Adeline Monzier • Founder and organiser, US in Progress
by Claire La Combe
- Cineuropa sat down with Adeline Monzier at US in Progress Paris to discuss various aspects of both American and European indie film circulation
Four years ago, when she was head of the Europa Distribution network, Adeline Monzier created US in Progress, a programme dedicated to low-budget US indie films. Today, she is also in charge of the Unifrance office in New York and runs a production company, Black Rabbit Film. In Paris, Cineuropa took the opportunity to discuss various aspects of both American and European indie film circulation with her.
Cineuropa: Why set up a US indie event in Europe?
Adeline Monzier: I realised that most American producers had no idea how to reach the European market. Usually, they lack a distribution strategy, not doing the right things at the right time. Films weren’t able to have the run that they could have had. US in Progress is based on that idea: we show a selection of films to European professionals before they hit the festival circuit. It is about raising awareness. We are focusing on very few films that we think can have a career in Europe or that are worth discovering.
Do you have any success stories?
We have a few success stories. For example, two years ago, we had Ping Pong Summer by Michael Tully: Films Boutique discovered the film here and picked up the rights; they knew it would be a niche film with a specific audience, but they sold it in a lot of territories… Not always theatrically… But in terms of revenues for the filmmaker, it was a very interesting deal.
What’s your opinion of the circulation of indie films?
American indies in Europe have a tough time because there are no subsidies to support the distribution of these movies. The European markets are so overwhelmed by American movies that for national bodies, it doesn’t make sense to support their circulation. When faced with a very good European film and a very good US film, distributors will always pick the European one because they can get subsidies. That said, for the audience, American films still have an appeal. The English language will always be easier to sell… So there is ambivalence.
What about the European indies on the US market?
European film is a very small market in the US… Foreign movies represent around 2% of the market share, and between 0.5% and 1% are French films. That means there is less space for non-French, non-American movies.
The American market is very strong and concentrated as well, as in Europe, and blockbusters draw in most of the audience. Plus, Americans are not at all used to subtitled films, and there is no dubbing, because it is too expensive, except for animated films sometimes.
Do you see any differences in terms of financing practices between Europe and the US?
They are two very different systems. The entire system in the US is based on private equity. You need to have the right connections. Also, the average production budget for an indie film is very low compared to a European film. But Americans are very resourceful; they can usually play several different roles in their films, from editing to producing, just because they want to achieve economies of scale, whereas in Europe, it is much rarer to have a director juggling different positions.
Do you think digitisation has had an impact on film circulation?
It is definitely easier for indie filmmakers to distribute their films nowadays. They have access to platforms and VoD. A lot of independent directors now use the day-and-date release because theatres enable you to raise awareness about the film and to help the audience to go and see the film on VoD. Still, income from VoD is very low for independent films. With digital, the problem remains the same! You have to market a film; if you don’t have the money to promote the film, then it is going to be lost within the platform.
Can we predict that digital will foster a common system between the US and Europe in terms of producing?
No; the markets are too diverse. A lot of European filmmakers go to the US to shoot because they want to enjoy the freedom of not having the old subsidy system schemes. On the other hand, you have American filmmakers looking for European producers in order to benefit from the whole funding system. So today, there are a lot more cross-connections, but the systems are very different, and I don’t think they will merge, even with digital.