Julie Esparbes • Producer, Hélicotronc
"It’s really exciting to see real freedom in films in terms of their content, but also in how they’re made"
- The Belgian Producers on the Move representative spoke to us about the kind of films she chooses and her upcoming projects, as well as the audiovisual landscape in her country
This year’s Belgian representative of the EFP's Producers on the Move initiative, Julie Esparbes, joined the firm Hélicotronc in 2008, where she’s now Associate Producer. She first distinguished herself producing a number of shorts, then tried her hand at TV by way of The Break, before producing Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni’s first feature film Madly in Life [+see also:
interview: Raphaël Balboni & Ann Sirot
film profile], which met with great success in festivals all over the world. Immediately afterwards, she produced Love According to Dalva [+see also:
interview: Emmanuelle Nicot
interview: Emmanuelle Nicot, Julie Esp…
film profile] by Emmanuelle Nicot, which was selected last year in Cannes’ Critics’ Week, a line-up she’s returning to this year with The (Ex)perience of Love, also by Ann Sirot and Raphaël Balboni.
Cineuropa: How do you go about choosing your projects?
Julie Esparbes: One thing that’s different about Hélicotronc is that we produce lots of short films, and many of the feature films we produce nowadays are directed by filmmakers whom we’ve been supporting for several years. They consist of authors we discovered in festivals - during screenings of their graduate films - and crushes, both in terms of the projects and the individuals behind them. This is crucial, in my mind, because we end up working together for years.
It’s also a real pleasure to meet new people, not just in Belgium but abroad too, notably thanks to events like Producers on the Move, which give us an opportunity to work on different stories coming from different countries, which is really enriching for us.
What type of films does Hélicotronc support?
We don’t have a set, predetermined editorial line, but we’re both producers, Anthony Rey and I, and each of us produces our own projects. We talk to one another, we ask one another for advice, but inevitably we have different sensibilities. I don’t have any preferences in terms of genre, but I tend to make more fiction films than documentaries. I’m drawn towards stories which move me, with more or less modern themes. I like it when subjects we might consider to be heavy or difficult are tackled from an unexpected angle, like in Madly in Life, which explored a neuro-degenerative illness but was full of humour and emotion. It was a little like this with Love According to Dalva too. I like films which blend emotions, I love crying at the cinema, as a viewer. Maybe that would be my editorial line, making films which touch people’s hearts.
What’s your view on the Belgian audiovisual landscape today?
I don’t know if I have enough distance to analyse things, but when you see the diversity of Belgian films selected this year in Cannes, what strikes and galvanises me is the diversity of talent, the “laboratory” side certain films have. I find it really exciting to see real freedom in films in terms of their content, but also in how they’re made. I sense that a new generation of filmmakers are coming to the fore. It’s an incredibly joyful and promising breath of fresh air.
What does being selected for Cannes mean to you?
It’s first and foremost a huge joy. It represents so many years of work, our first films. Showing Dalva in Critics’ Week was a wonderful recognition for us. The film stirred up real interest. Cannes can still act as an incredible sounding board sometimes, even if it doesn’t guarantee sales. It made us feel like we’d found our place, somehow, despite knowing that it’s all very fleeting. And despite knowing that wonderful films struggle to find their place in category A festivals – that was the case for Madly in Life, which went on to do incredibly well.
What projects are you currently working on?
At the minute, we’re putting the final touches on Chiennes de vie [+see also:
film profile], a black comedy by Xavier Seron (Death By Death [+see also:
interview: Xavier Seron
film profile]) which has his name all over it. In development terms, I’m helping two films by Catherine Cosme. Her debut feature film will be Sauvons les meubles, a very personal story, a funny, moving and unique offering, which she’ll start shooting in the autumn as a lightweight production. She’s also working on a more traditional production, in funding terms, called Bagarre. It tells the story of a former female boxer who’s raising her autistic son on her own. And I’m also working with Valéry Carnoy, whose short film Titan did really well in the festival setting. Her debut feature film La Danse des renards - a tale of emancipation exploring the burden of the importance society places on virility - is a continuation of her previous work. So there are lots of first films on the horizon, given that I’m also working on debut feature films by Marie Le Floc’h and Isabelle Schapira. I'm also working on the first feature by François Bierry, Kevin et Michel, as well as the second season of Good People.
(Translated from French)
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