Industry Report: Documentary
Christian Popp • Producer
by EDN (European Documentary Network)
EDN has talked to Christian Popp about his company YUZU Productions and his approach to documentaries
EDN has talked to Christian Popp. Popp, born in Romania, is a German-French independent producer who started his career as a commissioning editor at ARTE (1997), first in Strasbourg and then in Berlin. He became a producer 12 years ago. Since then he produced for Interscience Film, Artline Films and Docdays Productions. In 2012 he founded Yuzu Productions, based in Montreuil, France, together with Fabrice Estève. Christian furthermore frequently works as a tutor, pitching moderator and advisor for numerous markets, documentary workshops and festivals. His latest documentary Becoming Cary Grant [+see also:
film profile] premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last month.
Can you start by telling more about your background and your road into the world of documentaries? How did you end up as commissioning editor at ARTE in 1997?
Christian Popp: I studied history and French literature with the goal to become a journalist. This is what I then first did, writing for print media, eventually working for TV. At some point I felt journalism wasn’t my way to tell stories, and I wanted to explore longer forms and different narrative ways. So, I knocked at the door of the ARTE Theme evening department and got the chance to become a commissioner. Although this was in 1997, I remember well, the first documentary I was working on, a French history documentary about animals used in war times, directed by Pierre-Henry Salfati.
After your time at ARTE you started producing documentaries. How was this shift to the other side of the table – from commissioning editor to producer?
Having been pitched a lot as a Commissioning Editor, I knew the rules and rituals and how to choose, develop and present projects. And I had the chance to start working with a German producer (Interscience Film) who trusted me and helped me a lot in the beginning. In fact, I didn’t know much about the production side. Already as commissioning editor I was interested in budgets and financing plans, as well as technical issues. That was useful. But I wasn’t hands on. I had to learn the production part from scratch. My main interest was (still is) creative producing, content, narratives, style, aesthetics.
In 2012 you launched Yuzu Productions together with Fabrice Estève. What was your motivation for launching the company and how would you describe the company profile?
In this metier one is very much bound to external parameters which are difficult to master. Making documentaries is always creating something new, a prototype. Being employed means that you have to deal with projects and people you don’t always choose to work with. That your editorial choices are dictated by others. For a short time, I worked as a freelance producer, developing projects together with directors and only then approaching a production house. But this wasn’t right for me. I knew and appreciated Fabrice Estève for a while and for him it was also the right moment to launch a company, so we teamed up.
Yuzu Productions has not really a specific focus other than the quality of the films we want to do, the projects we believe in strongly. But of course the backgrounds, interests and desires of both of us are essential. We are producing science and arts and culture, history and current affairs, very personal documentaries and more factual films, mostly documentaries and sometimes fiction. What comes with our backgrounds too is the natural desire to look beyond borders and cross cultures – many of our films are international co-productions.
How do you find the projects you venture into?
Projects usually are brought in by authors and directors, sometimes by co-producers we meet at international markets. Some of our projects are initiated by us and we then look for the right director.
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