This article first appeared in Attitude's September Style issue 313
Interview: David McGillvray
The new French comedy, The Shiny Shrimps, is available on DVD, Blu-Ray & On Demand today (January 13).
Inspired by a real-life gay water polo team, the film follows homophobic Mathias Le Goff, a vice-world swimming champion, who is sentenced to coach The Shiny Shrimps, a gay water polo team, who are more motivated by the party than by the competition.
In Attitude's September Style issue, we spoke to co-directors Maxime Govare and member of the real Shiny Shrimps, Cédric le Gallo, who turned his eyes towards filmmaking to bring the story of his sports team to life.
Here Gallo tells us about his ambitions to work in film and how he got involved in the real life gay water polo team.
Have you always had ambitions to work in film?
For me, it was an impossible dream. I have several dreams actually. Being a journalist was my first dream and I thought it would be easier than being a movie director.
I don’t come from a movie family and I think to make a movie you must have a story to tell. But during my 16 years of journalism I told a lot of stories — just not mine. In this movie, I tell my story.
That’s why I waited. And when I was ready, I said: “OK let’s try it, why not, I have nothing to lose.
I have something to say now, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, I have another job so it’s fine.” But it worked which is cool.
Why did you want to make this film?
I started sport very late, when I was 37. I never did it before because the changing room was a kind of trauma, a place where there is a lot of negative macho energy.
For the first time in my life I felt I can be different and [in the Shiny Shrimps’ changing room] difference is celebrated.
I thought I could do a sports movie with completely different values because we don’t care about winning. We are happy to win but if we don’t, it’s fine.
Also all my friends in this team are very colourful, they could be comedy characters. When there is a gay movie in France it’s always a drama.
The last gay comedy in France was called Pédale Douce [Soft Pedal] and it was more than 20 years ago. So I decided: right, it’s time to do another gay comedy. It changed my life.
Why did you want to play water polo?
I didn’t especially want to do water polo but a friend of mine told me, 'There is this gay water polo team', and at that time I didn’t have gay friends and he said: “You should go there because maybe you need some gay friends.”
With this film, you wanted to do something different?
Yes, I said I wanted to make a comedy but in an English way. It’s very English to exaggerate sometimes.
French people fear [being seen as] ridiculous. But I said it should be over the top because in my life I am over the top.
I thought there was a similarity to The Full Monty.
I would say even more so than Priscilla, which is the easier comparison because there is a bus in both movies. But in Priscilla there are only three drag queens going to the show. We are closer to The Full Monty because it’s a group of men, different ages, jobs [and] body types.
Why did you want to work with Maxime? I wrote a 10-page script and the first producer I met said, “Well, you’ve never done a movie before so maybe it would be interesting to work with someone else and why not Maxime? Maybe you should meet.”
It worked because I thought from the beginning that we were sharing the same goal.
You say the film changed your life and an example of that is the front cover of the French sports magazine L’Equipe, which shows you kissing another man. What was the reaction to that?
I’m very happy that the magazine brings this debate to the table because, when a mainstream magazine does that, people say, “OK, well, maybe we should talk about that.”
So I’m very proud. I didn’t realise at the beginning how powerful it would be. It makes society move in a good way.
There’s been no similar picture on a British sports magazine cover.
I’m very open to do that!
Will your next project have a gay theme?
The Shiny Shrimps was about friendship because at that time I was single and friendship was very important to me. Now I’m part of a couple.
Four years ago I had nothing to say about couples, now I do. So maybe the next one will be more intimate. But it will always be LGBTQ. It’s easier to talk about something you know [about].
THE SHINY SHRIMPS, available on DVD, Blu-Ray & On Demand on 13 January.
Watch the trailer for The Shiny Shrimps below: