Tim Burton walked in the footsteps of 19th-century French cinema pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière on Saturday as he made his own version of their 1895 film Leaving the factory on the site of their former factory in Lyon.
The filmmaker was in Lyon as a guest of honor at the Lumière Festival, the film heritage festival led by the general delegate of Cannes Thierry Frémaux in his other role as director of the Lumière Institute.
As the 14th winner of the Festival’s Prix Institut this year, he was also asked to recreate the Lumière brothers’ first iconic film. Past recipients of the award, who have also shot their own versions, include Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Jane Campion.
Extras on the impromptu shoot included Frémaux, actors Monica Bellucci, Vincent Lindon and Vincent Macaigne, director Claude Lelouche, a host of local industry professionals including Wild Bunch International co-director Vincent Maraval, distributor Etienne Ollagnier at Jour2Fête and the financier Fréderic Fioré at Logical Pictures, as well as the French Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak.
The original 50-second work shows workers leaving the Lumière factory, which at the time produced hundreds of thousands of photographic plates a year.
The door and hallway are all that remains of the factory. Saved from demolition in the 1980s, they have been preserved as part of the modern cinema complex of the Institut Lumière, called the Hangar du Premier-Film Cinema.
In preparation for the shoot, Frémaux explained that at least three versions of the film were identified in the Lumière archives, which he then screened to the 150 extras invited to participate.
True to form, Burton chose to playfully subvert the original, joking that he had “a history” of working with extras.
“I want you all to be bad extras. Act as if you were walking normally, but you pass each other. Do what I know extras do, point at something for no reason, look into the camera, misdirect, basically just chaos under the guise of acting natural,” he said. .
“No extra I’ve worked with could come out of a factory normally. I want you to channel the spirit of great extra acting,” he said.
Shot with the exact same aspect ratio and duration as the original films, these recreations have never been released on the internet and are instead kept in the archives of the Institut Lumière for broadcast only on the big screen.
The shoot was just one appointment in a busy Lumière itinerary for Burton which saw him receive the Lumière Award in front of more than 5,000 people amid tumultuous scenes at the Palais des Congrès in Lyon on Friday evening.
The director also gave a masterclass, where he discussed his studio career and connection with Johnny Depp, as well as a press conference, during which he suggested that he never work with Disney again, following his experiences on Dumbo.
The trip ended with an all-nighter by Tim Burton on Saturday night showing beetle juice, Ed Wood, Martian attacks! and sleepy hollow back to back.