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Frédéric Boyer • Artistic Director, Les Arcs European Film Festival

"Getting the seal of approval from Les Arcs is a real advantage for a film"

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- Frédéric Boyer, artistic director of the Les Arcs European Film Festival, talks to us about the gathering's Work in Progress section and the changes the industry is experiencing

Frédéric Boyer • Artistic Director, Les Arcs European Film Festival

Two days before the opening of the 9th Les Arcs European Film Festival (running from 16 to 23 December 2017), we met up with artistic director Frédéric Boyer (also in the same post at Tribeca) to talk about the Work in Progress session (article) and current changes to the global film industry, following his official festival selection (read the news here).

Cineuropa: How would you summarise the editorial line of the 15 films selected for the 2017 Work in Progress session at Les Arcs?
Frederic Boyer: I’d say that most importantly we have no intention of presenting films that are almost finished. We prioritise projects that are essentially in the post-production phase, or even during the filming stage, such as Core of the World by Russian director Natalia Meschaninova and Jihad Jane, Dangerously Seeking Marriage by the Irish director Ciaran Cassidy, or Outside by Czech director Michal Hoguenauer, which has just finished shooting (read the article here). We also ensure that there is a geographical diversity to the films that we select, with films coming from North, South, East and West Europe. We’ve also focused on the actual subject matter of the films this year, as we’re mindful that the Work-in-Progress session also needs to have a certain "entertainment" value in order to attract promising filmmakers and professionals with new stories. Together with Eurimages, we focused on the fact that films aiming for the Lab Project Award, which need to be innovative, should also be accessible in terms of their structure and story - they are slightly edgier arthouse films, but some of them even include special effects.

How are the major changes that are taking place in the global film industry affecting European auteur films?
Occasionally I worry that the overall quality may fall, but there are still filmmakers who have the faith and courage to make really ambitious films, some even on a very small budget. On a global scale, Cannes has become increasingly important, Berlin is intrinsically linked to the health of the EFM (they’re selling, but it's never easy as there are so many films) and an increasing number of titles are going to American festivals because they have agreements with Netflix or Amazon. Sellers now often prefer to sell films directly to a platform and then move on to the next project. We’ve also recently been hearing about this end-of-the-world speech, but sales companies are always being created, some of which are doing very well. More broadly, I think it's up to the markets to reinvent themselves and understand that their success depends on the existence of an industry, but for an industry to exist, we need industry events, such as the Work in Progress session, for example, which often come with invitations, costs, etc... We’re experiencing a sort of slightly exaggerated race in which Les Arcs is very well positioned. Getting the seal of approval from Les Arcs is a real advantage for a film, because Work in Progress attracts a lot of French sellers, as well as Cinéfondation, Cannes Film Festival, etc. 

You are also working in the United States, right near the epicentre of platforms such as Netflix, which sparked a heated debate last May at Cannes. What is your point of view on the matter?
Platforms are almost irrelevant for the major releases because they go straight to the cinemas anyway. On the other hand, it’s interesting to hear what Scorsese has to say about Netflix. No producer has ever given him so much freedom, and when you hear that Netflix is offering to put up another $25 million on top of his $100 million budget, you can't really call that a problem. David Fincher, the Coen brothers, Jeremy Saulnier, Sean Baker, many great directors are now working with Netflix and are doing so with great success. The subject is completely irrelevant in the United States, Australia and England. It’s an issue in France because the media timeline is slow and complex, and nobody except maybe Vincent Maraval has stuck their neck out to suggest that things might benefit from moving a little faster. When you see the number of people in France who have a nice home cinema set-up and no arthouse cinema nearby, why not just go online? What MUBI does, for example, is very respectable: The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki [+see also:
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was released in cinemas and online. Another example, e-cinema, has just recently launched, and takes on films that have no distributor. It's a good idea, even if it is a shame that those films are never seen in cinemas. I am from a generation for whom going to the cinema is a collective pleasure. Hence the increased importance of festivals. Watching a film in a cinema with 400 people is still magical! Nevertheless, films that do not have access to major festivals are often caught in the cross-fire. Aside from documentaries that have specific channels, European-rated films need at least some local success to pay back fees, and that's very difficult. That's why everyone gets into genre cinema, comedy, trying to find something that interests the public. You need a subject, actors, sort of like a show that also doubles up as an art-and-essay style film. The producers who will make it out alive will be those who really think about the types of films they produce. Because you have to know how to reinvent yourself to survive.

(Translated from French)

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