At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the genre fare will mark its rise to the main stage as “Titanium” by Julia Ducournau (pictured above) will be launched in competition with secure distribution in over 11 international territories, while the Marché du Film and Fantasia are re-teaming for the third Frontiers Platform event.
From July 10-11, the joint program will spotlight 13 selected projects for proof of concept presentations, buyer showcases and selected screenings. The path that has led to such auspicious places is paved by a growing self-determination within the demworld genre, as festival organizers jumped into sales and production as they sought to redo the playing field. .
Among them, Todd Brown, head of international acquisitions for the production and sales company XYZ Films, and Annick Mahnert, Managing Director of Frontières. Having both worked as programmers (which Mahnert still does for Fantastic Fest and Sitges), the two have witnessed the genre’s price surge on the main stage while doing their part to rock some of the spotlight.
Todd Brown, Head of International Acquisitions, XYZ Films
If we could set the scene for a bit, what were things like when you first started?
If you look back 15-18 years ago, gender wasn’t a bad word, but it was pretty close. Mainstream festivals were super snobby about it; the only one of the A festivals that made room for this was Toronto, where the midnight program was still very young. So the genre circuit was built as an alternative, as a place where this huge audience base – who all felt very like outsiders – could stop being ignored and despised by mainstream industry. They created their own world.
And in those early days?
At that time, they were just places of gathering. Fantasia, in Montreal – the oldest genre festival in North America, one of the oldest in the world – hasn’t even tried government funding until it has existed for over a decade. At that time, they attracted larger audiences than the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma and the Montreal World Film Festival, but they weren’t taken seriously at all.
What has changed in the industry at large?
As the arthouse circuit and the home video market, which was the real economic engine, collapsed, major festivals have all recognized that, whether to their liking or not, they all owe it to themselves. to have films at their festivals that people wanted. to have. To be able to create conversations around the films that the distributors wanted to buy. We’ve seen slow and gradual changes, but now we’re at a point where all the big festivals have a genre element in them. Everyone has adopted it; everyone has moved in.
What pushed the genre circuit to more assertive positions?
When the wave of New French Extremity came along, and you had “Martyrs” and “Inside” and “Frontier (s)” and “High Tension” all around the same time, all of these directors were snapped up by the studios. … [And] he ruined people; there was a binge eating around them and everyone got sucked up and put on overall broken projects that had been roughed up and developed to death. They actually had no control and no one in their corner who understood it and would try to protect them.[Seeing them at the various festivals,] we must all be friends; they were in the community, in the tribe, and everyone was just watching them get fucked. Soon we started having these conversations asking, can we do something to improve it? Is there another way to do that than make your little movie at home and then get sucked into a studio? And that’s just around the time that all of these genre festivals started generating their own industry programs, so I think that’s a pretty big part.
How would you describe the current situation?
With Borders, with Bucheon’s NAFF Project Marketplace and with other initiatives, the genre world understands that there are gaps and that they can be a bridge, bringing filmmakers into the wider industry and transforming ideally amateurs and professionals. This is increasingly why this market has changed. Most of these European festivals now have industrial components [because] you have to give people a reason for playing your festival, which means you have to give something. There has to be some sort of value proposition… The more they can get active in terms of advocating for things on the business side and at some level just making their way to the table and conversations about taste and funding, the better. everyone will be.
Annick Mahnert, Managing Director, Frontières
How would you describe the situation two decades ago?
Budgets were lower back then because no one really wanted to invest in the genre, so people had to find ways to self-finance or finance themselves in one country. [With the launch of Frontières 14 years ago,] suddenly the filmmakers were able to come out and present their projects to people in the global industry at an event specializing in the genre. By opening up the borders, they not only attracted the attention of new financiers or distributor-producers, but also distribution sales agents. It’s very important to have these markets because they help people from the gender community to connect.
How does the International Federation of Méliès Festivals, which brings together 26 events of different genres, keep the circuit active?
This helps individual filmmakers develop their careers, but it also contributes to the visibility of the genre as a whole. I think it is very important to support each other. There is no real competition between the festivals; I program for Fantastic Fest in Austin, which is a supporting member of the Méliès federation, just like Bucheon (BiFAN) in Korea. These festivals need a place to exchange information and contacts, and of course to exchange films.
There are only a limited number of good films that come out per year, so of course every festival wants them. Some films go from one festival to another, and kind of stay in the circuit, but that’s also because the vendors don’t know how to sell them. Until a few years ago, a lot of sales agents just didn’t specialize in genre films, nor did clients have the clients to buy those titles.
How has the market evolved lately?
There’s been an evolution within the community where filmmakers have found it’s okay to take fantastic elements and intersect them with drama, for example. Or make a horror movie that’s also a comedy. It doesn’t have to be pure horror anymore, and it’s nice to see. What has also changed is violence. I have the impression that some films were more violent in the past, whereas today the violence goes more into the daily horror of life, more situational than just blood and guts.
I think there is more freedom in creation than ten years ago; back then, people had to meet certain standards – movies with white male roles and love interests. Now you have more [protagonists of color]. Today anything is possible, which was not the case ten years ago.
What can you say about this year’s Frontières Platform slate?
I was really worried that last year, because of COVID-19, people would send projects on containment and viruses, but we received 140 projects from all over the world that range from serial killer cats to stories of LGBT horror. . So I think the genre is now very well placed because not only have the filmmakers realized that they can take inspiration from their own personal stories – take the horror they’ve experienced in life and bring them to life. screen – but also because studios and platforms have evolved as well. They no longer see the genre as a niche product.