The project’s artistic coherence
by Fabien Lemercier
25/11/2008 - Cineuropa: What made you want to produce another film by Delépine and Kervern?
Benoît Jaubert: Their unique world. Benoît and Gustave are astonishing and inspiring characters; it’s wonderful working with them. The screenplay for Louise-Michel [trailer, film focus] was a lot more polished, more fully written than the Avida [trailer] script, which was more like a treatment. We gave them carte blanche because we adored Aaltra and insofar as it was within the budget we could provide. Then, for Louise-Michel, they told us they wanted to make a more popular and accessible film. They brought us their screenplay and Mathieu Kassovitz and I loved it.
What first attracted you to the screenplay?
The prism through which it represents a certain part of the world and conveys it: it’s very socially and politically engaged but retains a certain lyricism and light-heartedness. There’s a second, even third, layer of deeper meaning for those who seek it. The film looks at profound and serious present-day issues that are very relevant.
Did the cast help you get the film off the ground financially?
From the outset, Benoît and Gustave wrote the film with Yolande Moreau and Bouli Lanners in mind. We weren’t dealing with the type of film where you say to yourself: let’s cast Jamel Debbouze or Jean Dujardin and we’re sure to get funding. Here, it was more a matter of the project’s artistic coherence and the different "ingredients" of which it is composed. That’s what reassures the television companies: when they read the screenplay and we announce that Yolande Moreau and Bouli Lanners will star, they can see exactly where the project is going.
How did you get the budget together?
We managed to find funding for the film quite quickly. Canal + really liked the screenplay, which also obtained an advance on receipts from the National Film Centre (CNC). Arte France Cinéma then came on board as co-producers. A large part of the financing was secured, so we forged ahead with the project. We had a modest budget of €1.9m. The film was also backed by the Picardy Region, where the entire shoot took place, except for two little jaunts elsewhere (three days in Belgium and two in Jersey).
Is it imperative for this type of unusual film to be showcased at a major festival?
Firstly, it’s a recognition of the work of the whole team. It’s also a way to put the project in the spotlight, to raise press awareness and create a buzz around it. But a film is a film and Avida, for example, didn’t garner many admissions unfortunately, despite its selection out of competition at Cannes.
Does Louise-Michel correspond to a certain film production philosophy adopted by MNP Entreprise?
We choose the projects and subjects that most appeal to us and are attracted to powerful screenplays and films, even though we have quite a strong social and political leaning because Matthieu Kassovitz is a shareholder in the company. But we don’t have any restrictions. Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire’s Johnny Mad Dog [trailer] (selected in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes 2008) was released in theatres at the end of November; we are preparing Kassovitz’s L’ordre et morale (“Order and Morality”); and we are also handling production on a comedy being written by Daniel Cohen, whose film Les deux mondes [trailer] (“Two Worlds”) we produced.