Grégory Bernard, the Paris-based producer of Quentin Dupieux’s Sundance contender Wrong, tells Screen about their new brand of English-language, French-style cinema.
The term ‘French touch’ is sometimes applied to the sound of house-music acts such as Daft Punk and Etienne de Crecy, whose mix of US and European disco music exploded onto dance floors on both sides of the Atlantic from the mid-1990s.
Grégory Bernard of Paris-based Realitism Films sees himself and director Quentin Dupieux as being at the forefront of a similar movement in film.
“We make films with a ‘French touch’,” explains Bernard, speaking to Screen in his offices in the heart of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré fashion district. “We shoot films with a French approach in America, using American actors and crews to create films with wide appeal.
“I think what happened in music is going to happen in movies. The meeting of French culture and the great technicians and actors you get in America makes the magic,” he adds.
The 39-year-old producer is at Sundance this year for the highly anticipated World Cinema Dramatic Competition premiere of Dupieux’s second English-language feature, Wrong. The dramatic comedy stars Jack Plotnick as a man who comes into contact with an array of eccentric characters while searching for his lost dog. Shot in Los Angeles, the $3m-$4m production was financed mainly by French backers including Canal Plus, Arte France Cinema and UFO Distribution.
Grégoire Melin of Paris-based Kinology is handling international sales.
Dupieux, perhaps best known globally as the electronic musician and DJ Mr Oizo and creator of the 1990s hit Flat Beat, started collaborating with Bernard in 2008 on the development of French-language feature Reality (Realité), an ensemble film partly about a horror director looking for the perfect scream.
“It took a long time to pull the finance together,” Bernard explains. “The frustration of not being able to make it happen put us into a sort of creative rage. We decided to go to America and shoot a very low-budget English-language movie with maximum financial risk.” The result was Rubber, a genre picture about a killer tyre which premiered in Critics’ Week at Cannes in 2010 and went on to achieve cult status internationally.
Bernard himself kickstarted the film’s financing — the film cost less than $2m in total — recouping his investment later through backing from Canal Plus and Arte France Cinéma as well as a slew of sales by Elle Driver to distributors such as Magnolia for the US and Optimum Releasing (now StudioCanal) for the UK.
Dupieux’s follow-up was quick to come together. “Quentin was living in LA for six months and said he wanted to come back with another film. On the back of Rubber, we managed to put the finance together for Wrong in less than two months. From start to finish, the project took six months,” says Bernard.
Buzz on the film is strong. Teasers posted online achieved a million hits within days of being uploaded. “We want to touch the generation that is on the internet. It reacts very differently to mass marketing and wants something different, but it’s a huge audience,” comments Bernard.
The French-language Reality is finally expected to go into production in France later this year. The project will be presented at Rotterdam’s CineMart co-production market at the end of January. In the meantime Dupieux is set to shoot a pilot for a comedy television series about a corrupt police officer in Los Angeles in February. Marilyn Manson, a huge fan of Dupieux, will feature in the cast.
Dupieux and Bernard are also working on another, “more ambitious” English-language comedy, inspired by 1980s films such as Gremlins and Back To The Future, provisionally entitled The Cancellator, which is scheduled to shoot in the US in 2013.
Back in France, Bernard is also developing the next film from Djinn Carrénard, maker of the critically acclaimed micro-budget picture Donoma, who he signed up last year before the film took off. Bernard clearly has an eye for the next big thing.
- An engineer by training, Bernard set up casting site CanalCast.com in the late 1990s, and then agencesartistiques.com for talent agents and casting directors. Also a founding partner of accessories brand Olympia Le-Tan and vice-president of Telo, a telecoms group specialising in emerging countries.
- Produced Rodolphe Marconi’s doc Lagerfeld Confidential in 2007.
- Started developing feature Reality with Dupieux. Frustrated by slow pace of financing, they shot the low-budget Rubber in 2009.
- Put the finance together for Dupieux’s Wrong in just two months. It started shooting in April 2011. Also produced Spike Jonze short To Die By Your Side, inspired by characters on Olympia Le-Tan bags.