Bertrand Faivre • Producer, Le Bureau/The Bureau
"A formulaic-based economy that I don't want to participate in"
- Producer Bertrand Faivre tells us about the risks he took in order to produce Our Wonderful Lives and offers his opinion on French film funding
Director of the French company Le Bureau and the English company The Bureau, Bertrand Faivre looks back on the production adventure involved in making Fabienne Godet's Our Wonderful Lives [+see also:
interview: Fabienne Godet
film profile] (which Memento is releasing in France on 6 March), an opportunity to discuss his opinion on French film funding, his editorial line and his ongoing projects.
Cineuropa: How did you finance Our Wonderful Lives?
Bertrand Faivre: A bit like an independent American film. In order for this film to work, it needed to be totally credible, because on some fiction films where everything is inspired by real stories and people, the strength of character often lies in truth. So we could not cast any famous actors, if we had put a star in one of the roles, people would have fixated on the star rather than the group as a whole. The film’s writing method was also quite original and involved two years of documentary writing, which then switched to theatre-inspired writing. The screenplay was actually refined by the director during rehearsals with the actors on set for a month and a half before shooting. That particular writing method was not compatible with an advance on earnings from the CNC, for example, neither in form nor in terms of timings. Finally, there was the film’s subject matter, which meant that it was quite hard to finance. These days, there seems to be a growing gap in France between pure entertainment movies starring TV personalities or directors who have become brands (such as Audiard or Ozon, for example), and auteur cinema, which is becoming increasingly impoverished.
So you funded the film entirely in equity?
Yes. I took on 75% of the risks because we still got some tax credit. I am not trying to pitch a new production model, I just think that it’s important to do away with the idea that French producers never take risks, that they just feed off the system, etc. I know a lot of auteur film producers who take a lot more risks than they would care to admit. Once the film was finished, a very good distributor watched it and bought it (Memento Films), which removed any risk of the kind of disappointment that can occur when there’s only a screenplay to go on.
What are some of the obstacles encountered by productions that don’t fit into the traditional system?
Well you’re massively excluded from the press that tends to surround a particularly topical theme or the film’s star cast. Being able to exist in an overcrowded market without having either of those two assets under your belt is a tour de force! When you make an American or English film that way and it is successful, certain markets are open to you. But in France, there is really no market out there, because the French system is organised around pre-purchases, on the predetermination of what the market wants before the film is produced.
How would you define the editorial line of your companies?
Films that I hope are original and bold, and that I hope attract the maximum potential number of cinema-goers in different markets. This can range from spy movies such as The Farewell Case [+see also:
film profile] to Our Wonderful Lives, which obviously have very different goals in terms of admissions. I also think our approach involves being free to work on projects regardless of size, nationality or content. There are also, in my opinion, a certain number of films which make use of worn-out formulas and which tug on the rope of a formulaic-based economy that I don't want to participate in.
What other projects do you currently have in the pipeline?
We have six films in post-production. On the French side there’s Si demain... by Fabienne Godet and two minority co-productions (for which Gabrielle Dumon is responsible). We’re also working on two films with Greece: Pari by Siamak Etemadi and Digger by Georgis Grigorakis. On the English side, we’re working on Little Joe by Jessica Hausner (read the article), Perfect 10 by Eva Riley and Rialto by Peter Mackie Burns (produced by Tristan Goligher).We also have two first films on the English side of the company preparing for a shoot this year, (Afterlove by Aleem Khan, produced by Matthieu de Braconier, and The Unwanted by Anwar Boulifa), as well as two documentaries on the French side: 12 Belges en colère by Jean Libon and Yves Hinant (who just won the César and Magritte Awards for Best Documentary with So Help Me God [+see also:
interview: Jean Libon and Yves Hinant
film profile]), and La (très) grande évasion by Yannick Kergoat and Denis Robert, which we are working on 50/50 with Wild Bunch and for which we have just finished a crowdfunding project that went very well (4,500 donors amassing €160,000), the subject of the film, tax evasion, on the other hand has aroused very little enthusiasm among audiovisual groups. Surprising, isn't it?
(Translated from French)
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