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Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret Talk Casting, Directing ‘Les Pires’

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Gregg Goldstein Casting films is an unlikely path to writing and directing them, but Lise Akoka and Romane Guéret didn’t only succeed on that journey, they made the experience the basis of their first feature, “Les Pires (The Worst Ones),” earning a berth in Un Certain Regard.The French filmmakers met on the set of Rudi Rosenberg’s 2015 teen comedy “Le Nouveau (The New Kid).” Akoka worked as a casting director and acting coach, Guéret was a casting trainee, and the two became fast friends. “We were in the north of France, in those old mining territories, and found these two amazing children,” Akoka recalls through a translator. “We fell in love with them, along with their school and surroundings.

But in the end, the director didn’t, and they didn’t work on the film. So we decided that we had to write a short film to feature them.” That was 2016’s “Chasse Royale,” the portrait of a poor, tough 13-year-old girl (Angélique Gernez) — with an equally foul-mouthed little brother (Eddhy Dupont) — who is cast in a film. “It was really the encounter with those two kids that was the trigger, because they were incredible, and we knew that we could not let them down,” Guéret recalls through a translator.

She studied filmmaking with the goal of becoming a director, but Akoka never had that ambition, earning a psychology degree and studying drama before pursuing work in casting and child actor coaching, “It was not a professional thing at first, not as if we decided to become directors,” Akoka says. “But as we were writing, we found a producer and had to organize crowdfunding.

The whole thing grew out of proportion.” Indeed, the short earned the pair an Illy Prize in Cannes and a César nomination.“Les Pires,” a sequel of sorts.

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