Private Project


Mary (24) is a former swimming champion, who now performs as a mermaid at New-York Aquarium. She struggles to raise her 6-year-old son, Lulu, on her own. When they get evicted, in order to protect him she pretends that they are about to embark on a beautiful journey, when in fact they begin a journey of homelessness.

  • Nathalie Marchak
    Catcall, Par Instinct, Happy New Year
  • Nathalie Marchak
    Catcall, Par Instinct, Happy New Year
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  • WScripted Cannes Screenplay List
    Cannes Film Festival
    July 13, 2021
    Best screenplay in development
Writer Biography - Nathalie Marchak

Nathalie Marchak is a French scriptwriter and
filmmaker. She is a Harvard Law School Graduate
(LL’M 07), with a certificate of filmmaking from
New York University. She directed several short
films (“Happy New Year” being selected as “top
of the best” in the Short Film Corner of the
Cannes Film Festival 2016). She wrote, directed
and co-produced a feature film “Par Instinct” (coproducer Les Films
d’Ici)- released theatrically by Condor Films in France in 2017,
broadcasted on Canal +, Cine + and now available on Amazon Prime
Video France.
She also is the creator, co-writer and director of a mini-TV
series, called “Les Siffleurs” (international title “CatCall”),
produced by Storia TV/ Mediawan, to be broadcasted in 2023 on
France 2 (France Television).
The script of her next feature film “A Beautiful Journey” has been
selected in the inaugural WScripted Cannes Screenplay List as
amongst the excellent script written by women with high
international potential.
Nathalie Marchak is Vice-President of the ARP, gathering more than 200 European filmmakers.

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Writer Statement

Inspired by Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life is Beautiful, Captain Fantastic and Nomadland, the film is about a mother who tries to make the world magical for her son despite the adversities they face, inviting the audience to share the experience of a child’s-eye view on the world.

Filled with deep maternal love, it’s also a fairytale in its purest tradition: rooted in real life but aims to respond to the audience’s deeper unconscious fears, informing them of the trials of their own reality that they will need to face when the time comes. Inviting the audience to dig deep into themselves to accept reality as it is, to forget about their own lost dreams, and build new ones for the future.

Magical realism will inform the cinematic style, anchoring the film in both naturalistic details and fantastical elements to play with the notion of reality. The “real world” will be captured as deeply realistic in terms of set design and cinematography: a handheld camera will follow Mary around the city as she struggles with her multiple jobs. But in the alternate reality she creates for Lulu, at the trailer park for instance, the camera will capture some magical moments, ones full of natural beauty: the sun between the leaves of a tree, close-ups of bugs and natural life and animation will enhance the natural world with whimsy— it’s the way Lulu looks at things.

Narratively, the script uses a mermaid metaphor. Mermaids are pictured in our culture as striking and charming women – whereas mermaids, in the ancient myths, were actually monstrous characters. Doesn’t this shift reflect how women are asked to look like perfect creatures all the time? How society demands that they restrain their inner anger, violence, desires and needs? How they are asked to be perfect and selfless mothers, even in the most terrible circumstances? Mary the mermaid is safe in the water but she is drowning in her own life.

The aquarium where Mary works is another metaphor for the constant struggle between magic and reality. Things appear magical on the outside—the mermaid show, the beautiful fish tanks, the decorated hallways, the gigantic whale belly— while behind the scenes we discover the tricks of the trade. Mary will need to face her own fears, symbolized by the performance in the shark tank, to regain hope and self-confidence and build a new life for herself and Lulu.

There will be animation throughout the film to further underline the constant push and pull between reality and magic. Animation will appear every time Mary’s impulse to make life magical for Lulu connects with Lulu’s drawings and imagination. At first, animation (in the form of a child’s drawings) will be added to live-action, but for the fake trip to Africa: the background will be fully animated with only Mary and Lulu as live action, as if, at this stage, Mary believes that she has succeeded in creating a whole magic world for Lulu.