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Frédéric Boyer • Artistic Director, Les Arcs Film Festival

"You have to stand out from the crowd, take risks"


- The selector of the Alpine festival sheds light on the Work in Progress event which is unspooling on 11 December within the Industry Village programme

Frédéric Boyer • Artistic Director, Les Arcs Film Festival

The day before the 14th Les Arcs Film Festival (read our article) and its accompanying Industry Village kick off - the latter notably including the ever-highly anticipated Work in Progress (WiP) event, which boasts 14 films in its line-up this year (news) - we met with the festival’s artistic director Frédéric Boyer (who also holds the same role in Tribeca and Reykjavik).

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Cineuropa: 9 of the 14 films in the Work in Progress programme are directed or co-directed by women? Is this a coincidence?
Frédéric Boyer: Yes, totally, though we’re definitely seeing a rise in the number of films directed by women which are submitted to us. But we didn’t make any decisions based on the gender of our filmmakers. What’s impressive though is the number of female producers, especially young producers, who are responsible for roughly 90% of the selected films. I get the feeling they’re shaking up the film world and that’s a very positive thing. But what’s also surprising this year is that we’ve selected lots of films from southern Europe (one Portuguese movie, two Italian, two Greek and two Spanish) and not that many from the East (one Estonian film and one Ukrainian) or the North (one Swedish title and one Icelandic).

The international Work in Progress circuit is quite a busy one. How do you manage to maintain your lead?
Firstly, in terms of the films submitted to us – more than 160 this year – we’re very careful not to accept projects which are almost finished, which wrapped filming in May-June time. We only select films which are nearing the end of the filming process and which have never been seen. Because, given that international sales agents are very well informed, and because they follow most projects from genesis, at the workshop stage, the lab stage, the co-production platform stage, etc., we need to be one step ahead of them and use our special contacts all throughout the year to find the films which are going to be begin filming. Also, lots of story-driven films already have sales agents; we select some too, obviously, but we also have a few films from that wave of hybrid films we’ve been seeing since Apichatpong Weerasethakul came onto the scene, where we see documentary-makers verging into fiction, for example.

The most important thing is that the film’s first images are shown at Les Arcs, and we insist that the selected filmmakers maintain secrecy and not show any part of their works before they’re presented at Les Arcs. The element of surprise is what’s interesting for everyone, and that’s what can benefit films the most. It’s true that there are now thirty or so Work in Progress events up and running, but all the major programmers come to Les Arcs, as do the sales agents who are active in the major festival markets. There’s also obviously the fact that our WiP has unveiled films which have gone on to world premiere in very prestigious showcases. And then, at our event, we have lots of conversations with our selected filmmakers, but they’re always the ones who have the "final say" on the extracts they’re going to share.

What type of films are sales agents currently looking for?
It sounds like a platitude to say they’re looking for feel good movies. And it’s not necessarily the case, because the mini-series Chernobyl proved that incredibly dark offerings can work really well. And given that there are lots of coming of age movies produced - even if some, like Close [+see also:
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, are extraordinary - there’s a certain repetitiveness when it comes to the theme of adolescence and children-parent relationships, so there’s less interest in this type of film. Sales agents are also always looking for the diamond in the rough that can win over a good festival, and, on that subject, we’ve got an Estonian kung fu film this year: The Invisible Fight by Rainer Sarnet. Because what sales agents are indisputably looking for are films which can do the rounds at festivals, and, if possible, be selected for Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Locarno or Karlovy Vary, and be snapped up by distributors. And it’s also all about buzz. At Les Arcs, sales agents attend the WiP event, then they talk, they listen and, the next day, during their individual 20-minute meetings, filmmakers and producers are given the first real feedback they’ve had, to get a sense of whether there’s a market or any potential for their work.

Off the back of the selection process for your WiP line-up, what’s your view on the state of the film industry?
I get the impression that there are growing demands on auteurs: they have to stand out from the crowd and take risks, and there are far fewer LAMDA projects. The films we’re presented with are also far better made, in terms of their photography, their definition, their sound. I also thought, two years ago, that cinema would go into survival mode, but we’ve received so many projects and the quality is still high. So we can always be optimistic about finding European filmmakers who will go on to make an international name for themselves, such as Alice Rohrwacher, Ruben Östlund and Yorgos Lanthimos, and who embody a kind of cinema which isn’t too compartmentalised. Because positioning ourselves as European vis-a-vis a global market is essential: European films need to be exported all over the place. At our level, we want to show the diversity of European cinema, especially when it comes to first films, but we also want films to be sold, for them to be of interest to a given market, for artistic talent to be noticed at Les Arcs for future projects, and for Les Arcs to be a springboard for their careers.

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(Translated from French)

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