Thomas Ordonneau • Distributor
"As freely as possible"
- We met up with Thomas Ordonneau, the manager of Shellac, the co-producer and French distributor of the Arabian Nights triptych
A daring distributor and producer, Thomas Ordonneau has built up a fine reputation with his company, Shellac, which he co-founded and which he manages in Marseille. Featuring on the firm’s line-up are three titles that were unveiled recently at Cannes: The Other Side [+see also:
interview: Roberto Minervini
film profile] by Roberto Minervini (released on 30 December), Gaz de France [+see also:
film profile] by Benoît Forgeard (in theatres from 23 September) and, above all, the Arabian Nights triptych by Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, which Shellac will distribute in three instalments, with The Restless One [+see also:
interview: Miguel Gomes
film profile] coming out on 24 June, The Desolate One on 29 July and The Enchanted One [+see also:
interview: Miguel Gomes
film profile] on 26 August.
Cineuropa: What is your launch strategy for Arabian Nights?
Thomas Ordonneau: Miguel Gomes is the finest example of what Shellac does and intends to do: meticulous cinematic writing, discovering new talents, developing their potential and supporting them in production and distribution. Arabian Nights is a film unlike any other, and we are going to distribute one instalment at the end of each month in France, starting in June. This movie can hold its own in any competitive context whatsoever: what is most important for its distribution is to tell a story, like Miguel did during the film’s writing process, and like we did for the production. Each instalment is a standalone one, so we wanted to create some breathing space between each one; but they are linked nonetheless, and there is a movement towards the third one. Exhibitors are committing to all three films with, in the vast majority of cases, a theatrical run that proceeds from one volume to the next.
What do you think of VoD releases and distribution windows, and more generally, the situation for independent distribution in France?
I only believe in the movie theatre, even if the domain has contracted a great deal lately. On VoD, for our films and our positioning, not much is happening. It’s still so rudimentary: I place the movies on the platforms, but hey... As a result, I don’t think it would be a good idea to make the windows shorter. We can easily see that they’re starting to hand us on a plate the option of releasing content direct to video – possibly using subsidies to back it up – in order to make some room on the market, instead of wondering whether they couldn’t find slightly more sensible exhibition methods. We’ve got a bit carried away with the number of copies, and we should be capable of finding a better balance and a kind of "calmness" in terms of exhibition. A while ago, I noticed that 11 films took up 6,000 screens in France, whereas there are actually 5,000 of them. Is that really the way things should be done? Then, I think that arthouse exhibition has aligned itself too much with the pace found in commercial exhibition: it follows the schedule of the distributors, it is subjected to an accelerated rotation put in place by the circuits, and it finds itself in a kind of movement that is not a natural one for it. Because of that, it is totally losing its prerogatives that were once a specific link to the audience, the fact of being able to stand up for films independently of their national marketing, of being able to work according to other timescales, with time shifts, continuous exhibition, all those things that could make it unique.
What is Shellac’s development strategy?
Staying one step ahead of our desires, our intuition, as freely as possible, in order to unveil, nurture and guide talents, and follow them as far as possible as they mature. In ten years, Shellac has become pretty experienced, and we can make more and more open choices. Now, the question is to know how to progress without abandoning what constitutes our roots and our identity, which is fundamental because if we lose our position, we no longer exist and we would just be ok to go along to the markets to look for a film and make some cash. But that’s not what we’re doing. In our line-up, I am trying to maintain a balance between debut films that are real infatuations in terms of their freedom of style and what we can glimpse of the author’s potential, and saving some room to follow up on authors who we’ve already worked with, like Miguel Gomes, Benoît Forgeard and Joao Nicolau, all the while leaving the door open to bring in films that are a little more buoyant (with famous actors in the lead roles, for instance) but which still fall within our editorial policy.
(Translated from French)
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