On set with Moneytically CorrectIsaac Laing with permission for Varsity

Antoine Ruello answers our Zoom call from a mansion in France. The Anglia Ruskin graduate and writer/director/producer of student film The Quiet Truth of Moneytically Correct is working on set of the French reworking of The Great British Bake Off when we get the chance to talk. While in France, Antoine is also juggling the remote post-production edits of his upcoming film and preparing his application to the prestigious National Film and Television School (NFTS). Busy is perhaps an understatement, but he is relaxed and generous with his time in our morning meeting.

The synopsis of Moneytically Correct (a play on ‘politically correct’, which Antoine admits he is particularly proud of) is certainly provocative. The film follows the ‘artistic freedom’ of a young filmmaker being quashed by a big studio’s ‘politically correct policy’ — a story that he felt compelled to tell after watching a Marvel film which tried to be ‘too correct’.

Our central character encounters a check-list of these politically correct hurdles – a meal isn’t vegan enough, the main cast isn’t diverse enough, an actor doesn’t have the right ‘look’. The film laments the suffering of art and authenticity in service of the dreaded ‘bottom-line’ — scared of boycotts and alienating audiences.

“Seeing his film come to life across their many locations — including the Arts Picturehouse — is a rare experience for any student filmmaker”

Antoine admits that when rounding up his crew the film was initially a tough sell. He wasn’t always forthcoming about the subject matter when he first approached other student filmmakers, and would send paragraphs explaining-slash-defending himself and the concept as he asked people to sign on. Yeggi, also a producer, had worked with Antoine during their degree and was an easier ‘yes’ — though he also briefly mentions a cinematographer who left the project due to ‘artistic differences’ and difficulties in casting certain roles.

It’s a hot-topic issue for sure, and to go to war with political correctness is a bold choice for his first production. He acknowledges this, making tentative air-quotes as he dares to call the film ‘brave’. When I ask him who he thinks the film is for, he asserts that he is not alone, that he has encountered ‘lots of people who feel we’re promoting diversity in the wrong way’. He’s aware this view isn’t necessarily popular, but says he simply wants ‘respect if not agreement’.

Isaac Laing with permission for Varsity
Isaac Laing with permission for Varsity

His concern for independent cinema is, at least, valid. Even pre-pandemic, only around half of independent films received a theatrical release, and less of those report box office earnings.

And those are the figures for feature films. For shorts like Antoine’s, especially those that are student-led, funding is near-impossible to get hold of. After one of his friends was able to raise £5,000 for a film through crowd-funding, Antoine went down a similar route, and spent two weeks creating a website to ask for donations. He’s honest — he didn’t have much luck and ended up having to fund the film himself.

It’s also a strong confirmation of the film’s central thesis — the anti-political correctness film trying to preserve art over money struggles to find funding. Very meta.


Mountain View

Student filmmaker Frankie Browne on his short horror film Midnight Feast

Regardless, shooting went ahead and Moneytically Correct is due to be submitted to various film festivals. Antoine is optimistic and excited to have the end in sight. Seeing his film come to life across their many locations — including the Arts Picturehouse — is a rare experience for any student filmmaker.

He reflects on the difficulty of breaking into the film industry and building up a portfolio of work as a student. Antoine was happy that he and the rest of the crew simply ‘had the opportunity to do something’ and is hopeful that avenues for students to make films — irrespective of their subject matter — will continue to grow.