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Berangere McNeese: “Nobody really knows”

Try. I always thought: there are so many incredibly talented people in the world, don’t take up the space until what you have to offer is perfect. And with the years, I came to discover that there is no such thing as perfection, as being ready, as thinking you’re ‘it’. So you might as well […]

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Try. I always thought: there are so many incredibly talented people in the world, don’t take up the space until what you have to offer is perfect. And with the years, I came to discover that there is no such thing as perfection, as being ready, as thinking you’re ‘it’. So you might as well try, fail, try again, at least you’re learning, at least you’re there, there’s plenty of space.

Nobody really knows. The more people I meet, the more I realize, we’re all trying.


As part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Director Berangere McNeese, a Belgian/American director who wrote, directed, and produced her first short The Sleep Of The Amazons in 2015 which received Awards at national and international film festivals. Her second film, Pure Bodies, in which she collaborated with Guillaume de Ginestel followed the same path. Matriochkas is her third short-film. Currently, in the process of writing her first feature film, and a series, as well as directing a short documentary for Canal+ about young women who compete in stock-car racing in the North of France, Berangere is also an actress who has starred in various TV series, short films, and feature films across Europe.


Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I started working as an actor when I was a kid. Although my family wasn’t in the industry, I knew from a young age I wanted to pursue a career in the film industry. I moved to Paris after high school, looking for more opportunities to act, and I’ve been working ever since. I also studied journalism at the same time, and decided to start scriptwriting after I was done with college. Matriochkas is my third short, and I’m currently developing a feature and a series, as well as acting in films and series in Belgium and France.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

I tend to work with a mix of experienced and amateur actors, and therefore, the set is a place where a lot of ‘first times’ happen for actors that have never worked on a film before. That’s what I find most interesting. Those moments when you’re searching, together with the actors for things that

you know are inside them, but yet they’ve never reached to before. It’s a beautiful moment. For instance, on the set of Matriochkas, working with Heloise was fantastic because I learned so much at the same time she was learning what she was capable of. We really went through all of it together, and that’s why I love film-making so much.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently working on my first feature, which I’m very excited about. I’m also developping a comedy series. And as an actor, I just completed a feature and a few series, including one for Netflix. It’s been a busy year, surprisingly enough ! I feel very grateful that we could keep shooting in France and Belgium during our second confinement (which started in September), under very strict sanitary measures of course.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

I’m inspired by people who don’t conform to what’s expected of them. Hedy Lamarr comes to mind, because she was brilliant in every way, but it can be much smaller achievements. I have so much admiration for people who just go wherever they feel like going, artistically, who take risks. So that also includes Lena Dunham, Michaela Cohen, who are really redefining screenwriting, sharing gut-wrenching experiences and speaking to a different audience. I think many people have felt understood, and maybe less lonely. Honesty, what else could you possibly hope to achieve in this life ?

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I’ve seen Matriochkas travel the world, and it really made me realize how desperately we need to have these conversations. Not only about women’s rights, but also about listening, about making this subject an intimate one. in the film, the only pressure being put on Anna is that of her mother, who sincerely loves her and wants her best. I feel like having female characters deciding for themselves is crucial at this time in history.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

I don’t feel like there was necessarily an “Aha Moment”, I decided to make films, and to talk about subjects that have occupied my spirit, as a woman, for as long as I can remember. I don’t know that shedding a light on these subjects is a cause per-se. It makes them more visible, but I don’t know what else I could have done. I didn’t have to make films, I decided to do so to talk about these themes, these characters. Therefore it hasn’t cost me much, there was simply no other way. I feel lucky I never doubted about what it was I wanted to do, I know it’s not always the case, and purpose is so important. Being an actor for so long, film-making was the obvious medium for me.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I remember vividly conversations that I’ve had with audience members after screenings, who have shared very intimate stories with me. It’s interesting because it opens a dialog that’s not the easiest to have: it creates a space to talk more openly, after witnessing someone else’s — the character’s- experience. Some subjects in the film are still very taboo, so I feel lucky that it sometimes helps audience members share complicated experiences, if they feel like it.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I feel like we need to keep having conversations about women’s rights to have absolute control over their own bodies. The more personal experiences are put out there, the better the world will appreciate what it’s actually like to be a woman, in this moment in time. The fact that more and more women are willing to share their view of the world, of their existence, whether through dialog, art, or any other medium, helps show another way of experiencing life, yet it’s not the experience that society is built around.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Try. I always thought: there are so many incredibly talented people in the world, don’t take up the space until what you have to offer is perfect. And with the years, I came to discover that there is no such thing as perfection, as being ready, as thinking you’re ‘it’. So you might as well try, fail, try again, at least you’re learning, at least you’re there, there’s plenty of space.

Nobody really knows. The more people I meet, the more I realize, we’re all trying.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I don’t feel in a position to give anybody advice, I think through these times, all bets are off and it’s a good time to rethink what it is that really matters. And then go for it. I just think this new generation is a lot more attentive to everyone’s needs, and way more inclusive, and that makes me really happy. I meet teenagers that have really grown up with the notion of difference and inclusion. I feel very optimistic.

How can our readers follow you online?

Yes, I’m on Instagram as @berangeremcneese and the film has its own Instagram page: @matriochkas.film

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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