Producing new talents: A global challenge
by Giampietro Balia
- CANNES 2016: The CNC organised a discussion on producing new talents in cinema from all around the world
A fresh and vital wind blowing on the Croisette accompanied the equally vibrant discussion on producing new talents organised by the CNC at the Cannes Film Festival and moderated by established French producer Didar Domehri, the talent behind the award-winning films White Elephant [+see also:
film profile], Paulina [+see also:
film profile] and Dégradé [+see also:
film profile], to name a few. The international panel tackled the topic from different perspectives, as each speaker came from distinctive backgrounds and was therefore able to give the crowded room a comprehensive view of what makes a new talent appealing to the various professionals in the market.
Diana Bustamante, one of Colombia’s most successful producers and the artistic director of the Cartagena Int’l Film Festival (FICCI), explained how first- and second-time feature-film directors are particularly appealing both to young festivals and to the more well-established ones - the former usually cannot afford to attract established filmmakers, and the latter try to pride themselves on discovering new talents. From a producer’s perspective, Bustamante confessed how fundamental co-producing with international partners was, in terms of personal growth. It didn’t simply give her the opportunity to access new funds, but it also allowed her to learn about sales and distribution plans from more experienced producers and to gain a foreign insight into her projects: “If a French co-producer likes your work and is willing to get on board, there are good chances that the French market will also most likely be interested in the final product.” There are indeed many opportunities to access valuable grants when working on a debut, but the competition is so fierce that one may end up trapped in the system.
The situation in France is one of a kind, and to help the audience understand the discriminating factors that producers and investors look at when considering a project, CEO of Sofica Cofinova Alexis Dantec and Lebanese producer Georges Schoucair revealed how most French producers develop solely domestic projects, and it is usually the CNC that leads the way and incentivises investors to pick up first and second feature films. But the decision to trust young auteurs is not just an imposition by the CNC; it also makes sense from a financial standpoint - debuts usually require low budgets, and if they are a hit, then the profit is much higher. But in this case, Dantec confessed that, contrary to popular belief, he would never invest in a second film, because the relationship between the producer and the filmmaker has changed. The next project might be more expensive, and their relationship is now to the advantage of the filmmaker, who received praise from both the press and the audience, and therefore always feels that he is right in every decision he makes.
At the other end of the stage, both physically and ideologically, sat Khalil Benkirane, head of grants at the Doha Film Institute, and Georges Goldenstern, the director of Cinéfondation, who represented the point of view of the institutes that do not need to recoup the money they put in a project, because their investment is orientated more towards a cultural return than a financial one: “Talents above all.” While the Doha Film Institute works as a grant supplier and provides development, production and post-production funding to first- and second-time directors from the MENA region, and only post-production funding for non-MENA directors, Cinéfondation aims to nurture and guide talents at every stage, and therefore developed a system divided into three "acts". Young auteurs can take advantage of The Selection: 20 short films from film schools are selected in the official Cannes Selection. For first- and second-time directors, the Cinéfondation organises The Residence: 12 filmmakers are chosen each year to write their screenplay over a four-and-a-half-month period in Paris. The participants are also invited to the Rotterdam Film Festival during the winter session and to the Locarno Film Festival during the summer, to get acquainted with the international market for the first time. The third act is the Atelier, which is meant to help the producers: 15 projects are selected, and the respective directors and producers are invited to Cannes, where the people from the market receive the scripts, watch the previous works by the directors, and they can arrange individual meetings with the participants.
The economic crisis has certainly slowed the market down, and it now takes much more time to complete the projects, so investing in new talents is more necessary and urgent today than it has ever been before because it enables young auteurs to inject fresh blood into the system, and it pushes new producers to expand their networks and venture into new markets that may end up being much more profitable and successful than their domestic ones.