Respect for an artistic integrity
by Fabien Lemercier
15/06/2007 - How did Persepolis [trailer, film focus] come about?
Marc-Antoine Robert: Marjane and I were friends and I’d worked for five years at France 3 Cinéma co-producing films. I met my associate Xavier Rigault there who worked in exhibition, on programming in the Pathé and Gaumont cinemas. We wanted to find the right project to start in production and Marjane began to receive a lot of offers from the United States for rights’ acquisitions for her graphic novel. We both came to the conclusion that if we produced the film in France between friends and people we trusted that would be the best guarantee of respect for the artistic integrity of the film.
How did you secure the €6m budget?
Marjane and Vincent wrote the script quite quickly and when we read it, we were taken aback. We then decided to form 247 Films and started to look for financing. We didn’t follow this custom for animated films where you make a demo recording that you lug around with you to festivals and other animation forums. The script was so remarkable and above average, and with the fame of the graphic novel and Marjane, we started to look for financing. First the Fondation Gan for cinema got involved, which allowed us not to depend on the usual bank loans to finalise the development. Then, we had a minimum guarantee from Celluloid Dreams (now Dreamachine) for international sales, Diaphana for theatrical and video rights in France, advances on receipts from the CNC, France 3 Cinéma in co-production and pre-sales, and the Ile-de-France region. We also had a special contract with our international sales agent, which gave us the chance to keep the US territory. Very early on, Kathleen Kennedy (Steven Spielberg’s producer) showed her interest in the project and, in an unbiased way, offered to help us complete our financing. She did it for our business by getting pre-sales from US studio Sony Pictures Classics.
How did you manage the making of the film?
We had delocalisation funding in France for production with the backing of the Ile-de-France and tax credits, which are a real incentive. In Paris we occupied a space of 800 m2 that we gave back at the end of the film. For the executive production of the animation we worked with two studios: Je suis bien content and Pumpkin 3D. Since there aren’t many animated features produced in France, they didn’t have the resources to each do their own project so they united their forces, which gave us great recruitment opportunities and have an executive production managed daily by Marc Jousset. It turned out to be crucial that Marjane and Vincent were involved in the heart of the project, as we wanted permanent dialogue with teams. On paper, animation relocalisations seem to take place to save costs, but things are often redone and in the end, films are frequently delivered late at a cost that ends up to be identical. I have to point out that Marjane and Vincent have nothing to do with these arguments between 2D and 3D people. We did some tests and those in 3D weren’t conclusive, they didn’t fit the style of the film at all. So from the beginning, we went for a traditional animated film for artistic reasons.