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Frédéric Boyer • Artistic director, Les Arcs European Film Festival

"There are huge numbers of free films around these days"

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- Frédéric Boyer, who is in charge of selection for the Les Arcs European Film Festival, talks us through the Work-in-Progress section and trends in the film industry

Frédéric Boyer  • Artistic director, Les Arcs European Film Festival
(© Les Arcs European Film Festival)

On the eve of the opening of the 8th Les Arcs European Film Festival (being held from 10 to 17 December 2016), we caught up with its artistic director Frédéric Boyer (who also occupies the same post at the Tribeca Film Festival) to talk not just about the films he has chosen this year (see article), but about the Work-in-Progress section (see article) and the trends that are rapidly gathering speed in the global film industry.

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Cineuropa: Featuring 15 European titles currently in post-production, the 2016 edition of Work-in-Progress at Les Arcs is more packed than it has been in previous years. Why?
Frédéric Boyer
: With the Lab Project prize launched by Eurimages (see news article), we’ve added a few films that are even more innovative, in their form and duration, and in the way they tell their stories. Moreover, every year we receive more and more applications, as lots of professionals come to Work-in-Progress at Les Arcs, which is a very good platform for preparing for Cannes and the festivals that follow. This year, for the first time, we had to reject seven or eight films that are nonetheless very good, a choice which was also made in consideration of the variety of styles we wanted to present. So every film will have six minutes of screen time with two or three clips and a pitch from the producer and/or director. And the next day, we will also be holding a "one-to-one" morning for the first time, which will be exclusively for the films in Work-in-Progress for sales, co-production and festival purposes. Nonetheless, in spite of what is at stake for the filmmakers, to us it’s of vital importance that we uphold the friendly atmosphere that makes our festival so appealing.

The 2016 edition of Work-in-Progress includes films by directors that have already stood out at major festivals. Is the fact that these films have been put together without a seller, which is one of the conditions for being chosen, a symptom of the general state of production at the moment?
When we see clips from Koko-di Koko-da by Johannes Nyholm or In My Room by Ulrich Köhler for example, we don’t hesitate and are delighted to include them in the selection. But it’s true that with the current crisis in distribution we’re seeing, we’re noticing that fewer and fewer sellers are committing to projects with the minimum guarantees for film that we uphold at Les Arcs. So some doors are closing, but at the same time, lots more are opening, as there are huge numbers of free films around these days. And there are real expectations around film. Those we’re going to show at Les Arcs haven’t been seen by anyone yet, with the exception of us and the people who made them.

How do you feel about the impact on films by European filmmakers of the new distribution methods?
In three years, the landscape has changed completely! Online distribution giants can lay down huge sums of money to purchase films, but we should be careful, as they also have the means of stopping any other market developing alongside them. They’re starting to warm to European arthouse films, as they know that behind the films are directors who could perhaps go on to make a name for themselves in the future. But once these films have been bought, they often become practically invisible: they’re not showcased on online platforms. They end up in a sort of "bag of films". And do viewers really want to look for a film that nobody’s talking about and they don’t even know where to find in a big virtual shop? Purchasing European films that haven’t already been promoted properly and then not pushing them forward kills them to some extent, although some platforms behave more virtuously than others. Moreover, filmmakers who don’t know who their audience is get no feedback, and it’s like they are being robbed. Let’s not forget than a director doesn’t dream of having their film watched on a tablet, but of it being screened in a packed theatre, which now mainly happens at festivals. Overall, we’re in a period of transition at the moment, as audiences are changing, the future is coming and we have to adapt. Nevertheless, we’re also seeing that filmmakers are starting to want to make different films, films that are undoubtedly less about social issues and more plastic and aesthetically pleasing, sometimes more like pieces of contemporary art, and which go to extremes. It’s interesting, as it changes the boundaries of film. Producers don’t want to produce works that exhibitors won’t show, and won’t be sold or distributed. Nowadays people really want to stand out, including where comedy is concerned. So I’m optimistic as there’s reflection under way on what the cinema of tomorrow will be like, so that we can bring dynamic and exciting films to light.

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(Translated from French)

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