Jill Niquet-Joyal gives a straight, clear and confident answer when asked how many female directors are alone at the helm of a major variety show in Quebec: zero. However, his assessment is wrong. There is only one. And she is.
Posted at 9:00 am
By taking the reins of the mighty machine The Voice, Jill Niquet-Joyal has ventured into largely dominated territory. Masked Singers (Luc Sirois), Star Académie (Maxime Bissonnette-Théorêt), Zénith (Alain Chicoine), Live from the Universe (Luc Sirois), the Gemini Gala (Daniel Vigneault), ADISQ (Jocelyn Barnabé)… In the last 12 months ago, these shows were all men-only. And revolution? The result of a collaboration between Maxime Bissonnette-Théorêt, in charge of the dance numbers on stage, and Josiane Lamarre, who takes care of the segments behind the scenes.
“It’s funny when you notice that,” observes the 38-year-old. It’s like a glass ceiling. »
We are also talking about a “new glass ceiling” at Réalisatrices equitables, an organization that promotes justice behind the lens, although at the moment “it seems to be the exception that proves the rule”.
The lack of female directors at the helm of large sets is nothing new. In 2012, a research report initiated by the Association of Directors and Directors of Quebec (ARRQ) found that they did not have access to more robust productions.
A boys club, variety production? “I’ve been in this field since I was 21,” says Jill Niquet-Joyal. I never felt blocked or judged differently because I was a girl. I always felt like I was part of the change. »
Jill Niquet-Joyal admits it: The “rose-colored glasses” she likes to wear certainly color her view of the television industry. But she insists: She doesn’t have the impression of developing into “a male domain”.
It’s true that almost only 50-year-old men do these shows, but I think they’re all happy when a girl shows up. I’ve always felt everyone’s support.
Jill Niquet-Joyal had not invited La Presse to MELS Studios in Saint-Hubert, where she is shooting The Voice, but in Montreal, within the confines of TVA, a place she visited every day for two years while directing Tour, with Patrick Huard.
Watching her roam freely in the building on De Maisonneuve Boulevard, you can see that she feels at home there. And when you see the confidence with which she talks about her career, you can imagine that she leads a team of around fifty people.
“I’m a music lover,” she says. I was born with MusiquePlus. I listened to it eight hours a day. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Nirvana boxes… I bought them all… and of course to consume the music of the time. I also bought the Dance Mix 94. »
Jill Niquet-Joyal says she’s “surfed” a lot since graduating from the Graduate School of Media Art and Technology (ATM) at Cégep de Jonquière in 2005. Occupancy, Dans l’œil du dragon), travel magazines (99 escape requests), news programs (Téléjournal) and culture magazines (Sucré salé).
However, for some time she dreamed of varieties. In fact, she has dreamed of it since her internship at the end of her studies with director Pierre Séguin (La petite vie, Just for Laughs galas), where she notably helped him to capture DJ Champion’s great open-air concert at the Festival of Jazz . “I said to myself, ‘I want to relive that moment. I want to do this my whole life.” I really have something. »
That’s why last year’s call from Productions Déferlantes, the company behind La voix, came at just the right time. “When my phone rang, I was like, ‘Oh shit!’ Is it risky? Totally. Is it dizzying? Completely. Do I have what it takes to get there? Maybe not, but I manage to deliver. I trust that.”
For Jill Niquet-Joyal, the voice presented a double challenge, since the offer of Déferlantes was also accompanied by a special mission: to renew and revitalize the popular show, which was re-aired after two seasons.
The Voice is a rigid format that can have a slightly cheesy side with its packaging rich in cake icing. It’s very formatted, very Americanized. I knew that in some cases I would pass the axe!
Therefore, Jill Niquet-Joyal has started a cleaning operation. From the graphic design to the contestants’ performances, including the lighting, the director wanted to go “back to basics.”
“In Quebec, when it comes to variety shows, we’re very artist-centric. But when we’re watching an indoor concert, it’s rare that we’re just looking at the person singing. If there is a bass pass, let’s look at the bass. If there is a drum pass, let’s look at the drum. We make our own cut. That’s what I wanted to do this season: show the band. We went in search of the best musicians in the world. We want to see them play!
“I want to give viewers the key to feel as many emotions as possible,” she adds. It goes through the host, the coaches, the candidate, his story, his family and above all the music. »
Jill Niquet-Joyal’s “sweep” failed to stem the erosion of Sunday meeting ratings. In 2020, The Voice averaged 1,850,000 followers. Since his return in January, that number has risen to 1,675,000, according to Numéris. However, the music competition tops the list of most-watched programs in Quebec and has achieved results higher than the last two editions of Star Académie. Mission accomplished.
“Jill is the next generation of diversity,” says Jean-Philippe Dion, vice president, content and strategy, at Déferlantes. She breathed a new vision into the show, a breath of fresh air. »
For me it is a great pride that a woman runs such a big variety show. Especially since it’s a premiere.
Jean Philippe Dion
Pass the puck
The voice adventure is far from over for Jill Niquet-Royal. With the preliminary rounds (blind auditions, fight songs and duels) already taped and edited, the director is currently preparing the live stage, which starts on March 19th, which she is quite annoyed and upset about.
For two weeks she has also been photographing the Les chefs culinary competition, which will return to ICI Télé in the spring. For this 12th season, she has teamed up with Audrey Potvin, who will direct five episodes. “It’s my turn to pass it on,” says the young veteran. If you notice, you must be able to pass the puck. »
The Voice is presented on TVA on Sundays at 7:30 p.m.