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Eric Lagesse • Distributor, Pyramide

"Everyone makes a beeline for the same films"

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Eric Lagesse • Distributor, Pyramide

Founded in 1989, Pyramide is a distribution, production and international sales company. This triple expertise gives managing director Eric Lagesse an enlightened point of view on the changes to the profession of independent distributor.

Cineuropa: What is Pyramide Distribution’s acquisitions policy?
Eric Lagesse: We follow our instinct and choose our favourites. When we like a film, we try to buy it. Our slate includes mainly auteurs, from the very particular like Nuri Bilge Ceylan, for example, to more popular auteurs like Stephan Elliot and Fatih Akin. At least 70% of our acquisitions are made on the basis of the script.

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Nowadays, it’s obvious that the big projects tend to be monopolised by very large companies. Increasingly, our work is about discovering new auteurs. A young producer approaches independent distributors like Pyramide in order to find backing that will then enable him to go knock on the doors of television companies and other financial partners. Half our line-up is often composed of debut films. But if we don’t feel passionate about a project, we stop, because for three months we carry all the energy and motivation, the film, its director and producer.

Has the recent crisis in international sales been advantageous to independent distributors?
The crisis suffered by sellers is unfortunately an audience crisis. It’s a chain reaction: buyers have become more cautious with regard to risk-taking because audiences are much more cautious when it comes to spending their money on going to see a film. Everyone makes a beeline for the same films.

Even though Pyramide Distribution enjoyed a successful 2009, I know how fragile this success is. The number of weekly releases leads to an absolutely crazy level of competition and audiences don’t go to see four films per week. In France, practically everything is released: small companies distribute five films per year, others, like Pyramide, between 12-14, and up to 25 at Mars. But when viewers have too much choice, paradoxically they may end up consuming the same type of film all the time.

What is your strategy for launching films?
I’m not a big fan of large-scale circulation of prints across France. But we released Leaving [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
on 250 screens, for example. Nobody has innate knowledge: you have to adapt to different situations. I work a lot on the basis of analogy, by comparing such-and-such a film with another one that either we or one of our competitors have previously released. We analyse these releases, which has paid dividends, looking at which theatres did well, and so forth. We always need references in this job.

But distribution costs increase as soon as you start putting up advertising posters everywhere, creating a press presence, buying trailers…. Networks have less and less room for free trailers and one day it will be an all-pay system. I don’t know if independent distributors will be able to win this battle because past a certain level, they can’t keep up. For this reason, television advertising would be a disaster: it would merely boost the box office takings of big-budget films.

However, you only need to look at the number of films from major festivals that are distributed by independents: without us, there wouldn’t be anything for viewers to get their teeth into! But we must be given the financial means to continue, even if France is still a blessed country where we are helped and supported.

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