The Rencontres Internationales de Cinema a Paris. Never heard of it? Neither had I
until late last year. Found it accidentally on the internet just prior to leaving Sydney
for Turkey. It's offering filmmakers big opportunities with little outlay, for French
and/or European distribution of features, docos and shorts. But as I discovered, not a
single Australian filmmaker had a title in the 1997 programme.
Left Istanbul mid October ‘97 and flew to Paris where the festival was underway.
The New Zealand feature, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, had already screened, with
major distributor/exhibitor interest.
"All you need do is send a VHS copy of your feature,
doco or short for consideration"
What makes this festival attractive is that it will pick up the tab for French
subtitles of English works, if selected into the festival. All you need do is send a VHS
copy of your feature, doco or short for consideration by the selectors. If you get in,
they'll do the rest, including "making" exhibitors and distributors come to the
festival, hosted by the Videotheque de Paris - a space equivalent to Sydney's Chauvel
Cinema - buried deep inside the underground Les Halles shopping centre. Showing for 12
days is anything up to 30 features, and all films screen three times during this festival.
Ironically, according to Festival Director, Marie-Pierre Macia, the amount of film
titles for distribution is shrinking. Ironic, when, in a film-crazy city like Paris, up to
300 titles are showing in any one day.
"It's economic, it's like everywhere," Ms Macia says. "If in the first
days you don't make the number of entries a film should have, [or sell enough cinema
tickets], the film is out of the theatre in a week and the next film is on the screen.
This is why distributors and exhibitors do not want to take the risk anymore. They don't
buy as much as they used to do. They don't release film as much as they used to do."
By refusing to release video copies of the selected films, the festival
"encourages" distributors and exhibitors to see for themselves the public
reaction to films chosen for screening. The festival has two theatres: one 300-seater, the
"If a distributor can see a film here with an audience he can have an idea of what
to do with this film." And, know how to position films bought at the festival for
both the metropolitian and regional markets in France.
There is a market for short films in Paris, but Recontres doesn't actively broker these
like it does for features.
"For a filmmaker of a short film it's really important
to be exposed here."
"We do expect distributors will pick up short films to show before features."
She says the other benefit for directors of short films, is getting the attention of
producers in Paris with a view to making their first feature. She adds word of mouth is
fast at this festival, compared to many other festivals, except for Cannes.
"Considering there are so many professionals in Paris, for a filmmaker of a short
film it's really important to be exposed here."
The festival has only been in existence for three years. In Years 1 & 2, of the 34
features selected for screening, all without pre-existing distribution deals, 15 found
distributors. And by end of week one of the 1997 festival, three features had secured
distribution deals, including "Topless Women....".
Television buyers also attend this festival, mostly looking for documentaries. In its
first year, it screened a doco about the death penalty in California which was picked up
for national distribution.
More theatrical and television distributors are adding Recontres to their calendar of
events and public attendences are also increasing: from 9000 in Year 1 to more than 12,000
in Year 3. But Macia says Recontres is not Cannes, and wants to stay small.