic moments when someone would congratulate him on the new Blade Runner. Jean-Marc and Denis Villeneuve were often mistaken for each other, both being French Canadian directors. 

The evening progressed as these types of evenings do with speeches, tributes, and our films. 

Drinks and dancing into the night, it was a surprisingly lively event, for one hosted by bureaucrats to the Queen. By mid-evening, Jean-Marc and I were tucked away in plain sight, deep in conversation, about life, friendships, story-telling, the past, present, and future. He wanted to know about my work as a filmmaker, which at that time, was mostly as an independent producer in Montreal. We talked about how hard it was to make films on a meager budget, and the blood, sweat, tears, and penniless commitment that goes into making indie Canadian dramas. An independent filmmaker in his bones, he empathized with my struggle.

What I omitted from that conversation was that I had reached the end of my rope with independent producing. I was planning to go to Law School that following September. When a journalist I had met earlier stopped by our cozy conversation on his way out and casually congratulated the next phase of my life, Jean-Marc raised a figurative eyebrow. I say this because I cannot picture Jean-Marc raising one eyebrow in this fashion. What he did do was look at me, and again, I felt that bolt of lightning of someone trying to see inside my soul. “I thought you were a filmmaker?” I replied, yes, I am, but that I think I would be a good lawyer as well, that this could be a smart move for my future. I could feel myself reddening, exposed, that I was standing with one of Canada’s most beloved filmmakers, stating that I didn’t think I could hack it anymore.

He nodded with a cheeky smile, that I would learn would always be the precursor to an unadulterated, and honest opinion. “That’s interesting… it’s usually the lawyers who want to become filmmakers, not the filmmakers who want to become lawyers.” I spluttered some reasons on why I thought I could do both, but that I wanted to make change in the world, that I hadn’t felt creatively fulfilled, or valued in my work as a producer. What I needed was a change and to find financial freedom. He nodded again, and whispered in my ear, “You can have all those dreams as a filmmaker, you know. Just do it your own way.” 

This was the beginning of our relationship and the end of my foray into Law School. From the outset, Jean-Marc believed in my ability and creative spirit even more than I had the capacity to dare. It was his dogged encouragement, his sometimes unreachable standards that pushed me to stand in my worth as a writer, director, and even editor. His belief was that you could tackle any problem, if you follow your instinct, open your eyes and your heart, and truly question everything. He knew this guide had to be innate, but the responsibility of the director to hone their craft as an emotional technician, soldering together moments of connection and truth. 

Alexandra Stréliski is now interpreting a piece by Bach, A Concerto in D Minor, that appeared in your HBO series, Sharp Objects. 

I leaf through the photos and cards you have written to me over the years, looking for clues that you are still here. That this is an elaborate puzzle, a playful prank, to teach me to recognize the beauty of the moment. To appreciate your presence. 

Amongst the little notes written on your hotel notepads, the birthday, and Christmas cards, I find a card you wrote to me the day before I started production on my first feature, The Rest of Us. “Keep trusting your instinct and believing in your tremendous talent. Je crois en toi, et je t’aime.” 

I have to remind myself that death is something that happened to you. Not something directed at me. But, if this were a film, you’d tell me, “We see his death through her perspective. Through her thoughts, and her longing, and loneliness.” 

Then you’d tell me that I know what I am doing and that I need to let the characters’ feelings guide me. We would have made dinner, and watched BBC Earth. 

As a man and a filmmaker, Jean-Marc had a deep understanding of the power and magnitude of his vulnerability. He had this ability to hold this delicate part of himself up to his eye and examine it. Holding his soul like a wild bird before letting it take flight into his storytelling. 

It is exhausting to extend your heart out for public scrutiny and call it “work.” Yet Jean-Marc did not know any other way of existing and interacting with the world. He was attracted to the questions of humanity, and not the answers. He was attracted to the particles of beauty in darkness.  Tiny atoms of light and hope that float in the universe trying to find one another. That the beauty in the stories we tell is to embrace that painful quest for wholeness and the absurdity and joy of being alive. 

“What we are trying to do is so fucking hard, but it's also so fucking beautiful,” he would say. 

In order to do what we do, you need to be brutally honest with yourself, which is painful. To stay grounded but believe and still try to fly towards the sun. You need to believe that you can turn silver into gold. You need to be equal parts warrior and poet. You must balance the suffering and joy of being a contradiction. 

I learned about the delight and the grit of filmmaking from Jean-Marc. He taught me how to mine my heart for truth, and how to stay open and receptive, but also provocative and disruptive. This made us both critical observers, sometimes aiming scrutiny at one another.

Jean-Marc knew nothing would be handed to him, or to someone like me, for free. We are both from modest Canadian backgrounds, with no familial connection to Hollywood, or the entertainment industry. To survive and thrive as a storyteller required stamina, resilience, and an immense amount of discipline. He stressed that filmmaking is a craft that requires us to challenge and confront our psychological demons. That so much of the job is internal, that this work was lonely, often dark, and a lifelong journey. Knowing my love of long-distance running, he would liken directing to marathon training. “One step at a time,” he always said. 

Jean-Marc was my biggest supporter and my toughest critic. 

He’d comb over every word in my scripts, every edit in my cuts, challenging me to explain why every step of the way. To stay true to the perspective of the characters. 

If I added any “clever” or self-indulgent ideas, he would not hesitate to call them out. “I can spot the director. You’re making this moment about you. Stop showing off. It’s not serving the story.” 

Don’t. Get. Spotted. These words were scripture in the edit suite.

Big and bold was easy. Clear but subtle took work.

He had a simplicity to his approach that he loved to share with those closest to him.  Creating reality meant breaking down the fabrication of filmmaking. To make it personal, to stay true to the characters' perspective. His visual language was as he saw and heard the world. An intimate point of view, a sense of space, making sure the characters are our entry point into the worlds and relationships of the story. Each character was a piece of him, and he gave each performance the same attention he would do with everything in his life. 

It was this highly tuned ability to respond and react to the surroundings that also served him on set, especially with actors. They could move and pivot at his pace, as he kept them on their toes. It was an ultra-marathon, but one that Jean-Marc ran with friends and collaborators who had the skill and affinity to follow their gut. One that could respond, react, be present. The good ones loved the freedom to play, experiment, to join him in this pursuit of truth. 

He responded to the actors in this same way. Moving the camera where his instincts told him. His eye somehow in the moment, laser-focused on the shot but also seeing the space and the actors around him. His brain was also always in the cutting room simultaneously. 

Alert and hyper-aware, I would liken him to a fox. A restless and curious seeker, he would have to make the conscious decision to shut off his perception. I would remark that his real superpower as a director was his ability to quickly fall into a deep, regenerative sleep. He needed neither sleeping aids nor coffee to end or start his day. He greeted each day with deep breaths, a silver needles white tea, and as often as possible, a salutation to the sea. 

Jean-Marc was my compass and my life jacket. 

“Stand next to me!” you yelled from the waves off of the beach in Santa Monica. Clutching myself, already cold from the 7am sea air, I hesitate, “You are too far away!” I yelled back accusingly. 

You were past the tide break, but those waves between us were powerful. “Dive into them quickly. It's calm over here.”  I swore under my breath and stomped into the cold waves, getting hit and thrown. I swore louder, so you’d hear me and look up to see you chuckling. “Stand next to me. If you get hit, I’ll pick you up.” 

You grabbed my arm as I got hit by a wave. Steady, you got me. It is calm on the other side of the breaks. We float, bobbing, listening to the tide hit the shore. You are as light as jellyfish. You are as solid as a mountain. 

He had an innate sense of direction, a geographic memory, and an ability to understand the relationship you or a character had to the space and environment. He rarely crossed the axis, lost an eye-line, or needed a map. He always knew where we were. If he had wanted to, Jean-Marc could have moonlighted as a taxi driver in Montreal. But, he was a terrible backseat driver. 

Fiercely protective of his heart and head from the noise of the world, he had a lion’s instinct for danger. Whether it was the motivations of a character in a film, or the actions of a colleague, he could sense if a situation was not safe or if someone was being dishonest.

He had little tolerance for those who offered only gossip and negativity, had inflated egos, or attempted to babysit him. As his personal experience evolved, so did his characters and his filmmaking. Nothing was static, and nothing was ever taken for granted. 

He knew he was afforded creative freedom as much as he could offer back magic on a platter. He earned the trust and his right to shoot his way. Intimate sets that he could shoot handheld and 360 degrees, without dollys, tracks, or cranes, using available light. He wanted the music to belong to the characters, that they would DJ the soundtrack, let their perspectives guide the edit, and keep the storytelling as pure as possible. 

Those who worked closely with him knew that he would pour every ounce of himself into his work. He willingly bled into each project, and carved his name onto the soul of every character. You could hear his heart beating through their headphones. 

“It’s your job to be a responsible filmmaker. You know these characters more than anyone else. You know what they need. If you lose their trust, you lose your film. If you let an egotistical producer, macho cinematographer, or a lazy editor into your henhouse, you and your flock will get devoured, or at the very least, you will lose some eggs on the way. But, you need to be flexible and respectful.” 

What I sometimes read in him as frustration was his unshakeable belief that I could also make magic. So when I stumbled along the way or fell short of the moon, he would tell me to stretch further, that I need to work even harder, and trust that I will get there. 

Sometimes this felt like a mountain of pressure on my shoulders but was one of his most extraordinary qualities. He believed fervently in the potential and talent of those that he loved. 

Jean-Marc did not suffer fools, frauds, or even well-intentioned morons, especially if they talked too much. You would have his respect, but you had to earn his trust, and he would encourage me to approach others similarly. I would sometimes eye roll, that my experience as a female filmmaker, and a woman of color, who is still trying to make a name as a director, is very different from his experience. That I would have to compromise in ways that he would not be asked to do, especially at his stage in his career. 

I was right. But more often, so was Jean-Marc. His interpretation was that as we are both directors, we should be treated the same. He was not naive, but he wanted me to remember that I am valuable. It was a reminder that I needed to not lose myself in others’ projections onto me. 

Perhaps Jean-Marc was worried that I would repeat some of his own early experiences. The times that he felt his artist’s voice was being drowned out by a bully or too much machismo. He would say to me often, and perhaps as a reminder to himself, that you needed to block the cynicism of the industry for long-term survival and not fall for shiny distractions. “You need to always stand up for your vision, and only do projects you believe in.” 

Years of being an outsider, he had a great perspective of what it meant to step in and out of the spotlight. You need to “find your people,” your creative allies, and stay loyal to them. Like he found with his collaborators and friends, Nathan Ross, Yves Bélanger, Sue Jacobs, Gregg Fienberg, Marc Côté, Mona Medawar, Gavin Fernandes, Louis Gignac, Bryan Sipe, Laura Dern, and Reese Witherspoon. 

It was the director’s job to be able to focus on the details, do the research, know the history, and see the bigger picture. You need to capture the emotion of a moment, recognize the power of a look, and forge an honest path for your characters and collaborators to tread. You need to protect them, and yourself from the noise. You need to guard your focus as it's the only thing you can ultimately control. You need to keep your head down. Keep your aspirations and rewards personal. Celebrate if your truth touches someone. 

“This is your voice. There is a language you need to find to express it,” he would press upon me when we were in the cutting room for my film, The Rest of Us. “Try something, make it the perfect version, and then try it again. Surprise yourself,” he would say about editing a scene. “I will be here forever, and I will never finish this movie,” I would cut back sometimes. Then I would get that look, the one that stopped you in your tracks. And his eyes would say to me, “you need to do what you need to do.”

He always spoke of language. He despised the word “style” and was annoyed when critics referred to his work with this word. It is not about style. It’s about language. It’s about vocabulary. He of course did not mean actual verbal language. He found ways to express the nuances and soft shadows of feeling that cannot be written or spoken with words. To portray the intangible qualities of memory, craving, and sensuality through image, sound, and music. The feelings, the family ties that bind us together. The simple and the mundane, to the heartbreakingly tragic. 

“Trust the process,” he always said when I felt frustrated or down. “The work speaks for itself, and the goal and the reward are to connect to others through your work.” 

From the post-production on Demolition, I would continue to have a unique window to the making of Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects, and the research and writing of John&Yoko. I had a front-row seat to Jean-Marc’s process. I got to follow him like a shadow, one organism on set, him behind Yves Bélanger, and me tucked behind Jean-Marc. I was an active observer, who got to join his dance with the camera and the actors as they created magic. I had the gift of watching him for hundreds of hours in the cutting room. The safe place where his imagination and the endless possibilities of his talent shone late into the night. This is where he was confronted with a past version of himself, the director on set, making decisions, reacting in real-time, since he rarely cut between takes. Sipping tea, his fingers flying across his Avid keyboard like a concert pianist, and his hand tapping the table like a metronome, as he counted out the beats of a track, remixing and DJing shots and sounds with the rhythmic ease of a music producer. 

And most recently, I was witness to his solitary focus and quiet whispering while writing, never moving from his kitchen table or desk even as I pirouetted with procrastination on my own writing. 

“It’s all screenwriting, up until the very end,” he would say, referring to editing as “screen, writing.” Jean-Marc would show me how he used invisible editing tricks, morph two, sometimes three shots together, add a reflection of a character in a window, change the foregrounds so that every cut was from someone’s perspective. 

“The world is most beautiful in an imperfect image. We aren’t lit properly in real life. We sit in shadows, underexposed,” he would say about his images. 

In real life, Jean-Marc was always moving lights, rearranging coasters, his notes that he kept on his cutting room table. He was a master of atmosphere, often suggesting music to his favourite restaurants. And, with the lighting, it had to be soft, low, ideally a setting sun or firelight. 

And, if it is not these, then tungsten, warm, and indirect. No harsh bulbs, no screaming halogens, and definitely no pot lighting. The light needed to bounce and reflect. 

It’s Sunday, January 9th. I sit on my couch alone, prepping my week. Usually, I am at your house on a Sunday evening. This is my first weekend home alone in Montreal since you passed. I knew the weekends would be the hardest. That was our time for errands, lazy dinners, and vegetating before the week started. Often including football or a documentary. You rarely wanted to watch fiction when you were in the trenches with a project. And, you had been writing for two years.  You wanted your brain to go “off.” We’d get into quibbles about this, because my last film was a documentary, and I posited that my non-fiction brain didn’t want to be hassled by TV documentaries either. But, I enjoyed watching you disconnect. Pretending you were a judge on The Voice, or watching Professor Brian Cox’s BBC show about ancient stars, galaxies, and giant planets with childlike wonder. You were fascinated with the idea of time and space being non-linear. The notion that the Universe is fabric and that time and space were elastic, not plastic opened up endless possibilities to you. 

A lamp that I don’t often use, because of its brightness, happens to be on. 

It flickers. On, then off. 

“Are you adjusting my lighting?” I ask you. I was drawn back to every movie with ghosts and grief and one of your favorite films, Interstellar. 

Are you here?

Still unable to bear the idea of you gone, I continue. Why didn’t you come to Nova Scotia for Christmas as I had suggested to you? I should have been there with you. I would have stopped you from leaving. It’s time to come back. That I can’t actually do this without you, and that we had promised to always be there for each other. We had said this the very night before I left. You always keep your promises to me.

The dog looks up. Does he see you, or just me, talking to the light reflecting on the wall? 

It is too quiet. You do not offer your side of the conversation. I am almost angry at you for leaving me exposed, without the comfort of your voice. 

I have not sat in silence since he’s been gone. I am less alone when the air is filled with music.  For just a second, I imagine that Jean-Marc is sitting in the next room, when Baby Huey, Shuggie Otis, David Bowie, Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Robert Charlebois, Villagers, Brittney Howard, and so many more must keep me company.

The usual soundtrack of his daily events was soul and rock & roll. His space vibrated with the sound of musicians who could grab you around the shoulders and shake your guts with a heart-wrenching wail. This sound sometimes blended in with the scream of the kettle as he stomped downstairs to make a tea. Jean-Marc was an encyclopedia of all types of music and sound emanated from every corner, following you like a loyal dog up each stair. 

Jean-Marc had a bluesman’s heart. In another dimension, he was that singer with a guitar on a smoky stage. In this world, his way of bending guitar strings, finding those earthy, out-of-tune notes that vibrate with the gravitas of experience was through cinema. He didn’t improvise on a stage, but on the set, and in the edit. “Director’s need rhythm and need to understand how to tease and anticipate, to surprise. We need to write love songs. Find the humor in the absurd. And when you make them laugh, then make them cry.”

Music was Jean-Marc’s heartbeat and his pursuit to make cinema as intimate an experience as song. Through chords and refrain, he drew his intuition, and he made his characters relate to the world in the same way. Through a handclap, a guitar riff, the tap tap tap of a snare drum, Jean-Marc transported us through music to the place where his heart intersected with his mind. With music, he was the most romantic person in the world. 

Jean-Marc could time travel through his soundtracks, simultaneously making his experience a transcendent journey into the future and the past. It was through music where that elasticity of the Universe made sense. A boys’ choir singing a classic translated into French. A big band version of an electronic song. Pink Floyd escaping through the floorboards. An old Hollywood theme interpreted by hip-hop artists. Layers of Led Zeppelin, soul, and folk music sew the relationship between the characters' inner feelings and the world around them. 

He was a dancer. He loved to move, feel the beat, the rhythm, and flow effortlessly like water. Music excited and inspired him but was also a source of tranquility and thoughtfulness. It was how he both rooted in reality and escaped into his imagination. Music was his drug, his therapy, his parent, and the language he spoke most fluently. It poured from him.  

You rarely listened to one artist on repeat. But you found a stash of old CDs at the country house. Miles Davis became our soundtrack. The river flowed, the temperature had dropped well below zero, and our refuge was by the fireside with a tea.  We had both finished the meetings we had for the day and were settling into the next two weeks of holidays. Whatever that looked like with Covid. We spoke of the year behind us, the monotony of the two years of the pandemic, but the calmness and wisdom that we had found in these months of reflection. We thanked each other, that we had gotten this far during these times together. That we would always remember this moment. Warm whispers by the fire, as you added logs to the flames. Miles Davis. Memories. Reflection. And, anticipation for the experiences ahead of us. 

That night, I gave you your Christmas presents and card. We always wrote cards to each other. We always picked the best cards for each other.  This one was a look towards the new year, with a pencil drawing of a sun setting over an ocean. You knew exactly which store I bought it in on Abbot Kinney. We bought so many cards there. I had written, “Joyeux Noël et Happy New Year (?)!” You asked me why I had put a question mark. I said it was because each year feels the same during the monotony of the pandemic. It was a foolish whine that maybe this year would feel the same as the last. 

How naive I was. How wrong I was. 

Sufjan Stevens has taken over the soundtrack in my house. It is the song, To Be Alone With You. He searched for weeks to find the perfect song for his film Demolition, to capture the broken heart of a widower who lost his wife too young, and who was struggling against numbness. He was so pleased when he found it with this track. Now it is my loss. My memory. My struggle. 

It is also my blanket, the warm memories, and melodies of you. The ones I can’t move without. The excruciating heartbreak that has left me buckled over in bed in pain. A pain that I am scared to lose because it may mean that you slip away into the darkness. 

I am writing these words in hopes that they will conjure him out of thin air, call him back from where he’s gone. We are memory keepers and storytellers, that is our job.  But, I am not prepared to tell his story. I am not ready to hold only memories. 

“We are born from stars, isn’t that amazing?” you would say, after the fifteenth time we had watched an episode of Universe. It’s mind-boggling, I said, looking at my hands and hair, thinking of the dead stars and asteroids that could be making up my body. You loved the idea that we were these celestial beings, galaxies of our own, living these flash frame existences in the expanse of time, made from the ingredients of deep space. 

You were too expansive for this Earth, Jean-Marc, and that body could not contain all your cosmic energy. You always knew you were the Universe and that you’d return to it. I wish I could have held onto you longer.  But even I always knew that that was never going to be the case. 

I will never be able to say goodbye to Jean-Marc, and I will never try. I know he will be standing next to me with every film, pushing doubt out the door, and telling me to reach for the stars because they are him. I will greet him with every sunrise and sunset and see him in the inhale and the exhale of the tide. I will look for him in a crowd to share an intimate look, a personal joke, and to see his mischievous smile. I will see him in the countless filmmakers, artists, and people that he touched along his journey. He is next to me if I close my eyes, ready to hold me up against the crashing waves.

Beaux rêves, I had texted you before going to sleep that night. I hope you received it. 
Beaux rêves, Jean-Marc. Je t’aime beaucoup, beaucoup. 
Sweet dreams, mon beau. I will meet you in mine. 


All images courtesy of Aisling Chin-Yee.