In Conversation with Emmanuel Tenenbaum, director of Free Fall

‘Free Fall’ follows Tom, a young trader in London whose recent performance at work has put his career at risk on the day of 9/11, as he realises that it was a terrorist attack and not an accident. This knowledge influences him to make the biggest trade of his life, but not everyone is convinced by what he is saying…

Strand spoke with director Emmanuel Tenenbaum to learn more about his motivations behind making the film as well as his sources of influence outside the realm of cinema.

Credit: Emmanuel Tenenbaum

Lydia Leung: In your own words, could you tell me a bit about yourself, and what the film is about?

Emmanuel Tenenbaum: I’m Emmanuel Tenenbaum, a French filmmaker based in Holland, and for a few years I’ve been working with a scriptwriter, Guillaume Fournier, from Quebec. Together we’ve been doing short films about money and greed in corporate environments - we’ve done two comedies and now Free Fall.

Free Fall is based on a true story about a young trader in London on the day of 9/11, who was losing a lot of money. He figured out what was going on before anyone else, after the first plane hit the tower, and he used this information to make a lot of money. It’s a film about the limits to intelligence, greed and morality within the trading world.

LL: What was the inspiration for the film?

ET: The film is based on a book by Dutch author Joris Luyendijk, called ‘Swimming with Sharks’. He spent two years in London, talking to insiders in the banking world, collecting stories and this was one of those stories in which the protagonist completely forgets about his friends inside the tower, because he is so absorbed in the money game.

LL: On your website you mention that you’ve had experience working in a corporate environment - have any of these experiences influenced the film?

ET: I think that it influenced almost everything- especially the topics that Guillaume and I choose, because I know the reality of the corporate world and our films are made in a way that is truthful to this world. To some extent it helped me with directing; I saw how people behave, how they speak, how they interact. In a strange way, directing a film is like being a project leader on a very large project, and having professional training in project leading helped with filmmaking as well.

LL: And what made you want to become a filmmaker?

ET: I don’t really know, it kind of just came out! I was studying Biomedical Science in Spain, and I registered for an evening film school. I don’t know why. Then gradually one day I thought “Okay, I just have to make a film”. I wish I had a better explanation, but it just naturally happened like that.

LL: What do you think Tom’s motivations are? Is he trying to save his career, prevent his investors from losing money, or something else?