Philippe Bober • Seller/Producer
Strategy of selectivity and development for Coproduction Office
by Fabien Lemercier
Interview with the founder and manager of international sales company Coproduction Office, which is showcasing three films at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival: Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczo’s Tender Son - The Frankenstein Project [+see also:
film profile] in competition; Aurora [+see also:
interview: Clara Voda
film profile] by Romania’s Cristi Puiu in the Un Certain Regard section; and The Four Times [+see also:
interview: Michelangelo Frammartino
interview: Savina Neirotti
film profile] by Italy’s Michelangelo Frammartino in the Directors’ Fortnight. Philippe Bober also co-produced these three titles through his German company Essential Filmproduktion and French outfit Parisienne de Production.
Cineuropa: You have three titles from your limited line-up in the different Cannes selections. What is the secret of this impressive score?
Philippe Bober: The synergy between our production and sales activities enables us to be selective in our choice of projects. For example, unlike many other producers, we avoid having to pay fixed costs for local productions. Having freedom of choice has always been an obsession of mine. I also spent three months per year for over 15 years viewing films, going to festivals, looking for information about directors: focusing on a few films is a deliberate choice and the result of this work.
The directors I work with today were completely unknown when I started working with them, like Kornél Mundruczo in 2001 with his short film Afta. To have this type of encounter with a Hungarian short film director, you have to see lots of films, perhaps more than other people. In the end, I’m loyal to auteurs: I’ve been working with Cristi Puiu since 2005, with Michelangelo Frammartino since 2003, with Jessica Hausner and Ulrich Seidl since 1999, and with Roy Andersson since 1996. The auteurs and the company grow together.
Your line-up is also that of a hard-to-please film enthusiast
It’s not the stories that interest me, otherwise I’d be an editor. It’s how the stories are put into images and film language, in particular those directors who ask themselves questions about this language and take it to its limit. More than half the films I work with don’t have a script; directors like Andersson and Seidl do a lot of things during the production stage. When you know how a director works, the screenplay isn’t necessarily the most important factor when making a decision. It’s a key, but the key is putting it into images.
Is Cannes an essential platform for the circulation of works like these?
It’s a guarantee of quality, a festival which inspires confidence (which isn’t the case for many international festivals), and which people understand. It makes my job a lot easier having this stamp of quality on the line-up. Moreover, it’s also a machine for selling films, the place where there is the greatest number of buyers in the world. I often organise production schedules with a view to being able to present films at Cannes.
What is your opinion about the economic situation of the markets?
Last year was our best year in terms of sales for we had four "art-house" films, but "crossover" ones: A Town Called Panic [+see also:
interview: Stéphane Aubier and Vincen…
interview: Stéphane Aubier & Vincent P…
film profile], Women Without Men [+see also:
film profile], Lourdes [+see also:
interview: Jessica Hausner
film profile] and Tetsuo. The case of Lourdes is interesting because it’s our third film with Jessica Hausner and the best-selling one. I believe a lot in development and nurturing. It’s perhaps a general rule for the directors I work with: they start out with extreme films and gradually move closer to the audience.
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