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22 October 2017
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French producer Marc Missonnier on low-budget filmmaking


Marc Missonnier and his partner Olivier Delbosc are one of the most dynamic producing teams in Europe. Their production and distribution company, Fidelité, has produced all of the films of acclaimed director François Ozon, including Swimming Pool, which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and the recent 5 x 2, which was nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice. They now work with many directors, from first timers to established players.

Marc will be an advisor at the IndiVision Project Lab 06, and also a guest of the IndiVision Screenings. He speaks here to IndiVision Project Lab director, Megan Simpson Huberman.


MSH: Can you tell us about how you started your company, Fidelité?

I met my partner, Olivier Delbosc, at the French national film school, and we founded our company while we were still students, in December 1993.

You and Olivier Delbosc have a strong and ongoing creative relationship with François Ozon. How has that collaboration developed?

We also met François Ozon at film school and decided to start our productions (short films) with him. The first film was Action Verite (Truth or Dare), a five-minute short shot in video in 1994. We have since produced all of his films.

Your latest release in Australia was the Ozon-directed 5 x 2, which was nominated for the Golden Lion at Venice. What do you see as the strongest qualities of that film?

This film reflects a very personal - non consensual - vision of the couple. It never leaves people indifferent. They can adore it, because they think it's a true vision of the couple today, or hate it for the exact opposite reason. The backward construction of the film allows François to be very dark in his vision, and still finish the film with a touch of romance.

How was the film financed? How are most quality art house films in France financed at the moment?

It's a combination between pre-sales (distributor, foreign sales agent, pay TV, free TV) and co-production, which is how most films are financed in France.

In 2002 you made the low-budget supernatural horror film Malefique. What was your reason for choosing a low-budget project? How was the film developed?

At that time, France was not producing genre films, partly because of the system in which the TV stations have a big part of the finance of a film. So we decided to create a label, 'Bee Movies', which was a division of our company set up to produce genre films for a small budget. The 'strategy' was to prove we could produce smart films in that genre for little money (around €1m, A$1.6m) and get rid of free TV in the finance.
We then developed a slate of projects with a structure that doesn't exist any longer (Canal+ Ecriture) and produced four films of that kind, of which Malefique was the fourth.

The film has a lot of special effects and CG effects. How did you manage to make it for such a low budget?

The deal was clear for the writers and the director: four people in a room (a prison) and 20 days of shooting. We established for that label and those films an original chain of post-production: we shot on 16mm with a brand new small Aaton camera, transferred to Beta Digital for post (including the CG effects), and then transferred to 35mm. If I had to produce this film today, I would probably use HD.

Do you believe any film can be made on low budget if you are inventive enough, or do you think that there are certain kinds of story elements or production elements that should be avoided?

I don't think any film can be done low budget (try to do King Kong with $1m!); you have to think it from the beginning, from the original idea, to be totally coherent from A to Z.

You are quoted as saying you will always work with first-time directors as well as more experienced ones. When you are setting up a production, what do you have to do differently when you are working with a first-time director?

The work with a first-time director is not the same because you have a stronger responsibility. You need to guide more and you can bring a lot to the film thanks to your experience.

I understand you are planning a film with Emir Kusturica. How has that collaboration evolved?

We are co-producing a documentary that Emir is directing about soccer legend Maradonna, and we are producing Emir's next film. The shooting is scheduled to start this spring.

Your company seems to be very successful. How many productions a year are you doing, and what's the secret of your success? Do you work with other producers as well as different directors?

Thanks for the compliment. We are actually producing three to four films a year. But we will produce more than six films this year. We also do co-productions with other producers and we try to do very different films, with very different directors. We produced Bertrand Blier last year and we are currently in production of the new Patrice Leconte.

What do you see as the future for low-budget films internationally? Is it easier or harder these days for non-American films to reach an international audience?

The low-budget range is now full of genre films (horror, supernatural...), but I still think there is space for the expression of an original and personal universe in low-budget filmmaking. I have to say that the curiosity of the market for non-American films is not very strong. It is probably harder today to break through than it was some years ago.

What's next for you?

To stay independent in our choices and still be able to produce what we love. It's an every day fight

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IndiVision

Marc Missonnier:
"What's next for me? To stay independent and still be able to produce what we love. It's an every day fight."