(Panel “Finding Creative Partners”. With David Hinojosa/ Killer Films; Riva Marker / Nine Stories. Moderator: Nathalie Perus / French In Motion)
A LOOK BACK AT IFP FILM WEEK by Alexandra McInnis
Les grandes vacances had only just come to an end, but four France-based teams flew across the Atlantic and dove into IFP Film Week’s intensive routine of meetings, screenings, conferences and networking events. They were this year’s participants in French In Motion’s partnership with the Independent Film Project, part of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment. After having been screened, nominated by French in Motion and officially selected by IFP, the French film and television projects now featured in one of the top markets for independent film in the U.S.
The 2017 participants represented a diverse selection in terms of content and genre. They included Priscilla Bertin and Sarah Saidan of Brazen, an animated television series featuring real-world female heroes based on comic book by Pénélope Bagieu ; Nadim Cheikhrouha and Kaouther Ben Hania of The Man Who Sold His Skin, a feature drama about a Syrian refugee who makes a Faustian bargain and becomes a traveling art piece; Jean-Laurent Csinidis of Game Girls, a documentary on one woman’s saga to leave Los Angeles’ notorious Skid Row behind; and Yael Fogiel and Christian Volckman of The Room, a horror/thriller about a young couple who discover a secret room that seemingly grants every wish.
One on one meeting ( Yael Fogiel , Christian Volckman / The Room)
The projects were also diverse in terms of production status. With 30 completed three-and-a-half minute episodes, Brazen will soon premiere on France 2 as the first animated series on the prominent French channel, but the producers envision the series airing well beyond France. “Our hope is that the series can now circulate as it really is very international,” said Priscilla Bertin, producer of Brazen. “Our idea for IFP was to meet eventual American partners for English-speaking version, and already we have met distributors, broadcasters and potential co-producers.”
Without a program like Film Week, Bertin said, the coveted American partners would be frustratingly difficult for a small French production company to access. “It’s not easy to know who does what, or how the networks here function.”
Series Pitching ( Priscilla Bertin, Sarah Saidan / “Brazen”)
Meanwhile Jean-Laurent Csinidis is still working towards the final cut of his documentary Game Girls, and Film Week gave him some perspective on the prospects for a film about homelessness in Los Angeles directed by a French national. “It permitted me to test the American reaction towards a film which, while being about an American story, is really brought by a European approach. And now I can go home with a sense of encouragement and a more precise idea as to how to work the film for U.S. territories.”
It would have been intimidating for French producers to make overtures to American entertainment professionals, but Csinidis claimed the Film Week dynamic did away with such barriers. “French In Motion and UniFrance really put the spotlight on our presence,” he said. “This helped facilitate the “matchmaking”; people came up to us, we didn’t really have to approach people ourselves.”
Film Pitching (Yael Fogiel/ The Room)
The team behind The Man Who Sold His Skin concurred that the bridge-building was one of the central benefits of IFP. Director Kaouthia Ben Hania had already shown her previous film at Cannes, but the U.S. can be conspicuously absent from the international co-production scene. “Already between European countries, it’s a little bit complicated but it takes place,” said producer Nadim Cheikhrouha. “It’s beginning to take place with Canada. But it’s clear that Franco-American working relations are not as common, which is why I think this is a great initiative.” And with intriguing projects like The Man Who Sold His Skin, weaving the Syrian civil war with commentary on contemporary art, it is clear that more of these partnerships would benefit the U.S. film market as well.
The Man who SOld His Skin Team in Front of Amazon Bowling night
Early member of French In Motion and based in New York City, Véronique Bernard is a French-born producer whose work attests to some of the success to be gained through Film Week. Her first experience in the market was through the documentary Enter the Faun, which features the collaboration between a dance choreographer and an actor with cerebral palsy. She knew the film had tremendous potential for social impact. “Enter the Faun was not just a good story but was also about the possibility of changing the way disability is perceived in the world, and more than that, the way that physical therapy and the medical world can help change that perception, with people using their bodies in different ways.”
After making an impressive festival circuit, Enter the Faun continues to be screened in different countries around the world and featured recently on America Reframed. Bernard submitted another doc to this year’s Film Week called Madame Tran’s Last Battle, which centers on the fifth generation of Vietnamese children born with deformities related to Agent Orange. As the production company was American, the film was not submitted through the French in Motion partnership.
The French teams reconvened at a French In Motion cocktail party held at the IFP center in Dumbo before additional days of conferences and tailored one-on-one meetings. Then it was back to Paris, with a new set of American contacts in hand.
Amy Dotson, IFP Deputy Director / Adeline Monzier, Unifrance / Nathalie Perus, French In Motion
Priscilla Bertin (Brazen), Mathieu Fournet (Attaché Culturel