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"The desire to produce should prevail over necessity"

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Anthony Rey and Julie Esparbes • Producers, Hélicotronc

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- Belgium's Hélicotronc celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, and Cineuropa took the opportunity to talk to founder and producer Anthony Rey, and producer Julie Esparbes

Anthony Rey and Julie Esparbes  • Producers, Hélicotronc
(© Lo)

While the Brussels Short Film Festival was holding its milestone 20th edition, Hélicotronc, a model company in the field in both Belgium and Europe, was celebrating its 15th anniversary. We took the opportunity to look back on 15 years of creation and discuss the development of its productions – from shorts to features, via TV series – with founder and producer Anthony Rey, and producer Julie Esparbes.

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Cineuropa: What has Hélicotronc’s journey been like since it was founded?
Anthony Rey: I created Hélicotronc in 2002 in order to help a couple of schoolmates, Jean-Julien Colette and Olivier Tollet, with the production of their works. We started off shooting two short films a year, and we produced corporate films to keep the company afloat. One of the first shorts I produced, Le Grand Vent by Valérie Lienardy, was selected in the International Critics’ Week at Cannes in 2005. That gave us a bit of visibility in Belgium, particularly among the institutions. That same year, we produced our first feature-length film, Ordinary Man by Vincent Lannoo, which was a low-budget movie, but one that had a Belgian distributor and an international sales agent (Funny Balloons). Making a feature made us eligible for MEDIA, and I received some much-needed development support. Then my first co-production came along, a Russian film called The Banishment [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Andrey Zvyagintsev, which was also selected at Cannes. These various stages all contributed to building up our reputation, as did the numerous awards (including the César) won by Nicolas Guiot’s short film The Lobster’s Cry. The production and broadcast of La Trêve, the series directed by Matthieu Donck, in Belgium and abroad last year also really helped us to get our name out there. And it goes without saying that the production of the first season, and especially that of the second, allowed us to establish a more solid financial base for the firm.

Julie Esparbes: With The Lobster’s Cry we set up a system of international partnerships and co-productions, and production and circulation of our short films. This system was quite sustainable for shorts, even though it still represented only minor savings. That then triggered another production system.

AR: And we would like to be able to set up a similar system at the feature level, which would allow us to shorten the development period, to finance our movies more efficiently and to circulate them more widely. We have already accompanied many of our young auteurs on the adventure of making their feature debuts, such as Géraldine Doignon (De leur vivant, Un homme à la mer [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), Jean-Philippe Martin (Sonar [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jean-Philippe Martin
film profile
]
) and Vania Leturcq (L’Année Prochaine [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
). As a matter of fact, we are working with Vania on her second feature, Juliette, which may coincide with the launch of this system for us. While it used to take us up to six or seven years to develop our first features, we now hope to be able to reckon on a timescale of three or four years. For Juliette, we’ve already instigated a co-production with Luxembourg, which should allow us to move away from the classic co-production schemes with France, which are fairly onerous, and which I think are kind of reaching a standstill today. Nevertheless, in the end, what we want more than anything is for the desire to produce to prevail over necessity, and allow us to continue supporting our auteurs and directors under the best possible conditions.

Speaking of which, how do you go about choosing your auteurs?
JE: There’s a true sense of loyalty that has been built up over the years: some directors who were here in 2002 are still here in 2017. We try to place loyalty at the centre of the human relations that we maintain with the directors. When I started producing, I would devote my time more specifically to short films, but today, I accompany some of my auteurs on the road towards their feature debuts, such as Sandra Fassiot (Kanun), or Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni (Lucha Libre, Avec Thelma).

AR: Besides the second feature by Vania Leturcq, we are in the final phases of funding the feature debut by Serge Mirzabekiantz, whose first two shorts I produced, as well as the first feature by Nicolas Guiot. And of course, we are continuing to support Xavier Seron and Méryl Fortunat-Rossi, who, after the success of their short films (The Black Bear, Le Plombier) and their transition to features (Death by Death [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Xavier Seron
film profile
]
in the case of Seron) or documentaries, are now trying their hand at a new project for a series.

(Translated from French)

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