Co-creator of the France 2 daily series, the writing of which he has been overseeing for 3 seasons with producer Toma de Matteis, Olivier Szulzynger takes stock of the past year with us, and reveals some of the intrigues to come in 2022. .
After working on Plus Belle la vie, you co-created Un Si Grand Soleil, the writing of which you have also been co-directing for nearly four years. How did this project get started ?
Olivier Szulzynger: Indeed, I directed the writing of Plus Belle la vie for about ten years but I was not there when it was launched, and I always wanted to design another daily. With Toma de Matteis (producer of Un Si Grand Soleil, editor’s note) who was for a time the artistic producer of Plus Belle la vie, we had the opportunity when France Télévisions wanted to launch its daily series. We started working together on this project at the beginning of 2016 by involving other authors in this reflection. There were then two years of design until the start of filming in the spring of 2018, and the launch of the broadcast at the end of August of the same year. And it’s been three years already!
Today, the series registers very strong audiences every night and has found its audience. How far back do you have on this course? Did you have any fears at the time of the launch on France 2?
Honestly, I was confident because I know Toma is a very good producer and I trusted our writing team. We had time to work calmly with the support of the largest French audiovisual group. We had to find our identity fairly quickly because there were other programs opposite, but there was no question of competition because each one is broadcast in a different slot. It’s a lot of work, but when we experienced the beginnings of Plus Belle la vie, we are armored in terms of serenity! (laughs)
Last year, the technological processes used on the shoot made it possible to reinforce certain sets, in particular that of the hospital, but also to introduce new ones, such as the law firm. These two arenas are quite characteristic of soaps; was it something you wanted to initiate in the series or did these new settings on the contrary feed the writing?
These are two slightly different things, because we rented buildings that served as both a hospital and a high school. Once the lease ended, we moved to another location for high school, but it didn’t suit the hospital. As we already had plenty of characters evolving in it, it was essential to keep it. On then said to ourselves that we were going do it again in the studio, thanks to the green screens and the special effects that give an impression of depth. And since these techniques require little post-production work because they are implemented right from the shoot, it allowed us to gain in maturity.
For the law firm, it was a bit different because we ended up with several strong lawyer characters, so we wanted to build a set for them. We had the opportunity when we decided to shoot the zoo in natural settings instead, and to recover this huge set to transform it into a cabinet. And then, one of our actresses, Aurore Delplace (who plays the lawyer Johanna Lemeur, editor’s note) became pregnant, and we found ourselves with the set to launch without her. (laughs) But she’s back on set right now, so good!
It also allows strong characters like Claire (Mélanie Maudran) for example, who was sometimes a little isolated outside her family circle, to create new professional relationships, to nurture new societal intrigues…
Our thinking is based on two things: at the beginning of the series, we were building a lot of private sets in the studio, and we realized that these houses and apartments were more beautiful in natural settings, so we started to rent real residences, and we have set up our workspaces in the studios.
And thanks to the green backgrounds and the tracking that allows you to embed decorations in real time on the windows, we don’t have this feeling of suffocation in these new decorations. The hospital is there as well as in the natural settings, the same goes for the police station, the judge’s office, the law firm, L Cosmétiques… Today, there are only two apartment sets left in the studio. We gradually destroyed them to put them outside and find more natural light, more space…
And building the workspaces indoors actually allows for more character crossovers. Especially since the importance given to work and professional spaces is one of the specificities of Un Si Grand Soleil, these are important springs…