"A French touch for the international market"
by Fabien Lemercier
07/03/2006 - Following on from a short film nominated for an Oscar in 1999 (Christian Volckman’s Maaz) and another one nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes 2004 (L’homme sans tête by Juan Solanas), the company took the feature road with success in 2005 with Nordeste. While we have to wait until May for the release of L’éclaireur by Djibril Glissant and June for The Jungle by Matthieu Delaporte, the phenomenal Renaissance [trailer, film focus] hits 250 French screens on March 15. Soumache looks back on a project that required eight years to reach maturity.
Cineuropa: What was the process that Onyx Films went through to get Renaissance made?
Aton Soumache: It all started in 1998 with a meeting with Christian Volckman, a director who was also a childhood friend associated with Onyx Films, and Marc Miance who was working on "motion capture" and 3D with trials in black-and-white. We started to look seriously at making the film at the end of 1999, beginning of 2000, and we began to work on the screenplay, on the financing of a 4 minute pilot, starting to develop it visually, story-wise... Once we had finished the screenplay and the pilot – in which we invested a considerable sum, mainly from our own funds but also thanks to the Media Programme and the National Film Centre – we completed the financing in 2001.
How did you get the €15m budget together?
It was an international package. The first partner was France 2 Cinéma (€1m), to our great surprise since we never thought that a terrestrial channel would commit to such a film in advance. Then we had the luck to find an enthusiastic associate producer, Jake Eberts, who helped us with the financing abroad, in particular with Disney (Miramax distributes Renaissance in North America) at the same time we signed with Pathé in France. The National Film Centre awarded us €500,000 in advance on receipts and €120,000 in support from new technologies and €220,000 from the Île de France region. We also had French tax breaks and a British "sale and leaseback" against international sales by Odyssey Entertainment, a specialist in animated films who offered us very interesting Minimum Guarantees. The film was made entirely in France with Millimages as co-producer, motion capture work was done in Luxembourg with our co-producer LuxAnimation and the post-production in England via our partner Timefirm Ltd.
What are Onyx Films’ current projects?
Renaissance is the first highly ambitious project that we have initiated. That has launched Onyx down the road we want to follow: the creation of a proper line-up of animated features which are visually strong, films with an added value, a "French touch", but for the international market. And we are already developing Christian Volckman’s next project.