The Hero’s Journey of Wissame Cherfi

What is the best thing that I love about my work? Probably the fact that I do what I do as an excuse to get to meet with people, talk to them and get their personal stories. I describe myself as a director, storyteller and story lover but in reality, I guess that I am some kind of visual anthropologist, always looking to connect with other human beings and their stories, document them and deliver them to the public.
What is my idea of perfect happiness? Happiness is very often linked to a material life but I hope to be able to live a rich life instead, fulfilled with amazing experiences, trips, meeting people and of course surrounded by my loved ones. I think my idea of perfect happiness is to be able to keep the freedom I have doing what I do with the capacity to do great projects and provide for my family.
What is my greatest fear? Not being able to provide for my family and being a spectator of my own life are probably two of my biggest fears. But that was before I got some health issues that I described on my website (http://wissamecherfi.com/en/mystory/) and that I have changed my outlook on life and relationships. There is no time to waste on fears, there is so much to do and so little time. No time for regrets.
What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? My ability to be extremely honest and 100% myself with people that I have just met, it could be taken wrongly sometimes. Well, most of the times. But it has acted as a filter and kept me away from people who could have had a negative impact on me and my life.
Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Oriol Paulo, for the quality of his writing and of course his job as a director.
What is my greatest extravagance? Being myself around people that I have just met. I think for some of them it can be seen as being weird but in fact, this is the most precious gift, being yourself in front of strangers without even thinking of how they would judge you.
On what occasion would I lie? I was some kind of a compulsive liar when I was a teenager, inventing stories about my life. Thinking about it, I think it is always easier/safer to pretend to be someone else than being yourself with all the things that come with it (acceptance, confidence, self-awareness). I also accepted who I am with time, getting older and less conscious about the way other people judge me.
What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? The way I film. I have a certain expectation of my visuals when I film but I am never happy with my images, the camera movements, etc. That’s the reason I now want to find DPs that are in line with my vision and can help the projects we work on to reach their full potential. Also, I consider being a director (in documentaries) being the person who is going to make the interviewee at ease, keep the connection.
When and where was I the happiest, in my work? It was when I quit my job in 2012 and decided to jump into the world of commercial filmmaking without knowing anybody in the field, without any idea of how to get customers. I had just the passion and motivation to pursue a little dream. This was an amazing time where I got out of a big comfort zone to jump into the unknown. A crazy idea on paper, but an amazing experience to live.
If I could, what would I change about myself? Nothing, all is perfect. Only kidding. Hard to answer as we are constantly in a ”work in progress” mode but I would say: Talk less, do more. Be a practitioner. Working on it.
What is my greatest achievement in work? It is a failure. Funny enough, it has taught me so much. I was on the verge of doing my first feature documentary in 2017 when I got the news that I had cancer and needed to take some time off to cure it. I had no other choice but to concentrate on myself, that was a failure in terms of work but it has been a great achievement in terms of changing the stuff that I was doing wrong in my personal life (sedentary lifestyle, junk food, stress). It was probably not the best time for me to do this documentary and as we say, everything happens for a reason, right?
Where would I most like to live? I love changes and I have lived already in three different countries in three decades but I guess I have no places in mind where I would like to live really. Let see where to bring me life and the projects.
What is my most treasured possession? My capacity for trusting my instinct and my guts. It has been so vital in the past few years.
What is my most marked characteristic? Being an active listener with most people. Since I am 15 years old, people that I don’t know come to me and tell me their life stories. Just like that. It has been heavy some times (in terms of the story I have been told) but very often empowering and energising, I have learnt through the years how to protect myself and cocoon myself in order to control the emotions that are the results of these discussions.
What is my most inspirational location, in my city? There is a place where called Source de l’Allondon (Gex, France), where you can go with the family and relax. You can pause and listen to the water stream, the birds. Look at the colours, meet with some wild animals. I love it so much.
What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? Mamma Trattoria, Ferney-Voltaire. Great Italian food. Really.
What books influenced my life and how? The 5 regrets of the dying by Bronnie Ware – Bronnie was a nurse who took care of old people and some of them were is bad health conditions. She got to talk to them just before they died and she made a top 5 list of the regrets of these dying people. A really touching book that gave me the power to do what I do without looking back.
Who are my favourite writers? It seems strange, but I have no favourite writers. I love to found a book and be inspired, I have never really focused on any writers.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Sam Cooke – Send me
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Batman.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Anyone who is trying to provide for their families, who are facing difficulties and keep the head up, anyone who is trying to leave a mark, any ordinary people, to the face of the world, with extraordinary experiences, to my eyes.
Which movie would I recommend seeing once in a lifetime? The Invisible Guest, by Oriol Paulo.
What role plays art in my life and work? It always has been very important, through its different forms (painting, drawing, music, dancing, movies), colours, shapes. It is part of me.
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My wife and soon my kid, but he does not it yet.
Whom would I like to work within 2019? Tahar Rahim, one of the greatest French actors, I like his attitude, I heard from people who knew him that he is a good guy too. Tahar, if you read this, let’s work together!
Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2019? Ryan Booth, Ryan Connolly, Will Smith, Oriol Paolo, many more. But if it happens, that’s great. If not, that was not written.
What project, in 2019, am I looking forward to work on? There are a couple of things in the starting block but some of them are not dependent only on my pre-production work. I am writing 3 short movies scripts, I will then decide which one I really want to make/develop and then make it with a little crew, actors.
Where can you see me or my work in 2019? On my website: www.wiss
What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Everything. If you find your passion in life, you will never want to retire, to stop doing it because it is vital for you. Now, the question is how do you find your passion. Maybe by making a list of things you like and trying, doing, experimenting till you feel inside that this is the thing you love.
Which creative heroes should Peter invite to tell their story? Mehdi Ouldsaad from Disruptive.

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