Frédéric Boyer • Artistic director, Les Arcs Film Festival
"What’s important are new voices, new faces, the desire to create"
- Frédéric Boyer, film selector at the Les Arcs Film Festival (whose 11th edition will run from 14-21 December 2019), explains the Work in Progress line-up
On the eve of the 11th Les Arcs Film Festival’s opening (running from 14-21 December 2019), we met with the artistic director of the event, Frédéric Boyer, to talk not only about the festival programme (see the news) and the Co-Production Village (see the news), but also the hotly anticipated Work in Progress event (see the article), which will unfurl on Monday 16 December.
Cineuropa: This year, out of 16 titles yet to find sales agents, the Work in Progress section of Les Arcs will showcase ten first feature films. Was this a conscious decision?
Frédéric Boyer: It wasn’t a deliberate choice that we made; I don’t have any particular explanation for it, though I imagine sales agents are on the lookout for second feature films by filmmakers who have already made a name for themselves with their first films. But discovering first feature films - especially when you’re the first to see the first images from these films - is always very exciting.
Have you picked up on any trends in terms of subject matter?
We received 143 submissions, and many of these were films on family relationships and "coming of age" tales. I didn’t want to overload the programme with themes which were too similar; I wanted to prioritise a wide variety of styles and budgets, ranging from the Vaclav biopic Havel to more experimental works, and Danish thrillers in the form of Shorta. And there are always surprises, such as Luzzu, a Maltese film, which is very rare. Moreover, the length of the Work in Progress event has increased a little; not in order to pack in a greater number of films, but so that we can take things a little easier during their presentation.
Is it still possible to surprise sales agents?
All the international European sales companies who come to Les Arcs - whether it’s The Match Factory, mk2, Beta Cinema, Charades, Films Boutique or any others - are helmed by cinephiles who know their work very well. They follow the projects’ progress, they go to Cinemart, Gap-Financing in Venice, etc. And there are now many high-quality Work In Progress events: in Cologne, in Tallin, etc. But the Work In Progress section here at Les Arcs stands out for a number of reasons. Firstly, we tend to avoid films which have been completed since June-July time, even if they’re interesting, because it means that they’ve been looking for sales agents and they’re now more or less at a stage where they’re waiting for responses. We try to have a maximum of films which are still in progress and in the process of being finalised so that we can stay as true as possible to the idea of a real Work In Progress. Secondly, a number of producers and filmmakers really trust Les Arcs: we get them to sign a confidentiality agreement to ensure that they don’t show any images or initiate anything with vendors. It’s also true that the success of Girl [+see also:
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile] and System Crasher [+see also:
interview: Nora Fingscheidt
film profile] have helped to increase our appeal, because they found a market at Les Arcs, and we enjoy great coverage from media groups working within the industry. But we can also get it wrong, sometimes by showing something that looks good, but which actually ends up disappointing the audience, or by failing to select films which would ultimately have worked well. There’s a lot of subjectivity involved but that’s a good thing.
How about buyers for online platforms?
When a film is sold to Netflix, for example, a lot more people might see it, but the work disappears somewhat. Films can be said to exist when they have their world premiere on the big screen at a big festival, but they then disappear from view if you aren’t signed up to the platform acquiring them. That’s why festivals are becoming increasingly important, because it’s the only time, for many films, where the director gets to meet an audience. But what MUBI does, for example, by allowing films to be released in cinemas, is more respectful of the works. And I haven’t got anything against Netflix either: they have an amazing catalogue and excellent taste, as shown by their purchase of I Lost My Body [+see also:
interview: Jérémy Clapin
film profile] and Atlantics [+see also:
interview: Mati Diop
film profile]; because online platforms also need to project a good image of themselves, and to pique the interest of their subscribers. But we’re not going to sign up to ten different platforms either, so the films which they don’t buy won’t be seen anywhere other than in festivals. It might just be a phase and things will no doubt change once again.
When it comes to the Work In Progress section, you have always prioritised the human side over industrial concerns. Why so?
Because what’s important are new voices, new faces, the desire to create. Then there’s the business side, and deals will be made, but I prefer to look at films with the curiosity of a film lover. The most enjoyable part isn’t selecting the films, it’s chatting via Skype with the chosen filmmakers and giving them advice on their presentations; because we’re there to ensure that everything goes as well as possible for their films, and there are good reasons for them needing to be loved.
(Translated from French)
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