Yohann Comte • Exporter
“We didn’t opt to be independent in order to be enslaved”
by Fabien Lemercier
- We talked to Yohann Comte, of young international sales agent Charades, about the firm’s line-up and development strategy, as well as market trends
Two days before the kick-off of the European Film Market at the 68th Berlin Film Festival (15-25 February 2018), we talked to Yohann Comte (formerly of Gaumont), who last year founded the French international sales agent Charades together with Carole Baraton (ex-Wild Bunch), Pierre Mazars (ex-Studio Canal) and Constantin Briest (Asuna).
Cineuropa: How would you sum up Charades' first year of business activities?
Yohann Comte: We announced the launch of the company at Berlin, but our first line-up was unveiled at Cannes and consisted of five films. Now, we are just about to charge Berlin with almost 15 movies, which we reckon is a good cruising speed. What we’re really happy about is that we have found the variety of films we had been hoping for. They range from a music documentary on Chilly Gonzales (Shut Up and Play the Piano [+see also:
film profile] by Philippe Gedicke, which will be world-premiered in the Panorama) to Revenge [+see also:
interview: Coralie Fargeat
film profile] by Coralie Fargeat, which was our first acquisition and co-production, not to mention the 3D animated film The Queen’s Corgi by Ben Stassen. There are not a lot of French movies on our slate for now, but we have in fact just added two of them: Conviction by Antoine Raimbault (see the article) and Head Above Water by Margaux Bonhomme (see the article).
What genres of films are distributors looking for at the moment?
It’s hard to specify because there are a lot of different types of distributors. Certain films are perfect for Netflix, for example, which I consider to be a distributor, while others are really destined to end up in theatres. I think what the studios are making, the so-called tent poles, those films based on familiar elements with a huge amount of marketing behind them, will start to run out of steam. Independent distributors really have to offer films that stand out from the crowd. Every time there is one, it works! Revenge, for instance, elicited a huge demand. Genre films don’t normally get a theatrical release, but that movie is going to be released the world over. Why? Because it has a “pop” side to it that most of the genre films released up to now didn’t have. So many things are changing at the moment that it’s difficult to say what appeals, but as always, it’ll be whatever is distinctive. And everything that conforms to a volume-based or revenue-based approach always ends up petering out.
What is Charades’ editorial strategy?
We founded this company because the best time to be a boat is when the wind is changing constantly. We adopt something of a multi-niche approach. We think there will always be a fan base for genre. Then, if it’s a film that’s a bit different and can perhaps reach a bigger audience, with our experience, we know how to support it. It’s the same thing with Japanese animated films [the line-up includes Mirai by Mamoru Hosoda], music documentaries [Charades is also selling Inna de Yard by Peter Webber, about reggae music], French comedies and movies by the great auteurs who always have a loyal audience, which we can endeavour to enlarge dramatically if the work is really exceptional. This approach based on niches, fan bases and being certain about international potential enables us to mitigate the risks and, conversely, allows us to take a punt on films that are love at first sight for us – for example, French feature debuts without a big cast and by an unknown auteur. We didn’t opt to be independent in order to be enslaved by a line-up that we didn’t choose.
To what extent do you consider platforms to be distributors like the rest?
It’s great news for world cinema. A lot of distributors are complaining about jam-packed theatres – but Netflix emptying the theatres. We can’t just whinge all the time… And everyone is free to choose. When we work with platforms, it’s always in agreement with the producer and with the director, who are very happy to have their movie on a global platform, rather than in theatres in three countries. The strategies are different depending on what stage a director is at in his or her career. For a feature debut, it’s a decision that has to be made with a lot of factors in mind. If it’s a seasoned filmmaker and everyone has refused to make their film because it’s a bit too off the wall, too subversive or too original, and it’s only Netflix signing the cheque…
(Translated from French)
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