Magazine article Screen International

'Elle' Producer: The Film Industry Must 'Connect to Reality'

Magazine article Screen International

'Elle' Producer: The Film Industry Must 'Connect to Reality'

Article excerpt

Producer discusses state financing, Netflix and the next Paul Verhoeven film.

Producer Michel Merkt’s CV has quickly become full of European hits and best foreign language Oscar contenders, including Elle, Toni Erdmann, My Life As A Zucchini and Aquarius.

The prolific producer is credited on 16 movies last year alone.

Screen caught up with Merkt at the recent Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where Toni Erdmann received the Lux Audience Mention 2016 prize.

In a wide ranging conversation, the executive touched on funding models, Netflix, the UK’s arthouse scene and his upcoming projects.

You recently moderated a panel at Karlovy Vary called ‘Beyond Public Film Funding’, what did you talk about?

We are discussing what I call ‘connecting to reality’. Rather than always complaining, we should face the reality, by saying for example that one third of the budget should come from pre-sales, one third from government and one third from I don’t know where. Let’s change the rules now, rather than when we have no choice.

It’s easier at the beginning to use private money, it makes things easier and quicker. I would say you can save one year in development by putting the money in up front, by not going through the whole process of asking [the state] for money. You can save one year for the director.

How do you like to work with private investors?

With first timers, the first question I ask is ‘why the hell do you want to invest in the movie business, don’t do it!’ I ask what their precise objective is when they money in. Each of us has one - ‘I want my son to do training with you’, ‘I want to be in a movie’, ‘to do red carpet’ or ‘I want to make my money back’.

The first thing I also do with new investors is ask them to put money in for distribution, because you’re the last in, so you can see the movie, I can tell you if we’re going to a festival, going to the Oscars. It’s less risky and you perhaps understand a bit more how it works, I would rather do that than just accept money [from people] who want to do red carpet. That’s not how I want to do it.

Is dependence on state money hurting the industry?

It’s a problem in certain countries because some production companies are just presenting projects to have the state money and make their 20 per cent, they make their own company run just for that. Perhaps they don’t take a project that they’ve fallen in love with.

They don’t spend enough time on writing, which I think is just one of the major problems now, taking the time to be sure the story is perfect and the script is perfect because they need to provide the finished product by a certain date.

Perhaps also distribution should be different. We have this huge conversation with Netflix, for me they are partners and competitors at the same time. Again, its new and the business should face it, sit together and come up with ideas. We have to rethink the whole thing.

What has been the impact of Netfix and Amazon for you?

I am working with them [Netflix], I have a big project with them, for big money. They really help. It’s amazing working with them. The production is massive and it’s amazing, perhaps too much. …

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