Financing: An obstacle course
by Fabien Lemercier
- Co-founder of the production company 3B Productions with Rachid Bouchareb in the late 1980s, he has always produced projects by his partner-director
Co-founder of the production company 3B Productions with Rachid Bouchareb in the late 1980s, Jean Bréhat has always produced projects by his partner-director, as well as those by Bruno Dumont. Caught in flight in the middle of preview screenings and debates preceding the French release of Days of Glory [+see also:
interview: Jean Bréhat
interview: Rachid Bouchareb
film profile], he details for Cineuropa the numerous adventures that were involved in securing financing for the film.
Jean Bréhat: "From the start, we had the support of the four lead actors (Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila and Samy Nacéri) who simply said yes to the idea, without having seen the script. Once the script was written, we began looking for financing and we quickly found backing from France 2 Cinéma, France 3 Cinéma, advances in receipts from the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) and TF1 Vidéo. It became more complicated after that. Despite support from Rodolphe Belmer at Canal +, the channel wasn’t taken with the project. I have to say that on paper the story of four Arabs who liberate France didn’t seem destined to be a hit. So we contacted Claude Bébéar, as he had a reputation of being the "big boss of big bosses" and he helped us to sell the idea to Canal + and its subsidiary Mars Distribution , where Stéphane Célérier liked the script.
Despite all that, we were still nowhere near the €25m which we had counted on getting at the start. It was Jamel Debbouze that saved a large part of the budget by getting Morocco involved, who granted full funding for all the battle scenes. This allowed us to make progress, but even with funding from the regions, we were still far off the mark. We then removed my salary, and that of Rachid and Jamel. We were still €1.5m short of the final €14m required for the production budget. Time was moving on, preparation had already begun and we decided to go ahead anyway, saying to ourselves that everything would work out fine. Then Canal + put in another €200,000 thanks to Thomas Langmann (La Petite Reine), France 2 Cinéma and France 3 Cinéma also revised their backing upwards. But throughout the entire shooting, we were trying to secure the budget and we began a marathon of contacts and meetings, between regions, institutions, ministries and conseils généraux. When we ran into difficulty, we sometimes even called Jamel. In the end, the Ile de France region backed us to the tune of €500,000 for the cause of "memory, integration and culture", as we didn’t meet the criteria of the Cinema Support Fund. The National Assembly and the Senate also financed us €100,000 here, €50,000 there, the Prime Minister even gave us €20,000 and the French army provided us with a helicopter, for example.
For international sales, we had a Minimum Guarantee from Films Distribution (who also found our Belgian co-producer Versus Production) but there hadn’t been any pre-sales because Days of Glory was defined by its script as a purely Franco-French film, Arab-French even. In the end, the production budget of the film was secured only three weeks after Cannes, but we were never lost hope despite the complications because we never let go of our projects. When one door closes, we open another. And after all, there’s a cause behind Days of Glory, one which is not confined to cinema alone, but also extends to political and social spheres."