Love is a Four Letter Word – Brice Ferre and Melanie Zaffran



When I met with Brice Ferre, freelance photographer in Vancouver, and Melanie Zaffran who works in film production, there was an instant feeling of familiarity.   The couple met eleven years ago in Film School, in France, as restless 19 year olds, Brice from Bretagne, Melanie from Le Mans. They easily interrupt each other and finish each other’s sentences; so please excuse my overuse of the ellipsis (…).  They seamlessly move between teasing each other and being serious.  It’s their European charm; and I understand how Brice is able to make his clients comfortable in his focus on authenticity in his work.  We hung out on Granville Island to find out what makes them tick.

What drew you to him/her when you first met?

Melanie: I thought we had the same sense of humour, plus he was really cute.  Maybe he was just being nice…

Brice: (smiling)…of course I was

Melanie:  You know how you always think you have your own little humour and no one really gets it, and then he laughed, so I thought ok cool. He still laughs…

Brice: of course…

Melanie: …at my jokes eleven years later so I guess that’s a good sign right?

And you?

Brice:  She’s tall, thin and very good-looking (my kryptonite!). I remember very clearly the first time I saw her. When I discovered how smart and funny she was. That was it…

What are some special moments or memories that you still talk about? 

 Brice:  All the travel we’ve done together, we’ve travelled quite a bit…

Melanie:  Our very first conversation was about traveling.  I had spent a year in the US as an exchange student and he’d gone to the US on a work and travel visa for the summer. He said I’m planning on going back this summer and I’m like well, I’ll come with you. Ten months later, we planned the trip and we went together back to Virginia…

Brice:  …we were nineteen at the time. The idea was basically to get away from France and work in the US, no matter how, no matter where…

Brice:  We spent 24/7 together…

Melanie: …we didn’t kill each other.

Do you still date?

Melanie: We don’t really go out much, we enjoy spending evenings at home, cooking diner. It’s just the two of us, so every night is pretty much a date.

Brice: I started cooking about six months ago.  Before that, I hated it. At some point, when Melanie was freelancing on movies and tv shows, twelve to fifteen hours a day. I thought if she has to come home and she has to cook, I’m gonna be single pretty soon. I wanted to have dinner ready when she got home every night. Then we started cooking together, the two of us and now I kind of like it actually…

Melanie: …I think for a while he was afraid I would always tell him how to do it.  But then he started doing it on his own and he didn’t have to worry about me being on his back; now I say how do you want to do this?

Brice:  We put some music on, we start cooking, if we have wine, we drink wine. 

What is the secret to your relationship?

Melanie:  We talk a lot about every thing.

Brice: (smirking, under his breath) She does, I listen a lot.

Melanie: (not missing a beat) Yeah, he pretends to listen a lot.  We haven’t always agreed on every thing, but we’ve always talked it through.  We never fight. (Brice: ever)  Some people think that’s not normal.  We don’t always always agree on things, and we just tell each other. (Smiling) And then I tell him I’m right and he says ok.

Brice:  You have to suck it up, if you’re the guy, just suck it up.  Then forget about it.  You don’t have to try, if you’re trying hard, then its not working.

Melanie:  I think another thing is to always appreciate the little things, like always saying thank you even for the dumbest things: doing the dishes, taking care of laundry, especially when its little chores that nobody likes to do.

Brice:  You just have to appreciate what the other one is doing.

Is love a four-letter word? 

Brice:  L-O-V-E.  It is, yeah.  I can tell you that much.

Melanie:  I think a long lasting relationship is about balance. It’s when both people are really just feeling good about themselves and about the other person.  It’s not about being so happy one day and so depressed the other, … that’s BS. It’s about how happy are you on a daily basis.

I have a time machine – what is the one thing that you would tell yourself about your partner before you met? 

Brice: It started out when I was a nineteen year old kid, and now you have that (pointing to himself.)  How do you like that? She was awesome ten years ago, but she’s even better now. It gets easier and easier because we know each other so well, we don’t have to think about it anymore.  You know when you’re nineteen, you make mistakes here and there.  If I had a time machine, I would just say, it’s worth it, go with it.  Go with the flow, no matter what happens.

What is the one thing he/she does that makes you crazy? 

Brice:  The way she leaves a glass in the sink in the morning when she goes to work.  Everything is clean in the apartment; there is just the one glass in the sink  – that just bugs me.  It’s so cute at the same time.  Now every time I see that, I just smile.

Melanie: If he’s cooked the night before, I’ll do the dishes in the morning.  I’ll leave my one glass of orange juice in the sink, just because  (Brice:  just the one – one glass.)

The one thing I had a little bit of a beef about is the time spent on the computer.   You could hear all the emails coming in or the text messages come in, because it’s a small apartment.  We’ll come home from wherever, and he’ll go to the computer.  But at the same time, I’m no better.

Brice: I had to work on that but don’t do it anymore. I turned the email sound off on my mac… it changed my life!

How do you know when he/she is upset?

Brice:  Oh you know!  (Laughing)  She’s a woman.  You can feel it I guess… in the air…

Melanie: …I get really quiet….

Brice:  She gets really quiet…

Melanie: …When I’m thinking about something that troubles me.  I’m never upset at him, or if I am I tell him right away.  I’ve seen him upset a couple of times, but not on a regular basis.

Brice:  I don’t do upset, I think it’s a waste of time.

What do you do to cheer him/her up?

Brice: At first when I was younger, I would ask about it, what’s wrong, what do you want me to do, what should I do to fix it.  But now I learnt to be quiet about it, go with the flow.   I need to be around, but I don’t need to ask what’s wrong.

Melanie:  Sometimes you get in a mood, and other people can’t necessarily do anything about it, but humour makes it better, or just listening. Do I get upset a lot?

Brice:  Not really, it happens with work and stuff like that.  But its five minutes and that’s it.

Melanie:  When he came back from France, I cleaned the whole apartment; I cleaned the car, vacuumed the car, and baked a pie.  It’s not how big a present you give every year, its how many little details you take care of during the day.

Brice:  She likes when I make breakfast.  Since I didn’t use to cook, making breakfast on the weekends has always been my job. But now I’ve started doing it every day of the week.

Words and Interview by Adina Spivak. Photos by Christine McAvoy.