Some 200 producers sign up for professional rights market run by Society of French Language Publishers (SCELF) during the Paris Salon du Livre.

The French film industry was out in force over the weekend at the annual Salon du Livre in Paris, an increasingly popular hunting ground for producers on the prowl for interesting new subject matter.

“We’ve noticed a steady increase in adaptations in recent years. Some 40 to 50 percent of the films in France are now adaptations,” said Roland Neidhard, director of the Society of French Language Publishers (SCELF).

According to Neidhard, adaptation right fees in France range from €40,000 to €60,000 for a novel that has moderate sales success, to €150,000 to €400,000 for a bestseller.  

Upcoming French adaptations include Cannes hopefuls Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux [pictured], Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone and Patrice Leconte’s The Suicide Shop as well as Nicolas Bary’s The Scapegoat (Au Bonheur des Ogrès), which is currently shooting, and Jérôme Salles’ retelling of Caryl Férey’s South Africa-set thriller Zulu, which is due to shoot this summer in Cape Town, co-starring Orlando Bloom and Djimoun Hounsou.

A recent survey of publishing houses by French film trade Ecran Total revealed that at least another 50 adaptations are in the works.

These include Lucas Belvaux’s adaptation of Philippe Vilain’s Pas Son Genre, about the unlikely relationship between a Parisian schoolteacher and a provincial hairdresser; Taxi 2 director Gérard Krawczyk’s interpretation of Thierry Cohen’s bestsellerJe le ferai pour toi, about a businessman who turns to crime to avenge the death of his son in a terrorist attack, and Michel Blanc’s Le Petit Boulot, a French language adaptation of Scottish-American writer Iain Levison’s Since the Layoffs for Gaumont.

In a sign of the growing popularity of the adaptation, some 200 producers signed up this year for SCELF’s audiovisual rights market during the Salon du Livre, against 130 in 2011, for a total of some 700 one-on-one meetings with publishers.

“Within half-an-hour of opening registration, three major production houses has signed up for the event,” noted Neidhard.

Companies registered to attend included Gaumont, TF1, UGC Images/Les Films du 24, Talentbox-Cineart, Diaphana Films, Flach Films, Haut et Court and MK2.

Under the initiative launched in 2009, SCELF’s some 250 members – ranging from publishing heavyweights such as Flammarion, Gallimard and Grasset to alternative houses such as P.O.L. — present five new works they deem ripe for adaptation.

“We also use this event to get a feeling for what producers are looking for as well as meet new producers who are starting out,” commented Gallimard’s director of audiovisual rights Frédérique Massart, who brokered the deal for Salles’ adaptation of Férey’s Zulu.

In terms of trends, Massart noted a growing appetite for youth-focused works and graphic novels. Last year, she sold adaptation rights for French cartoonist Baru’s award-winning graphic novel Fais péter les basses, Bruno! to Mathias Rubin of Recifilms during the market.

The 300 works on the table this year included How to Rob an Amored Car, the latest novel from Levison, whose work is handled by publisher Liana Levi in France; Maylis de Kerangal’s Tran Siberian train-set thriller Tangente vers l’est, about a young French woman who helps a Russian conscript desert, presented by Gallimard; and best-selling novelist Philippe Besson’s Une bonne raison de se tuer, revolving around the meeting of a recently bereaved father and a suicidal waitress in Los Angeles the day of Barack Obama’s election as president.

Rights for the latter novel are handled by Julliard, which has three novels in its catalogue due to hit the big screen in the coming months in the shape of Leconte’s The Suicide Shop, adapted from a work by Jean Teulé as well as Alexandre Arcady’s Ce Que Le Jour Dois A La Nuit and Ziad Doueiri’s The Attack, both based on novels by Algerian novelist Yasmina Khadra.

Up until now SCELF’s market has been a predominantly French affair but Neidhard says he would like to attract more international players to the event.

“We already have some Belgians and Germans who turn up but it would be good to pull in more British producers, for example,” he commented.

Down in the immense hall of the public-focused Salon du Livre, meanwhile, a number of directors were also in attendance for a series of master-classes on the art of adaptation, co-organised by SCELF.

These included a discussion on the adaptation of Zulu between writer Férey, director Salles and co-screenwriter Julien Rappeneau; a master-class with Frédéric Beigbeder, who recently transposed his novel Love Lasts Three Years to the big screen, and a meeting with writer David Foenkinos, who branched in to directing, alongside brother Stéphane, with the Audrey Tautou-starring adaptation of his novel Delicacy, and is now working on a screenplay based on his latest work Les Souvenirs.