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MIA 2020

Emmanuelle Nicot, Julie Esparbes and Delphine Schmit • Director and producers of Dalva

“The MIA Market gave us both the confidence and the energy to follow through with the next steps”

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- The winners of the Eurimages Co-production Development Award at the MIA Market, Emmanuelle Nicot, Julie Esparbes and Delphine Schmit, discuss their winning project, Dalva

Emmanuelle Nicot, Julie Esparbes and Delphine Schmit • Director and producers of Dalva
Emmanuelle Nicot (left), Julie Esparbes (centre, © Frank Schoepgens) and Delphine Schmit

The coming-of-age drama Dalva, written and directed by first-time filmmaker Emmanuelle Nicot, was the big winner of the Eurimages Co-production Development Award at the MIA Market (see the news). Dalva is being produced by Julie Esparbes for Belgium’s Hélicotronc, in co-production with Delphine Schmit for Tripode Productions, from France. Cineuropa talked to all three about their project and their upcoming plans for the near future.

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Cineuropa: What drove you to focus on the character Dalva’s story, and what were your sources of inspiration for it?
Emmanuelle Nicot:
This is a highly personal film: abuse is an issue I have intimate knowledge of, but Dalva’s story is not mine. This story was inspired by young people I met in a refuge for teenagers. For my first short film, I did a lot of research on children in homes and ended up spending time at an institution where I met Samia and Dimitri, two young people who came from truly chaotic backgrounds. Because I was neither a member of their family nor part of an institution, they gave me their deepest trust. What struck me is that even though both of them had been separated from their families because of confirmed acts of child abuse, they still formed a united front with their parents. For them, it was the justice system that had mistreated them, not their families. Their suffering related more to the fact that they had been placed in an institution than what had happened to them beforehand. I wondered why, and this question played on my mind for so long, and made me so angry, that it led to the creation of my first film. With Dalva, I am looking for answers to the same question, but also looking towards the light because I deeply believe that this can exist.

As a debuting writer-director, what were the difficulties you had to face in preparing your film, and what are you expecting in terms of its further development?
EN:
The most difficult thing was to find the right methodologies to tackle the scriptwriting. It was the first time that I had to build a feature structure, and it’s completely different from a short film! I sometimes felt disorientated. But thanks to the EAVE workshop that my producer, Julie Esparbes, was doing, I met the perfect script consultant to accompany me in this work – Jacques Akchoti. Jacques really gave me the tools I needed. With the script now taking shape, I am confident and grateful to be making an even stronger film than the one I first imagined! Our next challenge is to find actors who will bring complexity and subtlety to these characters. Despite being accompanied by a script consultant and my dear producers, the writing phase is a lonely place. I now can’t wait for the crew to join the project, so that each one of them can bring their distinct contributions to it, to bring the film to life and enhance the script.

How helpful will the Eurimages Co-production Development Award be for you, and what will the next steps after this be? The project is already a Belgian-French co-production; what partners are you looking for now?
Julie Esparbes and Delphine Schmit:
We intend to use the Eurimages Award to finance our casting research, which is a crucial step for this film, particularly for Dalva’s role. The award will enable us to take the time we need to complete this step, in the same robust and careful manner as when we were immersed in the development and preparatory stages. Our co-production between France and Belgium is the result of a very strong collaboration, and at this stage, we are not looking for any other co-production country, since our ideal strategy is to finance the film in Belgium and France, and to shoot in summer 2021. Also, 50% of the budget is in place, and we are waiting for answers from national or regional film funds in France and Belgium, as well as from television channels. After receiving the results, we intend to apply to Eurimages during the upcoming spring session.

How was your experience of the MIA Market, and how helpful will your presence there be for the future?
J
E and DS: Our experience at the MIA Market was excellent, despite the strange COVID-19 situation. The timing of the MIA was perfect for us to present the project to sales and distribution companies. Because of the delicate nature of the film’s subject, we were mindful of not presenting the project too early, waiting instead for a solid – almost definitive – version of the script. Emmanuelle completed this draft in September, just before the MIA. We also already had a portion of the financing in place: the production support of the Belgian Film Fund – Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles. So, in Rome, we focused on meetings with sales and distribution companies, and it was great to see how enthusiastic people were about the project. It gave us both the confidence and the energy to follow through with the next steps. A few weeks after the market, we closed deals with strong partners, and we are delighted with these new collaborations.

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