Interview with David Richard, director of the films Héritage(s)

To coincide with the release of the special edition of Héritage(s) aimed at students, David Richard, author and director, agreed to answer our questions.

David Richard: “I’m always motivated to bring out the words of perfumers, and that’s the aim of the Héritage(s) collection in general. For this format, we collect unique oral testimonies that constitute an extraordinary sum that is an oral history of perfumery. We rely on long, focused interviews and in-depth analysis of the careers and activities of the people interviewed, whether they be perfumers, laboratory assistants or evaluators. These sums were used to set up individual interviews which highlighted only the personal and professional career of each person. But in this special format, it highlights them through a different prism. We’re talking about a subject that is common to everyone’s career.

We’ve only chosen perfumers for this format, because the idea is to target perfumery apprentices and young people who are training or thinking about training in this field. This format is an excellent introduction to the profession. From the moment you imagine becoming a perfumer, to the moment you become one and can afford to give advice. What motivates me to make these films is to highlight certain aspects of the profession, by bringing together and federating the different comments of a similar nature made by the different personalities.”

DR: “At the outset, Stéphanie Morou and Francis Kurkdjian, respectively Executive Director and Founder of the Per Fumum Endowment Fund, decided that we would concentrate on the testimonials we had already edited. We now have 43 recorded testimonials and have edited around twenty of them. That represents hours of viewing to select the rushes. I made an initial selection with a bias towards using perfumers to address future perfumers.

The title ‘The perfumer’s guide(s)’ defines the fact that this film is like a ‘scout’ for future perfumers. The “(s)” is a reference to the Heritage(s) collection, which is written in the same way. It refers to the various personalities in the film who act as guides for these future perfumers.

Defining the themes addressed in the film was an obvious choice. First of all, how did they become perfumers? Or, how did they decide to become perfumers? Was it a vocation, a reasoned decision or love at first sight? The different personalities will talk about their decision to go into perfumery. Then they will tell us, in their own way and from their own experience, how they became perfumers. Then they’ll talk about how they got started, and the differences between a career they imagined and the reality they experienced. Then, of course, they’ll talk about the general difficulties of the profession. Finally, they’ll share some advice and lessons that young perfumers can take note of and follow for their careers”.

DR : “It was difficult to make this film because I had to make choices. I concentrated on the perfumers and tried as far as possible to balance the themes. I wanted there to be as many men as women, but that was impossible and it reveals a part of the history of perfumery that was quite masculine. We also realise that it was rather Grasse-based. So the main challenge was the diversity of the panel of perfumers. 

The impact of this film lies in the possibility that it will inspire people to take up perfumery. It could awaken their interest in the history of their profession, given the fame of the personalities selected, who have created famous perfumes. For example, Françoise Caron, who created the eau d’Hermès, or Akiko Kamei, who created one of the most beautiful Diptyque perfumes. There are also two young ‘rising stars’ of the perfume world: Quentin Bisch and Jérôme Di Marino. The film provides an insight into the history of perfumery and its different facets. We can hope that it will have a positive impact by arousing interest in their profession, or at least by looking at it from other angles. It will also provide them with an insight into a history that they may not have been aware of. The film aims to stimulate and inspire young perfumers, and also gives them the keys to success in this field. It shows them that it’s an exciting profession with a rich history.”

DR: “I don’t know, it’s not for me to say because I don’t think alone, I’m accompanied by Francis. Things emerge as we go along in our discussions. There is the question of budget, because a film represents a substantial investment. But what’s interesting is that as we collect these oral testimonies, themes emerge. For this one, the obvious themes to bring together everyone’s views were training, the difficulties of the job and passing on the work.

There’s one subject I’d love to tackle: Edmond Roudnistka. He is an emblematic figure of 20th century perfumery. Everyone knows him from his creations like Eau Sauvage, Diorissimo and Femme de Rochas. He also had a wife, who is often overlooked in the past, but who is also very interesting. We interviewed his assistant (Myriam Compiani), the man who almost took over from him (Olivier Maure), as well as his son (Michel Roudnitska) and several perfumers trained by him (Pierre Bourdon). His portrait would be enriched by photographs, archives and other documents. Gathering the testimonies of all these perfumers would make it possible to draw up an interesting portrait of this character, known for his rather mysterious side, which he himself cultivated.”

Don’t miss the latest news on the Héritage(s) project at www.fondsperfumum.org.

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