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Folivari aiming to reach new heights

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Didier Brunner • Producer

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- Legendary producer Didier Brunner discusses animated film funding in France as well as the goals for his new production company, Folivari

Didier Brunner  • Producer

As animation professionals from all around Europe gather in Lyon for the 18th edition of Cartoon Movie (2-4 March 2016), Cineuropa sits down with Didier Brunner in Folivari's positively bubbling studio. Folivari is Brunner’s new production company, which he has been running with the help of his son, Damien Brunner, for the past two years. It was a chance to catch up with a producer who has left his mark on some of the best animated films (such as the Kirikou trilogy, Belleville Rendez-Vous [+see also:
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The Secret of Kells [+see also:
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 and Ernest & Celestine [+see also:
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, amongst others) and to discuss some of his current projects, like SamSam the Tiniest SuperheroPachamama and the highly ambitious The Summit of the Gods (an adaptation of Jiro Taniguchi's manga - read the article). The latter film was initiated by Jean-Charles Ostorero (of Julianne Films), who was passing by Folivari's studio.

Cineuropa: So where are you at with the production of The Summit of the Gods, the project you revealed last year at Cartoon Movie?
Didier Brunner: It's a fascinating project. We're currently working on getting funding, and there has been a lot of interest. We could have already found a distributor and a vendor, but we don't want to rush into anything, of course; that doesn’t mean we’re ruling out an announcement in the very near future. We are planning to start work on the project in early 2017.
Jean-Charles Ostorero: We currently have a very advanced version of the script, with a well set out structure. And since last year, when we could only present Taniguchi's drawing, we've done all the graphic development and we're currently testing this design in 3D.

Who do you see as the film's target audience?
DB: Obviously, it's a family film, and nothing would stop an eight-year-old from going to see it, but I think that we need to market this film to an audience of adults/young adults. We don't want to make the same mistakes as April and the Extraordinary World [+see also:
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, for example, which aimed at bringing the film to a young audience, even though Tardi's readership is mainly in their forties. The Summit of the Gods is, first and foremost, a book that sold incredibly well in a number of countries and which benefits from a strong niche: passion for mountaineering and the extreme. Its target is those who enjoyed The Big Blue, and we need to go in that direction, almost ignoring the fact that it's an animated film.
J-CO: The Summit of the Gods is quite different from films like Waltz with Bachir [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 or The Swallows of Kabul because it isn't a military film, but, rather, an epic adventure, about generosity of spirit and surpassing oneself, something that will also interest teenagers.

What about funding such a project?
DB: We don't have the same kind of marketing power as American studios, so if we make an "expensive" film, the economic model requires that we be able to ensure enough marketing to break even, or even make money. If The Summit of the Gods cost €12 million, for example, it must have international success and the potential for at least 1.5 million admissions in France. The new 30% tax credit, capped at €30 million, gives us a lot of new options and will allow us to bring back a lot of the work to France. Inevitably, there will be a European co-production, but it would be ideal if it were just two partners so that the work isn't too broken up: something that complicates production. Having said that, there is another threat to finding funding for these films: the reluctance of television channels to broadcast them. France Télévisions invests in two or three animated films per year, and mainly those targeted at children. For the target audience of The Summit of the Gods, channels like Arte and M6 are more likely to be interested. Canal+ has also adopted a cautious outlook when it comes to animated films. They feel as though it would be difficult to implement them into their channels, while requiring lots of investment. But perhaps they could treat animated films a little bit differently from fiction films, creating some sort of special, regular time-slot for them, for example.

Folivari will be presenting Tanguy de Kermel's SamSam the Tiniest Superhero at Cartoon Movie. The film is currently in development with a completely different target audience: pre-schoolers. Is this diversity of production part of your preference or your strategy?
DB: A bit of both, really. For animated film producers, the most logical and natural target audience is children. SamSam is a series that was on TV and sold really well internationally. It's also part of Serge Bloch's graphic style, something we really love. SamSam is a well-known character, and there is a mass of legislation as well as a publisher ready to come to the project's defence, because of the enormous amount of books sold. It's both good business and something close to our hearts. We will be getting into production very shortly.

What about Juan Antin's Pachamama, the film you pitched at last year's Cartoon Movie?
DB: It's another pet project for us. When we created Folivari, they came to us and they already had backing from the CNC and Canal+ had already bought the rights. We promised to do the work, but we requested quite a few changes, starting with the script and the graphic design, and we worked with the director for a year and a half on their redevelopment. We are going to be unveiling a very attractive pilot with some images that will really knock your socks off. Indie Sales has also come on board as our international vendor.

What are your other projects?
DB: At the moment, we're working on the adaptation of Robert H Lieberman's The Nazis, My Father and Me for the end of 2017-2018. It's a fantastic book telling the tale of a young Austrian Jew, who is being hunted through the streets of New York in 1941 by the FBI and the German secret police. We've teamed up with Olivier Legrand (author of the Les Quatre de Baker Street comic) for the screenplay. In terms of TV releases, we're currently working on Benjamin Renner's Le Grand Méchant Renard (The Big Bad Fox - 3x26min episodes) for Canal+. For France Télévisions we've got Ernest et Celestine, la Collection (Ernest & Celestine, the Collection - 26x13min episodes), the rights to which have already been sold to 25 countries. At Folivari, the line between cinematic and televisual production is perhaps more blurred than anywhere else. What we're hoping to do in the future is to continue to unite artistic talents and to produce ambitious projects that may, one day, become a benchmark for others.

(Translated from French)

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