Pierre-Alain Meier • Producer
by Françoise Deriaz
24/05/2007 - An international producer who has made films worldwide, Pierre-Alain Meier is back in Switzerland with A Parting Shot, the second feature directed by Jeanne Waltz
Born in the Swiss Jura in 1952, Pierre-Alain Meier trained at the INSAS in Brussels and combines directing (Thelma, 2002) and production. Director of the company Thelma Film (Zurich) since 1988 and Prince Film (Geneva) since 2006, he produces as much in Africa (Idrissa Ouédraogo, S. Pierre Yameogo, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Merzak Allouache), Latin America (Fernando Solanas), Asia (Rithy Panh), as in Europe (Sotiris Goritsas, Karim Dridi) and Switzerland (Markus Imhoof, Alain Tanner).
You’re Swiss, you live in Switzerland, but half of the twenty-five films you have produced were made by directors from other continents. Do you feel close to Switzerland?
Pierre-Alain Meier: Yes and no. Everything started when I met Idrissa Ouédraogo and Africa. I arrived in Ouagadougou on one night in April 1988, for what was an unlikely first production (Yaaba, 1989). I was very interested in Africa: it took me four films in the years that followed to understand the country and finally find a way leave it. That was followed by the Cambodian adventure Rice People with Rithy Panh, with the producer Jacques Bidou – with whom I’m currently co-producing Annemarie Jacir’s Salt of this Sea in Palestine – then Fire in Paradise in India with Markus Imhoof. The exchange with a director from the south and a quite mixed (North-South) technical team, without sacrificing the highest artistic and cinematographic demands, trained me and helped me to discover worlds that I had kind of ignored up to then. Also, for Southern directors, making a film is less of a solitary act that it is for a Northern director. And the unusual producer that I was in my element there. But in reality, I never entirely "left" Switzerland and I still produce there regularly.
How did you meet Jeanne Waltz, who lives and works in Portugal?
I met her for the first time a long time ago, then three years ago at a workshop that I held with Belgian (Patrick Quinet) and French producers (Alain Rozanes and Didier Haudepin) where films projects, including Jeanne Waltz’s, were selected. So I didn’t go and look for an unusual director to escape the “swissitude” of Swiss actors.
What was it about the story of A Parting Shot that attracted you?
The story is set in the Jura, in the Chaux-de-Fonds, which is the region where I come from and which I never filmed. If it was a film in Portugal, I don’t think, despite my strong friendship with Jeanne Waltz, as well as her talent and the quality of her project, that I would have got involved in this adventure. We also decided with Didier Haudepin (the French co-producer) to produce this film by sharing the risks and the workload. I’m getting old, I like working together more and more. I also have to say that I’ve just adopted three small children (in Ethiopia and India), so now I calculate my time a little more.
As a director, have you been very interventionist or did you give free rein to Jeanne Waltz?
I avoid projects where I could be too tempted to let out my frustrations of being a director. I prefer to get rid of my excess of accumulated altruism through certain productions by developing my own projects.
The film is co-produced by Didier Haudepin (Bloody Mary Productions), who, like you, is both a line and executive producer. How did you share the work?
It was interesting and complicated, as Didier Haudepin is also an “auteur” and director. But in the end, it was a rich experience.
What is the film’s budget?
1.7 millions euros.