Didier Costet • Distributor, Swift
European Distributors Up Next! 2010 – France
by Fabien Lemercier
Cineuropa meets with the director of Paris-based distribution outfit Swift, founded in 1992. Via its subsidiary Equation the outfit has released a number of high-quality auteur films directed by Susanne Bier, Brillante Mendoza, Andrea Arnold, Pedro Costa, Christoffer Boe, Pernille Fischer Christensen, Anders Morgenthaler, Jessica Hausner and Götz Spielmann. Selected by European Film Promotion as part of European Distributors: Up Next! at the San Sebastian Film Festival (September 17-25, 2010), Didier Costet speaks about his business and the market.
Cineuropa: What are your major areas of focus?
Didier Costet: We have three distribution activities (cinema, TV and video) and we are also active in production. On the cinema side, our main area of activity is auteur film, whereas for TV and video, we work on all film genres. We release about four films a year. I enjoy working on highly specialised films and ones that are different in terms of plot. We have thus distributed Andrea Arnold’s debut film Red Road and also worked a lot with Scandinavian titles, especially with Susanne Bier whose new film In a Better World [+see also:
film profile] we are planning to release.
How do you analyse the change in the public?
The French audience today is unfortunately a little unreceptive to auteur films that deal with tough subjects that are attracting fewer and fewer viewers from year to year. For example, Mendoza’s film which has done the best is Lola also happens to be the easiest while Kinatay has however picked up the award for Best Direction at a highly competitive Cannes Film Festival. Although many films are released and admissions are up on the whole nowadays, they only concern highly popular films. The cinephile public in France is disappearing, which is very worrying. There is no relief because these young people have very little interest in auteur cinema. But it is very difficult to promote titles and convince farmers to show a sufficiently high number of screenings. The means of promotion are the same as those used 20 years ago and I find it completely abnormal that we don’t have access to television. There was never an intelligent reflection on how to promote cinema on television by trying to fix rules. We need to have the possibility to do that like we did with videos.
How do you judge the distribution situation in France compared to that of other countries? International sales outfits succeed in selling some films in France because there is an extraordinary and exceptional system of funding that you don’t find in any other country. When you look at the distribution situation elsewhere, it’s alarming.
What is your main reason for persevering in your demanding editorial line?
What is exciting in this profession is trying to share the love that we have for a film with the viewers. I’m not interested in releasing films for the sake of releasing films, even if they are of a high quality, and are box-office hits. On Lola, I started a project by trying to progressively set up Brillante Mendoza in France. This is a genuine pleasure in being a distributor because it was difficult to find theatres, release the film, do the promotion, but it was a success. In the first week, the theatres were full, we were even turning people away. That is the pleasure in releasing films theatrically.
With Brillante Mendoza, you now produce as well as distribute.
We have discovered the world of distribution with Le masseur which I’d seen at Toronto, then Slingshot. I then met Brillante at a festival. He spoke to me about Serbis and I decided to produce it which is what we had done with Kinatay [+see also:
film profile] and Lola. We are now preparing a fourth, Captured, starring Isabelle Huppert and in production which will begin shooting in January 2011.
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