Michel Reilhac, outgoing executive director at Arte France Cinéma, has hailed Felix Baumgartner’s record-breaking skydive as “a masterpiece of engagement” and questioned how to reproduce the same effect in film.

Delivering the keynote at a “Pixel Pitch” event at the BFI Southbank, Reilhac said he had been “obsessed” with the daredevil’s 120,000 ft jump from the stratosphere on Sunday (Oct 14).

“It struck an incredibly perfect balance between performance, science and risk-taking in real time,” he told delegates.

“I found the dark side of myself fascinated by the fact that this guy might die right in front of us, with a morbid desire. When he succeeded, his success redeemed my dark side.

“It made me think about engagement. It was an absolute masterpiece of engagement. How can we reproduce this level in a story?

“How can we design those deep levels of unconscious identification and projection that fuel our individual motivations to engage truly with a story?”

Speaking at the event, part of Power to the Pixel’s Cross-Media Forum, Reilhac suggested that the current obsession with social media may wane.

“We are seeing people overdose on social media,” he added.

“But I find that my luxury is not to tweet and not to be on social networks. There is a pleasure associated with escaping social networks for a period of time, so I believe we will see its use phase down.”

Reilhac is to leave Arte in December to pursue transmedia projects and will be replaced by Locarno Film Festival artistic director Olivier Père.