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Nathalie Coste Cerdan • General director, La Fémis

“Students attending our school can benefit from strong links with the French and international film industry”

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- Our conversation revolved around the main opportunities offered to prospective students by the prestigious French film school

Nathalie Coste Cerdan • General director, La Fémis
(© David Haffen)

We seized the opportunity to interview Nathalie Coste Cerdan, general director of La Fémis, to discuss the main learning opportunities offered to prospective students. The prestigious French institution is part of both GEECT (European Grouping of Film and Television Schools) and CILECT (International Association of Film and Television Schools).

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Cineuropa: What is your school’s main teaching mission? What are the main benefits for prospective international students?
Nathalie Coste Cerdan: The main mission of the school is to provide initial and continuing training in all disciplines of film and television, and to promote and disseminate film culture as well as theoretical, artistic, and technical research.

Students attending our school can benefit from strong links with the French and international film industry. There is no faculty, as all lecturers are industry professionals. This makes it particularly interesting for students who can already start to build their network. International students can also benefit from the school’s large alumni network. Besides, we have a team dedicated to the distribution of films in festivals. The school has partnerships with well-known broadcasting companies and students do internships as part of their training. In addition, we often invite producers and other industry professionals to the school for screenings, readings of original screenplays and other initiatives.

What type of study programmes do you offer?
Our school offers both initial and continuing training programmes in all fields of the film industry: directing, producing, editing, cinematography, sound production, scriptwriting and set design. There is also a training programme for continuity supervisors, a course dedicated to series writing and creation along with a more business-oriented programme for future film distributors and exhibitors.

Do you provide any scholarships?
La Fémis is a public higher education institution, thus there is no tuition fee for European students, except the legal university fees which give access to the student social security. Moreover, as a state public school, students can apply for state scholarships. Depending on the student’s income, these scholarships can amount to up to several thousand euros each year.

Regarding non-European students, the tuition fees is 8,000€ per year, which are frequently partially or totally paid by scholarships from the French Embassy of their native country. La Fémis also benefits from the generous patronage of sponsors that support its educational activities through direct grants to students struggling financially.

How should a student prepare for the admission?
La Fémis' entrance examination is known to be very selective. Only 4% to 5% of candidates get in. The entrance examination is open to students who have completed two or more years of undergraduate education, depending on the programme. Applicants who are members of the European Union can enter La Fémis through the general competitive exam. The international exam is only for non-European Union citizens and enables students to join the main four-year curriculum. One advice we could give to candidates is to not wait until the last moment to work on their written proposal, which constitutes the first step of the entrance exam. They should prepare it just as they would prepare for a film. They should be as specific as possible and stay true to their artistic choices.  They can download a detailed list of film recommendations on the school’s website. We also recommend applicants to have at least some experience of filmmaking (in any position).

How are you adapting teaching and other study activities owing to the pandemic?
For some classes, we have started to use digital tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Of course, not all of them can be taught virtually, especially when it comes to technical-heavy classes, but theory-based ones have been taking place mostly online. Every year, the school organises two days of masterclass with renowned filmmakers, and in spite of everything, we still managed to organise them this year, thanks to the digital tools available. We were happy to welcome foreign filmmakers, such as Ralph Fiennes and Naomi Kawase who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to come to Paris! Online events do have their perks.

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