Skip to content

Montreal's Vincent René-Lortie almost quit filmmaking. Now he's going to the Oscars

Before receiving an Oscar nod for his debut narrative short film, Vincent René-Lortie was ready to quit filmmaking. “It was a hard time for me.
Before receiving an Oscar nod for his debut narrative short, Vincent Rene-Lortie was ready to quit filmmaking. Rene-Lortie, director of the film "Invincible," is shown in a 2024 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-William Daviau, *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Before receiving an Oscar nod for his debut narrative short film, Vincent René-Lortie was ready to quit filmmaking.

“It was a hard time for me. We just got out of the pandemic, and I wasn't making any money,” says the Montreal-born director on a video call from Los Angeles.

“I was really having some serious conversations about changing my whole career and becoming a nurse.”

Fortunately, the 30-year-old’s career path became much clearer when his film “Invincible” was nominated for an Oscar in the live-action short film category, set to be awarded at the star-studded ceremony in L.A. on Sunday.

A video posted on social media shows René-Lortie and his team screaming and jumping for joy in reaction to the nomination announcement in January.

“We were freaking out because we never expected to be here,” he says.

“I don't know if I would still be a filmmaker today if it wasn't for the reception that came from this film.”

“Invincible” chronicles the final 48 hours of a 14-year-old boy’s life as he escapes a juvenile detention centre and wrestles his inner demons. The French-language film is inspired by true events involving René-Lortie’s childhood friend, Marc-Antoine Bernier, who died after driving a stolen car into a river.

It’s up against four other films, including “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” by Wes Anderson and Steven Rales.

René-Lortie got the idea for the film five years ago, right after graduating from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. Still affected by Bernier’s death, he began having conversations with his late friend’s family to gain a better understanding of the tragedy.

“One of the first things his dad told me was that there was a possibility that this could have been a suicide,” he says.

“This information really hit me because I realized there were many things about my friend I didn’t understand, and I felt very far away from him. I started doing research for about a year and while doing so I felt closer to him. And this idea of doing a film started to grow inside of me.”

René-Lortie says he wanted “Invincible,” which he wrote and directed, to be a film about someone “who feels unheard, who feels like he’s drowning, who feels like nobody’s listening to him.”

Victoriaville, Que., native Léokim Beaumier-Lépine plays Bernier in his first lead acting role. René-Lortie says he chose someone with little experience because he wanted an “honest and pure” performance.

“When Léokim got into the audition room, I knew right away it was going to be him because he was very close to his emotions. In his own way, he could understand the real Marc.”

René-Lortie describes the lead-up to the Academy Awards as “surreal.” He flew to L.A. in mid-February to partake in the 2024 Oscar nominees luncheon, where he met two of his biggest inspirations: Canadian filmmaker Celine Song and Steven Spielberg.

“With Steven, we talked a lot about filming in Quebec, because he used to shoot there a lot and he loved working with people there,” he says.

“I hope I can build some new relationships and potentially work with some people I’ve met here.”

René-Lortie has been in L.A. since then, meeting with agencies, managers and production companies, making connections he’s hoping might come in handy for his first feature film, “You Were Always An Island,” which he’s currently working on. He describes it as “a very grounded sci-fi film.”

“It’s very personal again, this time even more so (than ‘Invincible’). It speaks about mental health, but more precisely about a lot of things I went through over the last couple years, especially during the pandemic.”

René-Lortie says he and “Invincible” producer Samuel Caron will hit the red carpet with their partners, along with a dozen of the film's crew members.

“It's going to be fun. We're all going to be staying at the same Airbnb and dressing up. We’re going to have a glam team come do hair and makeup for us. I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to start getting ready.”

René-Lortie will be wearing a suit by Italian brand Tagliatore and jewelry by Montreal boutique Coming Age.

The filmmaker is excited to represent his hometown at the awards bash.

“I really feel, for the first time in my life, a wave of love coming from Quebec and from Montreal,” says René-Lortie.

“We were so young when we started to work on this film and I still feel really young and new to this world. It's crazy and also moving and beautiful to see people reaching out.”

The 96th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air Sunday night on ABC and CTV.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024.

Alex Nino Gheciu, The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks