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“I dream of a European distribution network within the universities”

Industry Report: Documentary

Victor Ede • Producer, Cinéphage Production

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The French 2022 Emerging Producer tells us what he thinks the future of documentary films might be like

Victor Ede  • Producer, Cinéphage Production

An interview with Victor Ede, producer for French company Cinéphage Production and selected for the 2022 Emerging Producers programme. Read his EP profile here.

Why do you produce documentaries? Do you understand documentary film as an instrument of social and political change?
Victor Ede: Just as with many things in my life, I became a producer by accident… It was actually by producing films that I’ve figured my deeper intentions. I carried on precisely because I found production to be the way of having some influence within the society. Through the development of international projects, I also began to see production as a transmission work: by connecting people and bringing foreign filmmakers’ projects to France, I can help draw new horizons and build bridges between cultures. I was also lucky enough to see the tangible impact of some of our films, and although I don’t consider myself an “impact producer”, such experiences helped me understand the power of documentary film that I hadn’t sensed at first.

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The pandemic had an impact on the entire sector. How did it influence your work as a producer? Have the projects that you work on changed?
The pandemic put a brake on half of our projects. In France, the companies of our sector received support from the state, some regions and the CNC. The public support gave me some room to manoeuvre, be able to maintain my team in Marseilles and help our foreign collaborators to go through the period of uncertainty. We also reacted to constraint by creativity. Marie Mandy, the director of Les Femmes préfèrent en rire (litt. “Women would rather laugh”), decided to turn her immersive documentary into a film almost entirely shot in a studio. Retrospectively, I think it was very good for the film that we shot during the first year of the pandemic under big restrictions. We also developed several new projects, trying to take the restrictions into account in our choices, but I must admit I’m not ready to let my editorial policy shrink because of the virus. What worries me most are the asymmetrical consequences of public decisions. Western European countries impose sanitary rules that make things very complicated for collaborators from other regions of the world, not mentioning the cruelty and absurdity of the vaccine competition that excluded so many African countries and the populations that would really need it.

What do you think is the future of the distribution of documentary films?
France is a peculiar country: every year, about 100 feature documentaries are released in theatres, but the audience is small, with almost no young people. Partnerships with NGOs or schools can help bring new audience to the theatres, but mostly for films that can mobilize people for a specific cause. I believe the biggest challenge is at the European scale. For instance, I dream of a European distribution network within the universities. What is clear to me from the French experience is that documentary screenings must go hand in hand with meetings and discussions. This is often demanding for the filmmakers, it takes a lot of their time and yet it is always very hard to finance. I would also love France to drop the “media chronology” law for theatrical-released documentaries, because it prevents the broadcasters from supporting features, knowing they have to wait more than one year after the theatrical release to broadcast them. I don’t know what the future of distribution is on a global scale, but I would personally love films to travel more, a real popular culture of documentary to develop along with the audience, and Europe to increase its support to international collaborations. I believe that the future lies in international co-production because it facilitates such a circulation. Even for French films, I almost always try to find foreign partners.

What projects do you have underway?
Nine different projects are currently developed or produced at Cinéphage, and I’m glad to say they mirror the editorial diversity that we claim. Amongst those we initiated, there is our first animation short (A Lively Discussion With The Voice Hearers by Tristan Thil), to be distributed soon by MIYU Distribution, Les Desobeissantes (litt. “The Disobedient Women”), by Marie Mandy, co-produced with ARTE and RTBF and for which the shootings are hopefully going to start again soon, or Jean-Robert Viallet’s new film, currently in development with the support of ARTE. In terms of international projects, we are co-producing two films by Petra Seliskar in Slovenia and North Macedonia, Body and Land Of Sär, which will be released in theatres next year. Just like Kix, a Hungarian project by Dávid Mikulán and Bálint Révész co-produced with Elf Pictures, Bulb Cinema and ARTE. The project received the Docu Talent Award in Sarajevo and I work on it with the Emerging Producers alumnae Ágnes Horváth-Szabó (read more) and Viki Réka Kiss (read more).

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EMERGING PRODUCERS is a leading promotional and educational project, which brings together talented European documentary film producers. The programme is organised and curated by the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival.

Deadline for applications to the EMERGING PRODUCERS 2023 edition is 31 March 2022.

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