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"I love putting different talents together and facilitating synergies"

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Annabella Nezri • Producer, Kwassa Films

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The producer of the Brussels-based outfit spoke to us about the opportunities and obstacles which exist in film production today, when it comes to French-speaking Belgium

Annabella Nezri • Producer, Kwassa Films

We met with Annabella Nezri, the producer and CEO of Kwassa Films who is based in Brussels and whom we notably have to thank for Jumbo [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Zoé Wittock
film profile
]
, Losers Revolution [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, The Man Who Sold His Skin [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Kaouther Ben Hania
film profile
]
, Should the Wind Drop [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, Olivier Pairoux’s Space Boy (read our news), Florence Hainaut and Myriam Leroy’s documentary #salepute, which was broadcast on RTBF and Arte, and, last but not least, Eve Duchemin’s first feature film Temps Mort (news), on which filming has only just wrapped. Nezri has been selected as one of the EFP’s Producers on the Move for 2021.

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Cineuropa: Why and how did you become a producer?
Annabella Nezri:
I’d always been passionate about film, but I didn’t know the sector at all. I started out as an intern; it was so exhilarating being at the heart of the filmmaking process: the development phase, the sets, human relations, and then bringing the film to life… It was what I wanted to do! I love putting different talents together and facilitating synergies. The reason I created Kwassa Films was to make films I liked, obviously, but also to find new audiences; to make genre films, comedies, family films… It’s exciting producing different things and having to win over Belgian audiences again and again.

Was creating your own company an obvious thing to do?
When I started out, I said to myself “one day I’ll be a producer”, not “one day I’ll have my own company”. It takes us women longer than our male colleagues to say to ourselves: "I can do it", no doubt due to a tendency to question our legitimacy. But when I left my last job, I took a few months’ break and I met loads of producers, often men - I realised that they hadn’t hesitated to set up their own companies, regardless of how much experience they’d had. I signed up to a young entrepreneurs training course, and I went for it! I’d been really affected by a statistic revealing that women need to be working at 120% capacity before taking leaps, whereas men take the plunge at 60%. I promised myself that I was going to improve the average!

What opportunities and obstacles exist in film production today in French-speaking Belgium?
In terms of opportunities, there’s a fair degree of artistic freedom. I think it would have been harder if I’d tried to finance some of our films in France. I think that, when it comes to commissions and TV networks, there’s a genuine openness, a real desire to support the lifeblood of our films, which are often quite daring. But clearly funds for Flemish and Francophone films are two very different things. TV networks pour more money into Flanders whereas, on the French-speaking side of the coin, the Film Commission hasn’t had its funding revised for 10 years now, apart from a small increase received recently. It’s still difficult to fund majority Belgian films; it’s often harder than making straightforward financial co-productions!

Is co-production becoming the obvious choice?
Yes, we really are a country of co-productions, and if we’re aiming towards budgets reaching upwards of 1.5 million euros, we don’t have much choice. We have a strong reputation in the field, and lots of tools at our disposal. The Tax Shelter initiative really changed the game. And Producers on the Move is a brilliant opportunity to create some wonderful synergies. To this day, I still work with producers whom I’ve met in other workshops. I’m delighted to have been chosen, and to be able to present Olivier Pairoux’s new project Vigilante, which is a very dark thriller which we would like to co-produce between three countries.

Do you feel that the sector is changing, notably through the growing presence of streaming platforms?
Without a doubt, film sets have been heavily impacted by Covid, but we’re hoping it’s only temporary. Although we too were directly affected [by the pandemic] in distribution terms, given that we released two films in March 2020! Making films without really knowing when and how they will be released is clearly a strange predicament. The market has evolved so much; what with streaming platforms and then Covid, it’s been a bit of a tsunami. We’re going to have to readjust and have a good think about the films which could do well in cinemas and those which would be better suited to streaming platforms. I suspect the films which will be better suited to cinemas will be the big blockbusters, but so will low-budget, independent arthouse films, too; festival films, like the ones we produce. It will probably be harder for films falling somewhere in the middle. Maybe we’ll need to rethink them and target different audiences, which is what I’m doing for the films we’re developing for young audiences.

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(Translated from French)

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