Building micro-stories out of Malta’s ‘Babylon of hatred’ | Maxime Durand

Independent filmmaker Maxime Durand speaks to MaltaToday about ‘Coming Soon’; his self-produced series of humorous shorts inspired by Malta’s shambolic public transport system

First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? What brought you to Malta, and what led to your decision to make a web series in and around the island?

I’m an independent film-maker and I’ve been living in Malta for over four years. I’m half-French and half-British… which I guess will soon make me only half-European.

I came on a holiday with a friend a bit by coincidence and discovered a beautiful place that nobody talked about. When I moved out of London, Malta was the first choice and ticked all the boxes. The beauty and diversity of Malta was certainly the initial spark of inspiration that led to my web series, ‘Coming Soon’.

Speaking of ‘Coming Soon’ – why did you believe the local public transport situation provided enough fodder to sustain an entire series?

The series is a satirical comedy about public transport, in the form of 20 short episodes inspired by various genres of cinema. The tagline – ‘What if your transport problems happened in movies?’ – pretty much says it all, really. My own experience of public transport over the past four years, and experiencing the over-crowded vehicles themselves, certainly gave me more than enough fodder, but incorporating other people’s stories was the cherry on the cake.

When I first came here, I worked in catering, so I accumulated enough stories to fill 20 seasons’ worth of the show, I think. When people from various social, political and religious backgrounds – drivers or pedestrians, foreign residents or tourists from all over the world – agree on Malta’s transport system, then you know you’re not mad. The silver lining is that it unites people. In a way, it’s the Babylon of hatred when it comes to transport.

What kind of logistical situation did you work under to create Coming Soon? Is it quite a low-budget affair and if so, what were some of the main challenges inherent in putting it all together?

I make films as a one-man crew, with little to no budget, while pushing my limits. This is the way I work generally and it excites me, but this web series was my most ambitious project so far. Each one of the 20 stories cost less than €60 to make, and a little under 150 people were involved in the whole project, so I’d say production was the hardest challenge.

The organisation and coordination was never my favourite aspect of the experience, but Malta made it all that little bit more possible. I’ve always been lucky to find help and support for my projects in France and England, but Malta and its people helped me out in a way that went beyond all expectations.

How did you find Malta, both as a shooting location and an inspiration for narrative content? What do you think should be the next step forward for local film-makers who want to create something truly notable?

It’s an amazing shooting location, there’s no question about that. The landscapes are astonishing, the light is perfect, even the extreme weather can serve its purpose, although I must say it has been difficult lately. The first time I went to Comino I thought “This is the perfect backdrop for a cowboy flick”.

Each time a Maltese person looks at one of my films and asks, “Where did you shoot this?” then I know I’ve picked the right scout for ‘The Rock’. And yet I keep discovering new places. It’s a location that keeps on giving. You can pretend to be in different countries, different eras... well maybe not for that long anymore, but when I arrived it was a smack in the face, so many ideas have blossomed here.

As a narrative content, there’s so much to say it’s overwhelming really, first historically, then socially. The paradox of this island is a very interesting inspiration, I used to say that it was like slipping through a wormhole into a different universe: everything seems to be the same, and yet feels different. I don’t know whether I’m in a position to give any advice to anybody, but a good starting point for me is to find that thing I’d like to say, but haven’t yet dared to. Then, film it. Think outside the box, then destroy the box. There’s more than enough drone footage of Malta filmed for advertising purposes. We don’t need any more of that.

What’s next for you?

No spoilers, I don’t want to know.