PARIS -- Attending the UniFrance Rendez-Vous market in Paris, Cecile Gaget, the head Gaumont International since 2010, took the time to comment on the company's standing within the French industry, its acquisition strategy and evolving business model.
Closely collaborating with Gaumont's chair Sidonie Dumas, Gaget has been a driving force behind the company's financial success and global outreach. Last year, Gaumont replaced Pathe as France's n.1 indie distributor.
Variety: How does 2014 look like for Gaumont and what are the new challenges you look forward to tackling?
Cecile Gaget: We ended the year with great surprises. We were rewarded for our original taste and attempt to surprise the audience and that's what we'll try to do in 2014. We want strong stories with compelling concepts. Our motto this year is "Stay national to be international." Gaumont has been very successful for the past three years and in 2013 we're the n.1 French independent distributor.
2014 will see a diversity of projects, genres and subjects. We'll continue to bet on concepts and we're not afraid to work with first time directors. We did very well with Reem Kherici's "Paris or Perish" and Guillaume Gallienne's "Me Myself and Mum." We're going to get back into genre as well. We acquired "When Animals Dream" from Denmark's Jonas Arnby. We're keen on a French genre film as well. And we have the French Connection thriller "La French" which has a very strong script and a promising young director, Cedric Jimenez. It's produced by Alain Goldman and stars Jean Dujardin and Gilles Lellouche. And we have "Samba," the new film by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano ("Intouchables").
We also want to continue doing one or two senior comedies or films targeting seniors, like Volker Schlondoff's "Diplomacy," every year. And "My Summer in Provence" with Jean Reno -- that's a film for rural audiences, it's not for Paris, it's a light comedy for the Summer.
We want to to try and come up with great stories; we won't be doing lazy French comedies or French drama that everyone's bored with. We gave up doing these kinds of movies two or three years ago. We're already working on our 2015 lineup right now.
How do you look for films?
At Gaumont we form a team led by Chair Sidonie Dumas and including the head of theatrical, Francois Clerc, and myself. We try to be very grounded, follow the trends, listen, be curious of every genre. We try to analyze what's going on, why a film works and why it doesn't. What matters the most is the target audience of a project, we need to be able to identify that audience from the starting point. When we picked up "Porn In The Hood," at the time everyone was surprised because it wasn't a "Gaumont" film, but there's no such thing as Gaumont type of film anymore. We don't want labels. We just want to surprise people and have films that click with audiences.
You've recently started acquiring smaller films exclusively for international sales. One of them is the Danish coming-of-age warewolf tale "When Animals Dream." What's the idea behind this trend?
It's new at Gaumont. We acquired "Paris Countdown" by Edgar Marie, the remake of Nicolas Winding Refn's "Pusher" and now "When Animals Dream," and we'll do more.
The thing is, when Gaumont is moving on a film, it has to have the potential to draw a minimum of 300.000 to 400.000 people in French theaters. The fact that we're not taking French distribution rights on a film doesn't mean the movie is bad, it's just that we're too big to do that kind of movie. But it's a way for us to get in touch with Europe-based international directors that we like and want to follow.
Genre is not particularly popular in France, is it?
It depends. Genre haas been deserted in France and I think it's the right time to come back to it. Wild bunch has one or two every year but I want Gaumont to get back into genre in a more significant way. A few years ago everyone was doing very bad genre movies. They didn't perform theatrically in France because the quality wasn't there. But now I'm reading some pretty good stuff.
Looking back at the disappointing performances of "Spivet" and "Two Mothers," are you still looking to encourage filmmakers to shoot in English language? What kind of lessons have you learned?
We don't encourage anybody to do English language, it has to be a strong wish of the director and has to make sense with the story. To do a film in English just for the sake of it is totally crazy and doesn't make sense. I think some of the lessons we've learned is that genre films and actioners are more appropriate for English language.
I also think we have to find good U.S. partners at an early stage, maybe get them more creatively involved in the artistic process. But it's tricky when you're collaborating on a big film because you can come across cultural differences, especially when you're discussing the final cut, the creative elements. In France, the author's right is very powerful. International directors like Nicolas Winding Refn come to Europe to enjoy the creative freedom. But we have to balance all of this, we want to help great directors find their way when making a film in the U.S. or with U.S. partners, and be able to have everyone sit around around a table and exchange ideas, so that an American producer or distributor can understand the wish of a director. You can't do that with every French directors. You have to work with guys who are open-minded... Fred Cavaye for instance is very pragmatic and has a great attitude. He's a good candidate.
How do you perceive the U.S. indie sector right now and how open is it to European cinema at the moment? Some say it's still weak apart from a few exceptions, others say it's vibrant. What's your take?
Gaumont's Cecile Gaget: 'We Don't Want Labels'
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.