“Liberty, loyalty, fraternity”
by Aurore Engelen
- Interview with Jacques-Henri Bronckart of Versus Production, who have announced a busy slate for 2009, starting with the release of Joachim Lafosse’s Private Lessons
In Belgium, there are four brothers. Everyone knows the Dardenne brothers, but some people haven’t yet heard of the Bronckart brothers, who are a supportive presence behind many of Belgium’s most talented young directors. On the occasion of the release of Joachim Lafosse’s fourth film, Private Lessons [+see also:
interview: Jacques-Henri Bronckart
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile], producer Jacques-Henri Bronckart discusses the artistic approach of Versus Production and how he met Lafosse.
Cineuropa: You’re known for your loyalty towards the young auteurs you’ve supported since their debut shorts. Joachim Lafosse is a newcomer at Versus.
Jacques-Henri Bronckart: Supporting directors is our policy, but it isn’t a dogma. My brother Olivier [co-founder of Versus] met Joachim a few years ago, when he was editing his debut film, Private Madness. Joachim spoke to him about Private Property [+see also:
film profile], but at the time, we were preparing our debut feature, Ultranova [+see also:
interview: Bouli Lanners
film profile] (by Bouli Lanners), and didn’t feel fully available, even though we liked his shorts and shared with him a certain vision of film.
Our schedules finally coincided, and we’ve begun a collaboration we hope will be long-lasting, for we already have two new projects underway with him: La Terreur (“Terror”), which is in the financing stage, and a romantic comedy, still in the writing phase.
How do you find funding for a feature by a young Belgian Francophone auteur, especially when its subject is so sensitive?
Things turned out well in Belgium. It was a little more complicated in France. We didn’t receive an advance on receipts; it appears the project had some fierce competition. It was difficult to try and convince TV networks to back the film, given the relatively unknown cast and sensitive subject matter. In the end, 70% of the budget came from Belgium. Having said that, today we realise that co-production backing is almost essential, even if only from France, in order to ensure, from the financing stage, a decent distribution strategy for the film on a European level.
Why are you releasing the film six months after Cannes?
We planned to release the film in September, but film news was dominated by the release of Lorna’s Silence [+see also:
interview: Arta Dobroshi
interview: Arta Dobroshi
interview: Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne
interview: Olivier Bronckart
film profile] and an impressive contingent of titles presented at Cannes. We therefore decided – in agreement with the Belgian and French distributors – to postpone the release, and pursue new ideas in order to open the film up to viewers who are not naturally or spontaneously drawn to auteur film.
We hope to target a young audience, through educational sessions, and also by collaborating with certain associations. We don’t have a large promotional budget, but we believe that by developing another way of communicating, we can reach out to an audience who would not initially be attracted by the film.
Loyalty to auteur directors, and loyalty to actors too? Jonathan Zaccai, who took the risk of accepting a role in Private Lessons, has just finished shooting Micha Wald’s Simon Konianski.
Not without some reservations at first…I got to know him while we were filming Private Lessons, in which he played a sensitive and difficult role. However, when we began casting for Simon, I thought that his hitherto little exploited comic potential could perfectly suit the character. To cut a long story short, Micha was sceptical at first, then Jonathan hesitated, but in the end everyone came around to the idea of this character. There again, we’re dealing with an auteur, a sensitive person, who has filmmaking projects.
What are your projects in 2009?
All our auteurs are working away! Micha Wald is finishing editing on his second feature. We’re in the financing stage on Olivier Masset-Depasse’s second feature, Illégal, and Nicolas Provost’s debut film, L’Envahisseur (“The Invader”) – which will both start shooting this summer – as well as on Joachim’s La Terreur (“Terror”). Bouli Lanners is in the process of writing his next film, and we’ll soon be co-producing – in partnership with Haut et Court – Gilles Marchand’s L’Autre Monde (“The Other World”) and Fabrice Genestal’s Black Box.