It's ironic that Lucien Castaing-Taylor is at the mercy of the elements when I first call him; caught in a Boston hailstorm, he needs a few minutes to find shelter. Once he's indoors, however, we get to discuss his thrilling fishing documentary, Leviathan, which he co-directed with Véréna Paravel - and which also features its share of inclement weather.
You shot for three months at sea, and the footage looks like you were thrown around a bit. Did you spend a lot of time replacing damaged cameras?
They were always coming and going - we lost a lot of them to the waves. You know, a wave is an act of God, so they're not even insured. So basically we lost our own cameras, and then we briefly started filming with DSLRs - which we also lost to the waves on later trips - and these small extreme-sports cameras that we could put in a waterproof housing. In all, we went through 20 cameras.
You couldn't possibly have planned to get the shots you did. What did you have in mind when you started work on the project?
We never know what we want to make, to be honest. Unlike most documentarians, we don't have a script; we don't have any real ideas. We don't do research before we start filming; we're doing research and filming at the same time. We didn't know what we wanted to do, but we knew what we did not want to do.
And what was that?
We knew we didn't want to do a typical fishing film. We didn't want to romanticize the fishermen, nor did we want to portray fish as straightforward victims either. We were interested in something more cosmic and metaphysical. Something more like "What is it like to be out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with no bearings, not seeing land, barely seeing day, struggling against the fear, struggling against the sea, struggling against the boat?"
How did you and Véréna Paravel divide your directorial responsibilities during the shoot?
There's no division of labour at all - we both do everything. It seems very unprofessional. I mean, in the real world, in Hollywood, you have a cinematographer and a focus puller and a sound recorder and a producer. But we just muddle through everything together.