Jean-Yves Roubin • Producer, Frakas Productions
"Genre cinema offers a lot of freedom in terms of form and discourse"
by Aurore Engelen
- CANNES 2019: We met with Jean-Yves Roubin, founder of Frakas Productions, the co-producer of two films showcased in Cannes this year: Atlantics and Vivarium
We met with the Belgian producer Jean-Yves Roubin, founder of Frakas Productions, a firm known for its pro-active approach towards genre film co-productions, whose body of work notably includes Julia Ducournau’s two-year-old title Raw [+see also:
interview: Julia Ducournau
film profile]. This year, the Liège-based outfit is co-producing Mati Diop’s Atlantics [+see also:
interview: Mati Diop
film profile], screening in the Official Selection of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, and Vivarium [+see also:
interview: Lorcan Finnegan
film profile] by Lorcan Finnegan, showcasing in Critics’ Week, and is also preparing to shoot four feature films as a majority partner before the year is up.
Cineuropa: Could you describe Frakas Productions for us in a few words?
Jean-Yves Roubin: I created Frakas Production 12 years ago with the idea of producing genre films. But at the time, it wasn’t within the customs and traditions of Francophone production. The Tax Shelter system was far more interested in Asterix than in independent genre films. But, despite all that, my aim, and that of my producer Cassandre Warnauts, was to always keep a watchful eye on society and to choose projects with a critical, acerbic spirit.
Where does your passion for genre films come from?
I’ve always been drawn to it. One of my favourite films is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s a form of cinema which offers a lot of freedom in terms of form and discourse, and which can also say something very personal or something that has a social or political resonance.
The film that changed everything for institutions here was Raw. I often use it as a point of reference. For us, it’s a real co-production at 45/55; the filming process was fully Belgian, as were a number of the talented individuals involved. We raised money from cultural sources but also from the wider market. Obviously, on first approach, it’s not easy to secure funding for a script about a girl who turns into a cannibal. But it’s also the story of a girl who turns into a woman, and it was precisely this double reading that won readers over, even if they did have a few reservations about some of the more brutal scenes. But French producer Jean des Forets (Petit Film) and I fought our corner well and since then, the genre film landscape has completely turned around. It’s almost become fashionable, and rightly so.
One of your strengths is co-production…
Unfortunately, in Belgium, it’s very difficult to keep a company like Frakas afloat if you only choose films in which you’re the majority producer. But we choose our co-productions with passion, they have to speak to us, as did Girl [+see also:
interview: Lukas Dhont
film profile], Raw, Racer and the Jailbird [+see also:
interview: Michael Roskam
film profile] and Heal the Living [+see also:
interview: Katell Quillévéré
film profile]. Films with brilliant screenplays, like Mati Diop’s Atlantics which we’re co-producing this year, or Vivarium. They’re both genre projects, but they bring out a great deal of emotion.
You have an impressive future line-up in terms of majority productions...
We’re currently shooting Sans Soleil, Banu Akseki’s first feature - a science fiction film starring Asia Argento and Louka Minella. Banu’s was the very first short film we produced, so this is a very special one for us. It’s quite a different screenplay, but it could cause quite a stir.
We’ll also be starting filming on another full-length title this summer, La Ruche by Christophe Hermans, starring Ludivine Sagnier, but also Sophie Breyer and Mara Taquin, two young and upcoming Belgian actresses.
We’re also going to produce the new film by Fabrice du Welz, who is coming to us with Inexorable, another genre film - a very tense thriller. We start filming in the autumn in Belgium and we’ll be co-producing alongside The Jokers.
Then, at the beginning of 2020, we’re hoping to shoot the first film by Giordano Gederlini, who co-wrote Above the Law [+see also:
interview: François Troukens
film profile] and Les Misérables [+see also:
interview: Ladj Ly
film profile] by Ladj Ly. It’s a very dark thriller filmed in Brussels, which we’re currently in the process of obtaining funding for. And finally, on a lighter note, the first feature film by the comedian Charlie Dupont, co-written with Philippe Blasband. It’s a very dark comedy - very Belgian, very moving - about two brother who realise they’ve failed at life and who decide to make a success of their death.
What has changed the most in Belgian production over the past 12 years?
The profession has become more complicated. It was easier before, basically because there was just one point of contact, the Centre du Cinéma, and a little bit of money from television. Now, we’re lucky in that we have lots of points of contact, but this requires a lot of expertise, a lot of knowledge and a lot of administrative work.
In terms of international co-productions, ever since France reduced access to tax credit for international co-productions, we’ve had to look for new partners. We’ve opened up to other countries and we’ve adopted different approaches towards co-productions, notably using equity and following the British example. This allows us to get a foot in the door of funding sources which are more on a par with the market.
Where do you see Frakas 5 years from now?
We’re undoubtedly going to grow our line-up a little more! We’re going to develop our projects in more of an international direction, especially our majority productions. We want to initiate larger-scale projects; for example, buy the rights to a foreign book, throw a team behind it and look beyond the Belgian region.
(Translated from French)
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