REPORT: Frontières@Brussels 2014
by Domenico La Porta, David González
A report on the projects that were pitched at Frontières 2014, the first international co-production market for genre films in Europe
Aquarica is a new, ambitious project in development by Martin Villeneuve (brother of filmmaker Denis Villeneuve). This 3D animated film follows Martin’s first feature, Mars & Avril (2012), which was officially the very first science-fiction film produced in Québec. The movie took seven years to make and was finally shot over 25 days on a tight budget of €1.5 million, which almost seems impossible owing to the insane number of CGI shots. Mars et Avril earned Martin the right to be the first Québec citizen to speak at one of the prestigious TED talks, appropriately entitled: “How I made an impossible film”. This exposure attracted a lot of international attention to the filmmaker. Aquarica is a fantasy adventure about a girl on a quest to save her dying world from climate change. The artistic development of the film marks the new collaboration of the director with famous Belgian illustrator François Schuiten, this time joined by fellow comic-book artist Benoît Sokal. Benoît Charest (The Triplets of Belleville) is already attached as a composer. The authors are seeking potential creative partners in Europe along with a producer, pre-sales and any potential post-production deals involving tax rebates and development funding.
CHLOE AND ATTIE
Through a “Clipomatic” (video mood board), Canadian newcomer Scooter Corkle presented his project that aims to adapt his already-existing short entitled Chloe and Attie into a feature film about two elderly female twins who join forces to bring down a tyrannical religious leader in a polygamist, dystopian village. The director and the producer, Daniel Domachowski (Bloody Knuckles, 2014), are seeking partners in genre-friendly territories such as Germany, Spain, France and the UK, with potential interest in Mexico, Australia and even South Korea. Even though the film will emphasise gore, violence and sexuality, the authors are aiming for mainstream international appeal by keeping a naturalistic, slow-burning horror pace punctuated with brutal moments. They hope for a bankable cast and ended their pitch with a cocky “of course we’re gonna make it to Cannes”, hinting at the fact that the Directors' Fortnight has included genre movies in its selection for quite a while now. The budget of the film currently looks to be around €2 million but will strongly depend on the final cast.
Watch the short film Chloe and Attie on Vimeo.
DON’T COME AFTER ME
In typical humorous Scandinavian style, Finnish director AJ Annila of Sauna (2008) fame went through quite a detailed description of the story for his next project, Don’t Come after Me. The film is about Jenna, a baby left to die in a frozen forest by her mother. Seventeen years later, the girl, who survived, has become a tough avenger who tracks her mother down to finally infiltrate her new family, disguised as a babysitter for an unexpected twist. Finnish producer Tero Kaukomaa (Iron Sky) is attached to the project as an executive along with Gudrun Giddings, who explained that only half of the movie was to be shot in Finland, leaving room for other European locations, creative talents and territory-based funding. Their goal at Frontières was also to meet distributors and sales agents interested in an estimated €1.8 million, character-driven genre film from one of the new Scandinavian masters. Giddings highlighted the fact that the project has already helped them to build strong bridges with the US.
The Portuguese project Dedalo stems from a TV spot shot to promote a festival, which later became a short film and is now about to mutate into a long, retro space-horror feature. Director Jeronimo Rocha along with producer Frederico Serra presented this low-fi movie; currently budgeted at around €1.2 million, as a combination between The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Event Horizon and of course Alien, since the story revolves around a colossal space cargo ship on its way to a mysterious plotted destination when the small crew finds itself exposed to mutated creatures crawling in the labyrinths inside the vessel. The authors want the film to be created with old-school VFX, prosthetics, animatronics and matte paintings, with as little CGI as possible. The main shooting location and general artistic direction have been established, and the team has already scored some domestic broadcasting deals with television companies. They are now seeking financial and creative support abroad, along with an international cast to help make the story coherent.
Québécois actor and filmmaker Robin Aubert, who rose to fame following his first feature film St. Martyrs of the Damned (2005) and competed in several non-genre film festivals with his award-winning drama A l’Origine d’un Cri (Crying Out) (2010), presented his tentative new project, Les Affamés (The Hungry Ones) – a black-and-white zombie flick. The story revolves around a remote village in Northern Québec, whose inhabitants change in a strange way and develop a strong craving for human flesh. Aubert is joining forces with La Maison de Prod’s Stephanie Morissette, who has been behind most of Denis Côté’s films (including the 2013 Berlinale-awarded Vic and Flo Saw a Bear), to raise an estimated budget of €1.7 million and to look for French-speaking partners (from producers to distributors) to bring Les Affamés to life. Although the movie is set to be shot in French with what seems to be a b/w arthouse kind of treatment, the project helmers asserted that they are committed to making this film a deeply unusual zombie movie, but with an international appeal.
This project by Dutch director Elbert Van Strien crosses over into a high-concept dimension. The psychological and supernatural thriller follows a child psychiatrist who, after losing his wife in a terrible accident, resolves to make a new start, moving away from his town and taking a job in a clinic for disturbed children – which will lead him into an existential nightmare. Strien, the filmmaker behind supernatural thriller Zwart Water (Two Eyes Staring), is diving into his first English-language project, setting the story in Scotland and New Mexico (possibly to be replaced by Spanish shooting locations). Given its nature, the project, produced by Accento Film’s Claudia Brand and tentatively budgeted at €4-5 million, is open to partners from any country, while part of the cast has already been successfully approached.
THE CHOSEN CHILD
Another European filmmaker, this time from Poland, is planning his English-language debut at the Frontières Market. Borys Lankosz, whose Reverse was selected in 2009 as Poland’s official submission for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards, is readying The Chosen Child, a horror-thriller adapted from Graham Masterson’s eponymous bestseller about the deepest secrets of post-Communist Warsaw’s underworld. Random Bench’s Adrian Salpeter and Liz Levine approached the filmmaker with an open invitation for his next project of choice, which led to the adaptation of the novel he had just read and found to be “the scariest thing ever”. Both producers pitching trust the potential of the film, whose budget is set to reach around €2.5 million.
Belgian project Rabbits certainly raised attendees’ eyebrows. A rabbit picture-driven pitch presented Belgium filmmaking duo Jean-Julien Collette and Olivier Tollet’s first feature film, following their huge body of work in the short-film field. Their recent short Electric Indigo demonstrated their ability to shoot a film in English, something they would most probably like to do again with Rabbits in order to tap more easily into the international market. However, Jean-Julien Collette made it clear that he is open to virtually any language and doesn’t see this aspect as a barrier. Hélicotronc’s Anthony Rey is backing up the project, centred around a group of friends on a holiday trip to the mountains, who are suddenly held prisoner by an invisible and indestructible wall. The filmmakers want to tackle big questions about humanity, as well as seeking to “hijack genre” to make it more than just another genre film. The title is now budgeted at around €3 million, after having its 17th screenplay draft made available – written in collaboration with A Prophet’s script advisor – and is seeking partners, no matter their country or language. Approximately one-third of the budget is already secured in Belgium from the Brussels Wallonia Federation (production funding), the National Cinema Centre (script funding), the Tax Shelter, and some development funding from the MEDIA Programme of the European Union.
ROBIN HOOD VS. ZOMBIES
After showcasing a trailer for his hilarious mockumentary about a family of Belgian Vampires (Vampires, 2009), director Vincent Lannoo, who has just received the European Federation of Fantastic Film Festivals’ Méliès d’Or for his boundary-pushing In the Name of the Son, took the opportunity to present his tentative Robin Hood vs. Zombies. His take on zombie comedy, still at a very early stage, follows the tradition of Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland. He has had the idea of transposing zombies into the Robin Hood story, as he claims the word “zombie” was invented by one of Robin Hood’s friends. After talking about his English-language Little Glory and his France-shot Les âmes de papier, he made a point of demonstrating he can shoot a film anywhere, and he is thus looking for partners for this estimated €5.5 million entertainment project.
Sadie represents US filmmaker Craig Goodwill's jump across to the Old Continent. The director made his first feature film Patch Town, inspired by his own previous short film, in his home country and is now trying to get his European adventure financed. His take on psychology, eroticism and violence, influenced by the likes of the Marquis de Sade and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, features the dark story of young girl Sadie, her ex-lover Alex and actress Charlotte. The screenplay, written by Twitch Film’s Brian Clark, is being developed in French, English and even Italian, in order to adapt to the film’s need to be shot in Europe (locations fitting the story cannot be found in Los Angeles, said Goodwill). The project, whose modest budget is thought to be at under €1 million (one-third already having been secured) is open to partners (from co-producers to distributors) and tax credit-attached shooting locations in Europe. The full script has already been pencilled as a graphically detailed storyboard.
Newcomer Irish filmmaker Neasa Hardiman has teamed up with Fantastic Films’ Brendan McCarthy to create Sea Fever, a thriller set on a trawler marooned in the Atlantic Ocean, whose crew struggle to overcome a deadly parasite. The production company, behind films such as last year’s Cannes Directors' Fortnight entry The Last Days on Mars, has embraced the proposal of Hardiman, a BAFTA winner herself, for this horror/sci-fi thriller. The film, currently budgeted at around €2 million and still at the beginning of the development process, is looking for co-producers from a potential wide range of nationalities, in order for it to achieve the multi-cultural mood that they would like it to have.
Lastly, French project Echos, written and directed by Marc-Henri Boulier and produced by Anaïs Bertrand, caught the attendees' attention with its take on a rural thriller. The film follows a real-estate team that needs to evict the residents of a farm that is hampering the development of a major urban project. The story takes a twisted turn when the group is captured and held hostage by the locals, with the promise of some atrocious torture ahead. The project is looking for partners from other French-speaking countries to help it assure the tentative, estimated €2.5 million budget.
Find the projects contacts and more information on Frontières' official website.