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Marianne Slot • Producer

“I find co-productions very enriching”


- Cineuropa sat down with award-winning producer Marianne Slot in Zagreb to talk about her experiences with different types of co-productions

Marianne Slot  • Producer

French producer of Danish heritage Marianne Slot and her production company Slot Machine are considered powerhouses in the world of European film production and co-productions. Through her company, Slot has worked with some of the most celebrated directors in the world, including Lars von Trier, Lucrecia Martel, Lisandro Alonso, Naomi Kawase, Sergei Loznitsa and Benedikt Erlingsson. She held a master class entitled “Co-production: A Love Story” as a part of this year’s Zagreb Film Festival industry programme, and Cineuropa got the chance to speak to her after her presentation.

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Cineuropa: The name of your master class was “Co-production: A Love Story”. Is it always like that?
Marianne Slot: Yes; sometimes it is a good one, sometimes it is a bad one.

Over the course of your career, you have done a lot of co-productions under different circumstances, and some of them were very complicated. How often do you do such complex co-productions? How does it work and how does it feel?
Since I started, 25 or 30 years ago, all of the films I’ve done have been international co-productions. First, it was out of pure necessity, since the productions we are doing at Slot Machine are challenging arthouse movies on which you need to have partners from everywhere to raise the finances – so it is purely pragmatic. Secondly, I find co-productions very enriching. The example of A Gentle Creature [+see also:
film review
interview: Sergei Loznitsa
film profile
was a special case: in order to amass the budget of €2.2 million, we had seven parter countries and even more nationalities of crew members, so at a certain point, it became very challenging. The biggest thing was international employment laws and tax laws, which were complicated to figure out. Other than that, it felt very enriching working with all of those different nationalities and cultures.

Is your choice of co-production project always a creative decision, or is it sometimes based on friendship with the director, knowledge of his or her previous work, past experiences and so on? Or is it sometimes just pragmatic?
The first thing we do is sit down with the director and identify all of the artistic choices, and we do the same thing with the heads of departments. This is to find out what they would want to do, where they would like to work, how they like to work… This is the starting point, and then we go and look for partners. The core is always artistic, and then you have to make compromises in terms of what to do with those choices, together with the director, so that it will be in the movie’s best interests. And if you’ve had good experiences with some people, you will go back to them – you don’t change the winning crew.

You have worked with some big-name directors, but you have also discovered some new talents from around the world. You’ve done bigger and smaller productions. What can you tell us about working in such a huge variety of conditions?
That’s part of the whole challenge, working with established talents and discovering new ones. The new ones have to be “born and bred”, and the most common thing to do for me as a producer is to accompany the directors and help them to make the best film possible, meaning that it is different with every person, as people have different talents, strengths and weaknesses. And the goal is to detect all of that, to accommodate them and to help them in the places where they really need it. So the job is basically the same.

Europe is now full of opportunities for co-productions, but you have also worked outside the EU and outside Europe. What is the difference between a European and a non-European co-production?
We have a big advantage as producers in Europe, because we can make sure that our film will be independent and free of interference from those who are financing it. I have worked abroad, but at the same time, I have always worked as a European producer, with European money and with the same structures. For example, when I worked on Latin American projects, I always worked with Les Cinémas du Monde, the Berlinale World Cinema Fund and so on. This is the kind of money that you can raise for works in other territories. The essence is the same; you always have to accompany the directors’ work and make sure they retain their independence.

How do you see the future of co-productions? They are omnipresent nowadays and are probably the only way to finance more demanding arthouse features.
I just hope very much that the situation that we are in today, where culture is being attacked and cut down, won’t last forever and that we have the strength and the institutions to turn it around somehow. We have to keep the support system for cinema alive – that is paramount. I don’t know what will happen in the future. Now we have institutions we can work with, big platforms, the landscape is changing, and we all have to adapt to these new circumstances but still keep the same goals.

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