French Frights: Kaydara — The Matrix Sequel you never heard of

Do you think it’s possible to make a Matrix sequel in your garage? Seth Ickerman sure did.

The silhouette of a young man is seen approaching the viewer. He’s holding a katana. A greenish city surrounds him.
Still from Kaydara

Ever since they realized how much they fucked up Savristi and Raphaël have been doing is rotoscoping. With their family computer, they’re extracting every character who appear in every shot of their movies, extracting bits of grass, piece of wall and assembling them in a patchwork of real still and CGI.

A toy car, here.

An actress.

Some map painting.

A maquette.

A 3D model of Keanu Reeves’ face.

In this little movie they’re making, there are at least one thousand different shots. And each and every one of them is being pumped computer generated flare. Anything, as long as it hides what they consider beginner’s errors.

The duo first planned for a two-month long post production process. This would have enabled them to construct the maquette for the two spaceships present in Kaydara. Those two months turned into two years, then into five years. Years they spent hiding in some secondary residence up in the mountains. Sure, they have reshot some stuff in front of a blue screen, but the vast majority of their time is spent altering the rushes they already had.

This is such an abusive relationship, they sometimes just wanna torch the house, the whole project and watch it burn.

But they couldn’t quit after having invested two years of their lives, why would they after six?

When post-prod gets overwhelming, they go outside. The house hovers over a valley full of forest. It is the only way they found not to be bothered by rent too much. Both Savitri and Raphaël have been sinking every they had in Kaydara.

Sometimes, a sheep passes by, a cow moo somewhere far away. Who the fuck tries to remake Matrix in a garage?

You probably know them under the alias of Seth Ickerman: Savitri Jolly-Gonfard and Raphaël Hernandez are the duo of French directors who unleashed Blood Machines on Shudder. But their story didn’t start here.

Circa 2003, Raphaël was working for a production company specializing in extreme sports. This was a natural fit for the aspiring filmmaker since he was living in the Alps. It is through this passion — and thanks to a cousin! — that he would go on to meet Savristi. A cinema fanatic, too, but one who was studying animation at the time.

Although he appears introverted, Raphaël is a passionate man. Part of him wonders what he could do with the Matrix universe. Not as a fan, fanaticism has always seemed strange to him, but the melting pot of influences the Wachoswkis created is what really interests him. Raphaël also possesses some bias to action. In just two days, Savitri and him pen a script in which a bounty hunter is hunting Neo.

Both men don’t even realize what they’re creating is a fan film, they never heard this term before. What they know is they drew themselves in a corner. They now have a script on their hands. A script that requires a city, some post-apocalyptic landscape, two spaceships and fucking Keanu Reeves.

For the cast, they hire acquaintances. As beginners do. Raphaël’s cousin will be the lead, Savitri his sidekick. Some farmers. Some friends. A priest.

In their region, there exists this derelict town. Remnant of the past from when workers were building the dam. Once the structure was up, people left, only the wall remained. In their young minds, this temporary city is all they really need to recreate the American cities prevalent in the Matrix.

For two weeks, the team will live there. Training, fighting, putting up sets and explosives. In lieu of a movie set, the team turned the whole twon into some sort of commune. A traumatic experience to some, but one definitely worth living asserts Hernandez.

While they’re working around the clock to put everything in order, the team will only be able to shoot from Friday evening to Monday morning. A total of four day, for two week-ends, and three nights. Having no money, Savitri and Rapahël know that renting a camera on this schedule will only cost them one day instead of two.

Shooting a thirty-five minutes short isn’t an easy feat. But trying to make it into four days is damn right suicidal.

Despite all the problems, personal conflicts, a rainstorm, a few bruises and a lot of not working SFX, the two filmmakers now have some rushes.

Some shitty rushes. The person who’s supposed to help with the post-production abandon them when faced with the fact. Savitri and Hernandez deal that they’ll first teach the directors how to do rotoscoping and incrustation first. they’ll deal with the post-prod. And SFX. And fucking everything.

They both feel this hunger that prowled the busy street of the derelict town they shot in. they can make their rushes better. They can rival the Matrix.

For seven years, the duo will isolate in some secondary residence atop a mountain to save on rent.

It is there they’ll rework every shot. Adding maquettes, adding matte painting — of Paris nonetheless, the city setting they thought they had? It really didn’t work. They’ll mix shots like cocktails, trying to build a world so fake it possesses its own identity.

If they can’t make it work. They had toys, references taken on the web, digital flares, CGI effects. Creating frames that are entirely their own. While they did fuck up the shooting part, they’re now thinking of every shot as a canvas. Do something for seven years, you’re boudn to get better.

Cinematographic hermits.

Hernandez often states they made the introduction a stop-motion movie to try and get back to the real world. For this they transformed Savristi’s school project into a Matrix movie. They called it Ratrix and released it as a one-shot in festivals, hoping to garner some attention.

It sure worked. Soon, the tv show Tracks came to see them in their house. People and magazines began to talk about this duo of french boys tryna recreate the Matrix in their garage. This even earned them a composer. A real one.

For the spaceships, the duo had decided on creating maquettes. Both would be Savristi’s responsibility, since he had been doing maquetting since a very young age. Maquettes for movies he never made, jokes Hernandez in an interview. Savristi created one ship using old computer screens, Hernandez ade the other one using helmets.

They shoot those spaceship sequences in their garage, in front of a blue screen. One of the perks of having become a black belt in rotoscoping. This also enables them to reshoot other sequences. The priest will say that he loved the idea of piloting a spaceship and was sort of disappointed to find out he only had to act on a chair in front of a blue screen.

Acting is not really on par, so the duo decides to dub every character. It would cost them 1000€ to dub one character in Paris. For the same price they can dub everyone in London. So a trip to London, it is.

They didn’t think of it beforehand, but this actually plays in their favor, since English dubs will add to the Hollywood vibe they’re trying to emulate. With these same goals, they ask some of Savristi’s relatives, denizens of the US, to play some part or dub others. Cutting cost wherever they can.

One of their last problems is the stuntman who played the Chosen one. While they tried to hide it through some effects, they don’t think it really works. And yeah, maybe they got their black belts in rotoscoping, but they aren’t 3D artists. When Savristi asks the internet for a little help, he isn’t prepared for the hatred he’ll have to fight. Asking for a 3D model of Keanu Reeves’ face in the early 2000s? For FREE? GTFO! Still, one person obliged? With their model, the dudo is now inserting Keanu’s face in fight scenes.

One day, they’re up in the mountains asking Hernandez’s cousin to redo his scenes in English phonetically. the next they’re in a studio with a genuine composer, creating some sort of rock-industrial hybrid that’ll be the signature of their soundtrack.

Just like in their pitch, a bounty hunter tries for several years to hunt the Chosen One. A duo of filmmakers trained for seven years in order to rival the Matrix.

It took a good chunk of their lives. Syfu-like.

But it exists.

Kaydara trailer

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Basile Lebret

Basile Lebret

93 Followers

I write about the history of artmaking, I don’t do reviews.