Independence at all costs
by Anne Feuillère
- As with previous documentaries, Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens have financed their debut feature through their Belgian-based production studio
Cineuropa: You have produced your film yourself. Was this an important artistic decision?
Jessica Woodworth: At Bo Films we do everything ourselves (laughs). It was unthinkable for us not to have the last word on our film. Peter has always made his own films on a low budget and with the same partners, colleagues and friends. We had full support from the Communauté française de Belgique and the Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF) from the start. We were also financed by the Tax Shelter through the Motion Investment Group. Then, thanks to our German producer, Ma.Ja.De, ZDF/Arte, Berlin Brandenburg and others got involved in the project. Soon after Dutch outfit Lemming Film also got involved. As we didn’t get any funding from Eurimages, we shot with 70% of our budget. We had €2.5m and we spent €1.7m.
How did you make the transition from documentaries to features?
The way in which documentaries are financed has changed a lot in recent years. You have to take more risks, shoot the entire film and then show scenes to get financing. We no longer want to have to do all that, not to mention having to adhere to broadcasting restrictions and respect the 56-minute standard. We wanted more freedom. So we played the game. We needed to understand how to write a script and how to finance it. We bought all the books that tell you “there should be one page per minute”, completely ridiculous things, and we even took a course with American consultants based in Hollywood. It was absurd but that helped us to structure our plan. We needed a script with at least 60 to 70 pages even if the story was only 24 pages in the end. But we couldn’t finance a script of 24 pages! That’s impossible, unless your name is Gus Van Sant!
How are the distribution and the sales of the film going at the moment?
Our sales agent Telepool has good contacts with the US since the Toronto and Sundance film festivals. The screenings were full, at Venice too. And Americans are sensitive to environmental issues. But the reactions of the press have also been radical – they either love it or hate it. Sometimes that can do a lot of damage to the film. But the jury of the Lion of the Future prize was all-embracing, audiences like the film and the 25-30 year-old generation is very moved by it too. Our great surprise came from France, where nobody wanted the film. The power of distributors is crazy! They decide if a country, a whole public, has the right to see a film or not!
Are you currently working on a new project?
Yes, a new feature called Fragment of Grace but we’ve only started to look for financing. It will be another co-production between Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, but perhaps with France, the UK or the US too. We’re working on the first draft of the script and we’d like to shoot next year. We are finally going to film in Belgium! It will take place between Peru and Belgium. The film is set in the Quechuan society and the lead role will be played by a woman, either a European or an American. It will be quite different from Khadak [+see also:
interview: Jessica Woodworth
interview: Jessica Woodworth
film profile] but certain themes will be dealt with again, including the destruction of the planet.