“A producer must believe in the project when nobody else does”
Industry Report: Documentary
Vincent Metzinger • Producer, Naoko Films
Interview with Vincent Metzinger, producer for Belgian company Naoko Films and selected for the 2020 Emerging Producers programme
Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Vincent Metzinger: I do not necessarily want to maintain a distinction between fiction and documentary, both categories encompass a huge diversity of films looking for their own cinematographic language. I like the idea of producing fiction in documentary conditions and vice versa, as well as crossovers between the two.
Producing documentaries is such a great pleasure to me because of the infinity of creative possibilities each documentary film brings with it. Every day is different, every project is different. You have to reset your brain every time: you work with directors on different film languages, you discover new worlds, things you might have never seen otherwise, and you find your way in all this up to the final film. To me it is a constant source of wonder. Documentary’s fragile and complicated economy is a blessing in some way: without the pressure of profitability you can focus on the craft and the art of filmmaking.
Films can be windows open on the world and as such they can be – and sometimes are – an instrument of social and political change. But my mission of a producer, as I view it, is to help realize an artistic vision, not a political one, even if they might be deeply intricate in some cases. As for messages and political views, I prefer to leave that up to the interpretation of the audience. I tend to work with directors who share that vision and who put their artistic and aesthetic vision above the rest.
What qualities should a documentary producer have these days?
You have to be the person that believes in the project when nobody else does, until finally, the project finds its way into the world. You have to be creative and find new ways to finance and produce your films. Above all, you need endless curiosity. About cinema of course, but not only. Reading great authors, listening to daring music, being aware of new means of expression, of how artists of all kinds push the boundaries of their medium.
What do you think of the future of distribution of documentary films?
Of course, it is nice to make films you think are different, or beautiful, just to make them exist but I also want my productions to be seen. In a world of constant budget cuts and reduction of financing opportunities, I remain optimistic. I think audiences worldwide are more and more aware of the documentary form and want to have access to more documentary films. There is something in the air. This year, the documentary Honeyland [+see also:
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The question of access is a huge one though. A number of festivals around the world are doing an amazing job showing great films. We also need new initiatives, some are really great, like the VOD platform Tënk in France, which is expanding to other countries as well.
What projects do you have under way?
I have a company in Belgium and another one in France. The two companies produce documentary and fiction by young directors from all over the world and on a great variety of subjects:
- Lash, the first feature film of Mojtaba Bahadori, an Iranian director, about exile and the question of “home”.
- Lebanese director Angie Obeid’s second feature documentary called Yalla, Baba!, a beautiful father-daughter road trip between Brussels and Beirut.
- I recently started working with French director and photographer Salomé Hévin on a film called The Passage, about a children’s home in the Ural region and masculinity in today’s Russia.
- Short fiction film Waldenia by Belgian director Frédérique de Montblanc, for whom I also produced the first feature documentary Dragon Women, to be released in 2020.
- I am also developing other works, including the adaptation of a novel and an experimental blockbuster (!)
Emerging Producers is a promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.
Deadline for applications to the Emerging Producers 2021 edition is 15 March, 2020.
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