To leave one's own existence. Give up everything to change your life. For many, it's a fantasy that will never materialize. But when this escape becomes the means of leaving a tragedy behind, exile is not pleasurable, but a means to survive. This is what authors and producers Anne Boyer and Michel d’Astous made their character Anne-Sophie Moran (Céline Bonnier) go through, in the L’Heure Bleue series. A growing television success for three seasons already.
Anne Boyer and Michel d’Astous (Photo by Marili Levac)
Two Authors, Three Themes
“How would it be to radically change your life?” Was the question both writers asked themselves as they brainstormed to create a new television series. They imagined the character of Anne-Sophie, a 50-year-old professional who cuts ties with her family and starts from scratch. “But a person who picks up and leaves on a whim is not very nice, especially when she has children and a family,” says Michel d'Astous. “We then wondered what her motives would be, so that we understood her dismay. I remembered a news item I had read: a father had left home in his car to go to work and hit his child who was riding a bicycle. I wondered how you can survive the death of a child you are responsible for. So, we changed the circumstances to tell L’Heure Bleue.” The two authors also wanted to talk about children who are different and chose to focus on the hyperactivity of Guillaume’s character, Anne-Sophie’ son. “We wanted to add this aspect to the story. There are several levels of hyperactivity and attention deficit. Parents need to pay closer attention to children with this condition and the other kids stay on the sidelines a little. This can be demanding for families. It's quite a daily challenge,” explains Michel d'Astous. And so, three major themes have shaped the premise of L’Heure Bleue: changing one’s life, the mourning of a child and the issues caused by an ADHD-like disorder.
Writer and Producer Anne Boyer and Director Stéphan Beaudoin (Photo by Eric Myre)
To Reinvent Oneself
L’Heure Bleue was not Anne Boyer and Michel d'Astous’s first story. They have been writing together for television for more than 30 years and have also been producing through Duo Productions for almost 15 years. However, this new series had a different approach compared to what they had written before: “A series like Yamaska, for example, was a classic soap opera. We passed from one story to another in the families without any common connection really, except for their friendship. With L’Heure Bleue, there is something more cinematic because we follow the deconstructed story of a character in her decision to leave,” says Michel. For L’Heure Bleue, the two authors could have kept to the same formula as Yamaska, which won several Gémeaux awards including that of best drama. However, like their character, they chose to change by proposing a different approach, as Michel says: “We try not to write the same things, in the same structure, with the same tone from one series to another. We wrote the detective series Le gentleman, we made the historical saga Nos étés. We try to put ourselves in danger as authors, and to tell a different story each time.”
During principal photography (Photo by Eric Myre)
This change in the content and the style of the show seems to please the public. Indeed, since its inception, the series has had a ratings of over 1.1 million and ranks in the top 10 most watched shows in Québec. Not to mention the Gémeaux Awards and international recognition. Michel d'Astous considers himself privileged: “We are very happy! This is even more of a success with the audience, because we make 24 episodes a year and the public remains faithful. People's consumption habits are changing, and they are watching L’Heure Bleue on other platforms, on the web or on replay, but the craze for stories that touch us is still there. People seem to have adopted the story and accepted this weekly meeting. We can think that our series reaches the target audience, and that is fortunate.”
Michel d'Astous and the team (Photo by Eric Myre)
The Story that Transforms
Michel d'Astous sums up well what their work as authors and producers is: “What we write, Anne and I, is a call to openness, to difference. We share reflections and questions, rather than answers. Beyond the production aspect, the essence of our job is to touch people, to give them an experience and perhaps to change their way of seeing things.” Mission accomplished.
In L'Heure Bleue, the viewer is invited into an emotional quest where shock, mourning, hope and metamorphosis intermingle. The story told by Anne Boyer and Michel d'Astous reminds us that it is not enough to physically leave a place to transform oneself. In fact, changing one's life is perhaps only a way of becoming oneself.
In studio (Photo by Eric Myre)
Season 3 of L’Heure Bleue airs on Tuesdays, 9PM, since September 11 on TVA. It is also available on TVA.ca. The first season is available on DVD and the seasons 1 and 2 are presented on Club Illico. You can follow the series on Facebook and on the official website.