Memento Films International has built an eclectic sales slate while ramping up its own productions such as horror remake We Are What We Are.

The slate of Paris-based Memento Films International (MFI) is arguably one of the most eclectic, auteur-based line-ups on the market.

Its current titles range from the next film from Iranian Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi, due to shoot in Paris this autumn with The Artist co-star Berenice Bejo in the lead (replacing the originally announced Marion Cotillard), to US horror hotshot Jim Mickle’s cannibal picture We Are What We Are.

“We look for projects with high artistic value we can launch in major festivals. We go for a combination of young directors and confirmed directors but the bottom line is that we need to fall in love with their work,” explains MFI founder and managing director Emilie Georges.

Even during Paris’ summer downtime, the MFI team — which also includes Tanja Meissner, head of international sales and acquisitions, and Nicholas Kaiser, sales and acquisitions executive — has still been busy, tying up sales on Craig Zobel’s controversial Sundance and Locarno title Compliance and preparing for Toronto.

Highlights of MFI’s Toronto slate include Laurent Cantet’s English-language girl-gang tale Foxfire, due to premiere as a Special Presentation before moving on to San Sebastian, as well as a first trailer for Agnes Jaoui’s modern fairytale Under The Rainbow — the first film from The Taste Of Others director in four years.

Beyond Toronto, MFI will unveil a first trailer at AFM for We Are What We Are, a remake of Jorge Michel Grau’s Mexican film Somos Lo Que Hay. Georges is hoping the film, which wrapped its shoot in the Catskills in New York state in July, will premiere at Sundance. Ambyr Childers and Julia Garner play cannibal sisters.

We Are What We Are is the first of three Mickle films backed by MFI, along with Cold In July and Night Hunter. MFI’s US representative Nicholas Shumaker introduced the company to Mickle. “He loved Jim’s previous films,” says Georges. “Nick had this great idea to remake We Are What We Are and submitted the idea to Jim, who loved it.”

MFI stumped up 35% of the budget, in the “low seven-figure” range, as an equity partner alongside another smaller investor. Another 45% of the finance was covered by pre-sales and the remaining 20% was met by a loan against a tax credit.

“For non-English-language films, we provide a production branch with full access to the French system of financing, or we find good European partners according to the needs of the project,” says Georges.

“For English-speaking projects, Nicholas Shumaker has worked as an independent producer and for an investment fund and has a very precise knowledge of US investors and potential production partners.”

Georges, 40, founded MFI in 2007 as a natural extension of the Memento Films Production (MFP), Memento Films Distribution (MFD) and La Cinefacture companies she created with Alexandre Mallet-Guy in 2003.

“I met Alexandre at Pan-Européene,” she says, referring to Philippe Godeau’s Paris-based production and distribution company. “He was working in distribution and I was working in production. After the extraordinary French results of Emanuele Crialese’s Respiro, Alexandre and I wanted to work with Emanuele on his next film — the only way to do this was to set up on our own.

“All the companies we’ve created are independent from each other, both financially and artistically, but have the same shareholders — us. Alexandre is the major shareholder in MFD and in MFP and I am in MFI and La Cinefacture,” she adds.

Rich pickings

Some five years on, MFI is sent more than 500 projects a year but chooses to focus on eight titles annually, two or three of them in-house productions or co-productions. Recent pick-ups include Cate Shortland’s Lore, which was selected for Locarno and Toronto.

Georges admits the environment for independent sales companies is increasingly tough as TV and theatrical revenues for pure arthouse films continue to decrease.

“Market pressure for elevated genre titles with crossover potential has never been so high,” says Georges. “There are two approaches… either you don’t sleep until you find the film or project that will make the difference, or you don’t sleep because your shareholders are asking for more and more volume because your benefit is smaller on each project… We’ve chosen the first option.”

Emilie Georges

  • Started her career at the Council of Europe.
  • Moved into film sales at Flach Pyramide International and then into production at Pan-Européene.
  • Founded Memento with Alexandre Mallet-Guy in 2003.