Haut et Court’s loyalty rewarded
by Fabien Lemercier
- We look back at the extraordinary adventure of a film phenomenon backed by Haut et Court, producer of all Laurent Cantet’s films
A steadfast collaborator of Laurent Cantet since his medium-length film Les Sanguinaires (“The Bloodthirsty Ones”, 1997), Haut et Court has produced and/or distributed works by young European directors (Bouli Lanners, Joachim Lafosse, Jean-Stéphane Bron, Céline Sciamma, Raphaël Nadjari, Gérald Hustache-Mathieu, Léa Fazer, Marc Fitoussi, Emmanuelle Bercot…) since its creation in 1992. The company is currently producing Anne Fontaine’s Coco avant Chanel (“Coco Before Chanel”) and Gilles Marchand’s Black Heaven, and co-producing Micha Wald’s Simon Konianski.
We met with the company’s founder, Carole Scotta, who produced The Class [+see also:
interview: Carole Scotta
interview: Laurent Cantet
film profile] with Caroline Benjo, Barbara Letellier and Simon Arnal-Szlovak.
Where did the idea for a film adaptation of Entre les Murs come from?
Carole Scotta: Laurent wanted to make a film set in a secondary school and had even begun to write a scene that was actually included in the film (the staff meeting to reach a decision about Souleymane’s expulsion). We’d spoken to him about François Bégaudeau’s book and he was in the middle of reading it when they met each other; Laurent was promoting his film, Heading South [+see also:
interview: Laurent Cantet
interview: Robin Campillo
interview: Simon Arnal-Szlovak
film profile], and François was promoting his book. This lucky chance encounter in a radio station elevator led to the idea for a part adaptation of Entre les murs and the idea of working with François.
Everything unfolded naturally, with coherence and good timing, which meant that everything took shape quickly. We soon acquired the rights to the book – which had aroused a great deal of interest – from Gallimard. Then Laurent and François worked for several months on the screenplay adaptation and the methods for making the film, i.e. by organising workshops during the school year. We found the secondary school, met with the headmaster and asked for permission to make the film. This was obtained immediately and without difficulty.
What did you think about Laurent Cantet’s return to a method similar to Human Resources, with non-professional actors in the cast?
There was a backlash towards Heading South and the shoot’s lack of flexibility (political problems in Haiti, weather complications, etc). Returning to a method we’d tried and tested on Human Resources seemed the obvious choice and Laurent was very happy about this. Several aspects led to the film’s smooth production. Firstly, The Class is mostly set in a classroom, which limits unknown factors. Secondly, as Laurent discovered on this film, shooting in HD with three cameras allowed him great flexibility as regards the style of filming.
Letting the camera run for over 20 minutes sometimes without having to reload a magazine is very useful during the directing process. And we’re all very pleased with the final result, in terms of the images produced, both the 35mm transfers and the high-quality digital prints which will be distributed in a few theatres. For us, it was ideal for there were no location shots, which are more complicated to shoot in HD. Moreover, for the part of the film shot in Mali – which we didn’t include in the final cut – we used Super 16.
How did you get the film [which had a €2.48m budget] off the ground financially?
This phase went quite smoothly and quickly. The advance on receipts from the National Film Centre (CNC) arrived swiftly, as did backing from Canal +, France 2 Cinéma and the Ile-de-France region.
These funding bodies finance most of our films. Taking into account the low budget, Laurent’s work and the coherence of the project, they didn’t have too many doubts. But we weren’t asking for colossal amounts and we had made a DVD of the workshops to back up the screenplay and reassure our partners about the film’s tone and François Bégaudeau’s acting abilities.
Did you expect such a triumph with the Palme d’Or and sales all over the world?
Laurent had a certain amount of breathing room in the way he was able to shoot the film, as did we in getting the project off the ground. This aspect certainly comes through in the film and it touched people.
Obviously, we didn’t expect this level of success, but we had high hopes. We really believed in the project, but when we were filming and we saw the first sequences of shots during editing, which was carried out in parallel, we said to ourselves that it was better than we could have imagined.
We’re going to launch the film on around 350 screens in France and increase the number to around 400 in the second week. In the life of a producer, moments like this don’t come around often, so we’re trying to make the most of it, even if the pressure is mounting.