Adeline Fontan Tessaur • Exporter, Elle Driver
by Fabien Lemercier
06/02/2012 - Set up in 2008, French company Elle Driver very quickly found its place on the international sales scene with, over the years, films by big names including Claire Denis, Rachid Bouchareb, Jerzy Skolimowski, Fred Cavayé, Agnes Kocsis and Emanuele Crialese. Cineuropa met with Adeline Fontan Tessaur, who founded and manages the company with Eva Diederix, a few days ahead of the opening of the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival 2012.
Cineuropa: Elle Driver is selling Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen [trailer, film focus], which will open the Berlinale in competition. How have you worked on the film up to now?
Adeline Fontan Tessaur: We kicked off sales at Cannes on the basis of the script, with a few pre-sales. Then, we showed some fantastic images at the AFM where we pre-sold to almost all the major territories in the space of 48 hours. And yet, it’s far from easy for an auteur film like that, because most distributors often wait to see the finished films. In this case, the screenplay was great, the cast perfect and the intimate perspective chosen for talking about Marie-Antoinette is original.
Your line-up is very diverse, both in terms of the nationality and type of films. What is your strategy for picking films?
We work with three types of film: mainstream (with more and more developments in English-language films), films by well-established auteurs which can be shown at major festivals (we always have films at Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and Toronto) and very strong, unconventional genre or concept films, for instance past titles like Rubber [trailer] and The Silent House and an explosive movie such as Spanish director Juan-Carlos Medina’s forthcoming Painless, some images from which we will show at Berlin. We’re very eclectic out of personal taste, as well as out of necessity: it’s dangerous to focus on only one type of film. Everything is faster, competition is more intense. At times, you have to take on films that are a bit more radical and more original, create a stir in order to stand out in a market that has become a bit conservative.
The Italian film A.C.A.B. - All Cops Are Bastards [trailer, film focus] is a surprise in your line-up.
Stefano Sollima has a lot of talent. The subject is quite different from the usual Italian films. It’s somewhat in the same vein as Hate was in its time; it’s quite violent, based on a true story and, undoubtedly, set to face some controversy. The theme of violence in society is universal and interesting.
What is Elle Driver’s growth strategy?
Our aim is to remain a manageable-sized company and to put 100% into our work on each film by developing relationships of trust, close support and great transparency with producers and talents. But we don’t hesitate in taking on debut films like Painless or Bachelorette, which has just had its premiere at Sundance and which we had pre-sold worldwide on the basis of some images. And we’ve recently had several successes, including Hysteria [trailer] which screened at Toronto, enjoyed a great buzz and which we sold almost throughout the world even though on paper, people could have wondered about the subject matter. We also financed and produced The Silent House, the English-language remake of the Spanish film La Casa Muda which will have a big release in the US in March. This is another avenue for development.
What is your analysis of the overall economic situation of the markets?
We’ll never get back to the level of business activity and prices of seven or eight years ago. It’s impossible because there were big MGs (Minimum Guarantees) on lots of films. On the other hand, when a film is good, it still sells very, very well. Distributors don’t pounce as much on all films and there are fewer sales at very high prices, but a good film sells very well whatever happens.