How the filming of ‘Black Butterflies’ ended up in a mysterious house

How the filming of 'Black Butterflies' ended up in a mysterious house

It is one of those films where the atmosphere of the place makes the flavor. Series The Black Butterfliesthe first episode of which airs Wednesday, September 7 on art, is one of them: the story of a former serial killer who decides to hire a writer who lacks inspiration to write his memoirs. The main plot takes place in the house of Albert, a retired killer, a place where time seems to stand still.

But finding a house that exactly matched the director’s wishes and the requirements of the script was not easy. “We had to meet several criteria”, explains to 20 minutes Frédéric Alexandre, freelance assistant stage manager who specializes in prospecting for film sets.

“A house that was bathed in its juice”

“The production company, GMT productions, was looking for a house that was bathed in its juice, with old wallpaper, in the middle of a forest. The decor had to express the idea that time had stopped”, he adds.

Co-produced by Pictanovo, the regional film aid fund in Hauts-de-France, the series was to be shot, for the most part, in the Nord or Pas-de-Calais. However, the tour of the forest houses had yielded nothing. “Often, it was too isolated, without electricity,” recalls Frédéric Alexandre.

And time passed. Three weeks before the start of filming, the team had still not found the rare pearl. “It was tense. I had the authorization to move away from Lille to go prospecting towards Arras”, he indicates. And one day, a combination of circumstances changed the fate of the series.

Some locals are unaware of its existence.

“It was raining downpour, I got stuck near a village between Arras and Cambrai, he says. I called a farmer friend who lived nearby to help me out. When I saw a tractor coming on a small path, I thought it was him. I set off on foot along this path to meet him and there, I came across, by chance, this house which seemed abandoned, with a wooded environment. It was almost magical. »

Because, in reality, this house also contains its share of mystery. Even in the village, some residents are unaware of its existence. “It is a second home which is actually unknown because it has no direct neighbours”, confirms the administrative assistant of the town hall, Sabine Dhorne.

German dispensary during the Second World War

All that remained was to find the owner and convince him. Frédéric Alexandre went to see a neighbor. “A very nice gentleman told me that the house belonged to a dentist near Douai. I got in touch with him and we were able to shoot on time. Because, in addition, the interior of the building had kept a soul of the 1970s.

In June 2021, during the filming of the series broadcast on Arte,
In June 2021, during the filming of the series broadcast on Arte, “Black butterflies”, – ED

But how did such a Norman-style house end up in the Artesian countryside? “At the base, there was a castle which was destroyed during the First World War, underlines the wife of the owner, contacted by 20 minutes. The house was rebuilt after the war, then it served as a German dispensary during the Second World War. It belonged to a young lady who lived in Paris and who ended up selling it to my father-in-law, a mining engineer. For him, this house was a real breath of fresh air because he lived in town, in an apartment. »

Second shoot

And for fifty years, this holiday home has not changed. “My husband has kept memories of his adolescence there and we have never done any major work to renovate it,” she admits. So much the better for the production team of the series which will only have a few touch-ups to do.

Filming lasted three weeks, at the end of May, beginning of June 2021. “It was the first time that our small town of 300 inhabitants hosted a film crew. We lent them the village hall to serve as a canteen, ”explains the town hall.

Since then, this mysterious house has been emulated. Another production company contacted Frédéric Alexandre and a second filming took place in June, for three days, for the film Black light by Karim Bensalah. “Black butterflies, Black Light… This residence visibly inspires darkness,” jokes Frédéric Alexandre. In any case, a perfume of cinema seems to be anchored there.

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