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Making Movies in France - The American Way

Micah Schaffer


Grad Film Alum Melanie Delloye’s thesis film Anna and Jerome, starring Élodie Bouchez, is a French road movie about a mother who doesn't have custody of her six-year-old son and decides to run off with him. Shot in Normandy, and taking full advantage of the geography of the province, this film eschewed traditional financing through France’s national and region­al film agencies. Instead, Melanie made use of a new feature of the French landscape – Crowdsourcing.

Melanie says: “We applied to a bunch of the regional grants, but we were told that in order to do it right we would have to wait a year to make sure that we met all the guichets [benchmarks]. We didn’t want to lose momentum so we decided to go ahead and make the film ‘the American Way.’”

Melanie and her producer Robin Robles raised funds through the crowdsourcing site Ulule, which accepts money in multiple currencies from inside and outside of France. Like Kickstarter, Ulule facilitates funding for a variety of projects (those currently featured on the site include film, photo, and music projects, and even an agricultural start-up).

According to Melanie: “It [crowdsourcing] is very new in France and a lot of people don’t really under­stand what it is. There isn’t even really a French word for it – we just say ‘crowdsourcing.’” To date just under 1,900 projects have been funded through Ulule – compared with over 38,000 funded on Kickstarter. And the goal of 14,000 Euros (about US $18,000) for Anna and Jerome was one of the larger amounts raised on the site – at least at the time.

The novelty of crowdsourcing in France had some benefits. Ulule was fully behind the project and fea­tured it in a number of ways (including a blog about Melanie as Ululer of the Week). Anna and Jerome also received a small amount of funding and other support from Daily Motion (the French equivalent of YouTube).

Melanie and Robin finally did get word from one of the regional film funds that they’d received a grant – but it came six months after Anna and Jerome was finished! (Most such grants require the production to take place within the specific region, province, or municipality, so it was moot.)

Productions that fall under  the guidelines of the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'Image Animée ( the 'CNC' - France's national film agency) also come with other rules, including minimum labor and benefit payments. Making Anna and Jerome outside the con­fines of that system allowed the production to function strictly as a student film, which gave more flexibility (Producer Robin Robles is a recent graduate of La FEMIS, the French state film school). So for a number of reasons, the decision to make the film ‘à l’américaine’ seems to have been a good choice.

Still, Melanie is not forsaking traditional French fund­ing methods. She is developing a feature film set in Colombia, for which she plans to find production financing within Colombia and also seek French co-production funds.

In future blogs I will discuss the Colombian film industry's new incentives system and other productions in development to be shot in that country.