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Frédéric Corvez • Sales Agent

UMEDIA backs promising auteur films

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Frédéric Corvez • Sales Agent

Created in 2004, French company UMEDIA launched into international sales two years ago, making an impressive start with titles selected at Venice (With A Girl of Black Soil and Because We Were Born [+see also:
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in the Horizons section in 2007 and 2008, respectively), Berlin (Hong Sangsoo’s Night and Day in competition last year and Simone Bitton’s Rachel [+see also:
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in this year’s Forum) and Cannes (Adhen [+see also:
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in the 2008 Directors’ Fortnight, Belgian director Caroline Strubbe’s Lost Persons Area and Shahram Alidi’s Whisper with the Wind in Critics’ Week 2009), as well as Lyes Salem’s Masquerades [+see also:
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Cineuropa: Why did you decide to co-produce and sell Brazilian director Esmir Filho’s The Famous and the Dead, which has been selected in competition at the forthcoming Locarno Film Festival (August 5-15)?
Frédéric Corvez: I think Esmir Filho is one of those talented young directors who have successful careers ahead of them. This film looks at an unfamiliar side of Brazil, far removed from the caricatures, the favelas, crime and samba music. The story is set in the south of the country, in the mist. It could be a North American state.

It’s a film about international youth and a teenage Bob Dylan fan’s desire to become an adult. Surfing the Internet, he wants to go out and experience the world and feels a little ill at ease in his teenage phase, his family and his village. This is the first time we’ve co-produced a film from its early stages, based on its screenplay, and we’ve received backing from the Fonds Sud film fund.

What is UMEDIA’s development strategy?
We work on less than eight films per year. Our line-up focuses on auteur works, including small to medium-budget independent films, which are usually launched at Cannes, Venice, Berlin, San Sebastian, Toronto and Locarno, but also aim to find an audience and be released commercially.

Our slate obviously includes French films, as well as Asian, North American, South American and even African titles. UMEDIA supports world cinema and young auteurs who work in film industries with limited production. All these films are not necessarily destined to be sold in 50 territories, but they always sell to between five and 10 different countries.

On the co-production side, we hope to get involved in one or two films per year and manage to fulfil the task that is increasingly required of international sellers: contributing to film financing by investing our own money or by helping producers to find other partners in France or abroad.

What is your analysis of the current situation on the world markets, in particular the fact that it is difficult for films, except those with a well-known cast, to secure pre-sales?
That’s true and yet some films, including small productions and debut features, are still attracting offers from distributors on the basis of the screenplay and promo-reel. We had this experience recently with Dima El-Horr’s French/Lebanese/German co-production Every Day Is a Holiday, which belongs to a category of films that have enjoyed a certain success, such as Lemon Tree [+see also:
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and The Band’s Visit [+see also:
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We’re also backing other films in post-production, including Olivier Coussemacq’s L’Enfance du Mal (“Childhood of Evil”, starring Anaïs Demoustier, Pascal Greggory and Ludmila Mikaël); and Lucky Life by Lee Isaac Chung (discovered at Cannes 2007 in the Un Certain Regard section with Munyurangabo).

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