The Daily Tofu

A place for art, culture, history, and creation

Film History: A History of French Cinema - A Glimpse of the French Film Business Today

FilmTrey TakahashiComment

Cannes film festival. Photo: Allison Launay

Disclaimer: This part would be more a testimony than an analysis of French cinema.

I have been working in the Film Business for some years now. I have always been a movie lover. I could feel it deep inside me even when I entered my Business School. At that time, I was predestined to work in the Luxury Business. You know, “Paris, capital of Fashion”… I did have my first professional experience in this field. And I have some stories to tell you about. Have you seen The Devil Wears Prada (2006)? Pretty much the same.

I worked for a small Paris-based production company. It was my first time working with producers. I only worked as a distributor and sales agent until that time.

 My ex-boss used to tell me:

“Ally, you‘ll soon discover it, but there are two kinds of directors, like there are two kind of producers.”

He was right, but I didn’t realize it until I immersed myself in Film Festivals, box offices, discovering what is at stake, how the cash machine works.

There is the director who makes a film to make money, to entertain viewers, and the director who makes movie for pride, for prize, to move us, to disturb us. Usually, directors who favor their work, face difficulties with their producers. (Coucou la Weinstein Company!).

Cast of Entre le murs (2008) at the Cannes film festival in 2008. Photo: Georges Biard

So I asked my ex-boss in which category he thinks he belongs to. “The second one” he said. Yet I remember walking around in the subway station, seeing these huge movie posters from his company, promising the viewers a giant American-style French blockbuster. He told me that he failed eventually, to produce an such a movie. I was working for this company when they released a Palme d’or winner‘s newest movie Entre le murs (2008). It got several prizes in 2014. But less than 50 ,000 people went to the cinema to see it. You don’t need to be a movie professional to know that this is a failure for a company, even though this film was multi-awarded and very well-directed. Truth is, prize doesn’t bring in money. However, cash had never been this director particular goal--He is an artist, he knows it, but he is so humble at the same time. And trust me, this attitude is very rare nowadays.

It was terribly exciting to work close to directors, to meet actors and not-so famous celebrities. You know, this particular kind of person who starred in a low-budget movie but feels like an Academy Awards winner.

I remember the first time I attended Cannes Film Festival. I was a film buyer at that moment. It means I was allowed to walk on the red carpet alongside glamourous American actors. It also means that I was able to attend many private parties. I was a newcomer in the Film Business (I believe I am still one) so I was following my boss everywhere, introducing myself to our partners in deals. My ex-boss told me that working in this field was a matter of subterfuge.

“Go to the parties, you have to be seen in public. People must know your name if you want to survive”. He said.

An invitation to a private party at the Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Allison Launay

Indeed. I had to greet some studios representatives with a big smile, wishing them the best for the future. I was literally hitting on them. The reason? I wasn’t not only a film buyer, I was a junior TV sales executive. My boss and I needed these persons to have a deeper look at our TV series and movies. Everybody knows everybody in the French entertainment business. Be a jerk once when making a deal, and you will be a jerk your entire life. Reputation is all you have. It’s your most precious thing.

And I unexpectedly liked it. Going to the parties, having a drink with the French first lady (who-is-not-really-our-first-lady-but-kind-of), with some French actors I really hate (But I liked the fact I was pretending to fangirl), trying to get along with Sales Executives and TV buyers from big companies. If reputation is everything, I hope I made good impression.

I also discovered that, first I was naïve, second, when you want to step in the film industry, when you have interviews to enter a distribution company, a pretty face is a huge advantage. HOW COULD I NOT KNOW THIS?

Was it my case? I truly don’t know. I am not the prettiest girl you ever seen, but on good days I am charming as hell. I remember this particular day when my ex-bosses tried to find somebody to come after me. I selected resumes which I found the most interesting and with the required skills. A month after, they chose, I must confess, a very beautiful but dumb woman with no professional experience. I heard later on that my ex-bosses were known in the film industry for their standards. Reputation guys, reputation.

We are in August 2015, I am still wondering if they chose me for my skills, for my beautiful greyish eyes, or as a plan B.

Pretty sure it wasn’t for my breast.

The food and views were great though. Photo: Allison Launay

-Allison Launay