Denis Freyd • Producer
by Fabien Lemercier
03/04/2012 - Denis Freyd, the head of Archipel 35, has forged his way with films of great quality. He has just produced, one after the other, The Minister [trailer, film focus] by Pierre Schoeller, 17 Girls [trailer] by the Coulin sisters, The Kid with a Bike [trailer, film focus] by the Dardenne brothers (for whom he produced their last four films) and Sister [trailer, film focus] by Ursula Meier (Special Jury Award at the Berlinale, out in France on April 18).
Cineuropa: Three films in Cannes in 2011, one in Berlin this year, awards at both festivals, and more at the César… Is life good for Archipel 35 ?
Denis Freyd: It’s exceptional, but follows on from my editorial line. It is true that I have produced more recently, because three years ago, I committed to a set of projects still at their very beginning. None were written, all were in the concept stage. I then announced a great development programme with the help of the MEDIA programme, the CNC, and from the SOFICA.
How would you define your editorial line?
I work on auteur films. I, of course, think that the screenplay is very important, but I am especially interested in mise-en-scène, in the filmmaker’s point of view, to what can seem innovative, or at least an attempt at being innovative, even playing with genres.
Is finding funding for your productions easy?
It depends on the screenplays. I didn’t think that I was going to be able to set up The Minister so easily, as it was quite costly, but partners said yes immediately. Films by the Dardenne brothers are relatively easy to set up because it’s them, they keep reasonable budgets (€5-6m), and several countries are involved [Belgium, France, Italy]. But if they had a project for €10–12m, it might be a little more difficult. As for first features, it’s always more complicated, but there is a certain logic in everybody being prudent.
Are European co-productions indispensable to you?
The Kid with a Bike, The Minister, and Sister are European co-productions and all three benefited from the support of Eurimages. Without that, we would not have been able to make these films.
What are curent tendencies in French productions?
There is, notably among the younger generation of producers, a real desire to go towards popular entertainment cinema, and there is therefore an important volume of production in this field. At the same time, many auteur films have recently done very well on admissions, which is quite encouraging. And we have also seen ambitious and radical foreign films find an audience in France. For a few months now, I have been surprised by the quality of director-producer relationships, which were not always like this.
Screening all films in cinemas is complicated.
Some circuits play the game, but cinema owners have to face an extraordinary amount of demands in view of the volume of production. We are also in a period of media transition, and distributors are forced to spend more money almost everwhere: trailers in cinemas, advertisements in circuit programmes... At the same time, they continue traditional posters, and there is the state of the press, the question of Internet, of a viral market. All that has increased the cost of releasing a film, so that what looks like a success from the outside isn’t necessarily one, in view of the costs involved.
What are your projets ?
On April 12, I will start filming Bird People by Pascale Ferran. We learned to appreciate each other during the “Club des 13” and she asked me if I wanted to produce her new film. I didn’t hesitate for even a quarter of a second.