Mon 29 Oct 2018

Stories & Beyond: Accent on France and Belgium

Once again, screenwriters were put centre stage at ‘Stories & Beyond’ as Dutch scribes met up with producers from the Francophone industries while their French-speaking counterparts went eyeball to eyeball with leading Netherlands producers and distributors. The point of the exercise was to determine whether or not certain stories can/would work in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and beyond.

By: Nick Cunningham

Backup Media’s David Atlan-Jackson (France) explains the session from his perspective. “It’s about helping projects get made, in this case Dutch projects that have a French angle, whether with subject matter or whether they want to shoot there – or for whatever reason. That is why we brought in French-speaking industry people to NFF, mostly to have screenwriters from the Dutch industry gain a better understanding [as they develop their script] of what the French industry is, and what they can or can’t count on during the screenplay’s development.”

Atlan-Jackson argues that if a project is likely to be co-produced with France then screenwriters should bear this in mind during development and writing stages. “It’s up to writers to make the input early enough so that the changes feel natural within the development of the script rather than at the last minute,” he adds. “What we are discussing with writers right now is important because you can help them find solutions for their projects and make them feel more natural when they come to finance stage and when they are facing French financiers.”

“France is still an important country in terms of financing. I think it is good to know what they can and cannot have access to, and how at this stage they can orientate the script’s development to be eligible for any of the French financing solutions that are in front of them,” Atlan-Jackson underlines. “Fitting into a co-production is always a tricky thing because suddenly you have to find the right balance between what is natural what is not natural. It is always a question of balance – before you turn it into a Euro pudding.”

And are Dutch screenwriters receptive to this line of reasoning? Yes, he argues, as evidenced by Dutch writer Marijn de Wit who is working on the road movie The Way Back that takes an elderly couple across Europe, through France and into Italy, to pay their last respects to a dying friend.

“For me, I am all about story and content and I am trying to prise out of everyone their perspectives on cinematic quality,” explains De Wit. “What most road movies don’t really do is to portray their surroundings as a character, and I am really trying to do that in an intelligent way that does justice to Europe 2018.”

How has Europe changed, De Wit wants to know, before he casts the pair off on their journey. “This is an elderly couple, which means that they are not in the heart of the storm of today’s society. They are marginalised so that allows us to have a look at our own time through their eyes. They are not fools, nor coming from under a rock, but they are still struggling to keep up with the pace of technology.”