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“We don’t want to sell a story; we want to tell a story”

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Vassili Silovic • Director, LIM - Less Is More

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- Cineuropa talked to Vassili Silovic, the director of Less Is More, at the 16th Transilvania IFF to discuss what this new programme can offer to the development of low-budget films

Vassili Silovic  • Director, LIM - Less Is More

Cineuropa met up with Vassili Silovic, the director of Less Is More, during LIM’s presence at the 16th Transilvania International Film Festival to discover what this new programme can offer to the development of low-budget films.

Cineuropa: How is LIM different, and why do we need another development workshop?
Vassili Silovic:
LIM is the first – or at least the first European – programme to be dedicated to low-budget films. It is important to point out that, as we live in an era where borders are returning and people are becoming more isolated, we promote the European idea of collaborating and exchanging ideas. Also, until now, limited-budget films have gone through a process whereby the writer-director developed a story alone, and then the producer came along and was the one forcing the budget to be lower. That procedure made things extremely frustrating for everybody. At LIM, the participants are encouraged to collaborate from an early stage. We really hope that this will lead to a community that will also attract producers, distributors and so on. We are now in a new world of independent cinema, and it is not possible to work like we did 40 years ago.

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How do you determine “low budget”?
In the beginning, we established boundaries and supported projects budgeted between €150,000 and €500,000. Very soon, we noticed that these figures were becoming an obstacle, as each country has a different figure that means “low budget”. So we decided not to talk about money, but rather focus on storytelling, aesthetics and techniques that are adapted to less money, and we can see later how much that might be. We have to get away from the past consumption mentality of always wanting more.

Usually, the pitching session comes at the end of a workshop. Why is it in the middle in your case?
As the main aim is to improve the architecture of each project by making a story smaller budget-wise but stronger story-wise, we thought it would be interesting to bring a bit of reality into this protected space, too. This translates into presenting the projects while they are still at the work-in-progress stage. The participants will feel a real sense of pressure and will have their first meeting with the industry. Afterwards, we can have discussions about their meetings and what they discovered about their projects. If this exposure comes at the end, then there is no feedback, and we don’t want to waste that opportunity.

Another innovation is the pre-recorded videos of the pitches.
Yes, this stems from the ten-year experience of Le Groupe Ouest. The directors and writers are not actors meant to perform; it is very harsh to put them in a situation where they have to be ready to present their work and charm an audience, and in some cases, this might even kill the project. Antoine Le Bos (LIM artistic director) developed this idea of filming yourself while you are feeling comfortable, so you can just tell your story.

So they are not traditional pitches?
This is the second point: we don’t want to sell a story through a pitch; we want to tell a story. The participant should learn to get to the heart of the project and prepare what we call a “tell-me” video. You can make as many as you want until you reach your final goal. We prepare them together, and the group helps each other to improve. The best “tell-me” is the one shown during the session. Through the video, the producer can see the real personality of the director, which usually evaporates during a traditional pitch.

Also, the development is based on a treatment and not a draft of the script.
We prefer to have authors who are not too advanced in their work. The more you have developed your script, the harder it is to adapt the architecture. You can tell stories and change them easily instead of rewriting them each time. We believe in orality, as we can make things more dynamic by being told, rather than having them written down. Obviously, at the end we come back to scriptwriting, but in the meantime, we avoid all the exhaustion of preparing multiple drafts.

Are you not afraid that this relaxed character will seem less professional to the cynical industry?
I don’t think so; we need to take risks. We present it as something different, but afterwards, the producers have the chance to meet the directors and writers to verify everything. We cannot guarantee what might happen later on, but when a producer is attracted solely by a story, what else could he wish for?

What is the future of LIM?
LIM has an ambition to seek out new partners that are financially strong enough and that can help us to follow some of the projects at least to a second phase, which would be pre-production. We want to help them to be stronger and avoid being alone as they face the daunting production process, by giving them all the support we can for a little bit longer than just the script development. 

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