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American Film Festival


The inaugural American Film Festival will be held in the heritage town of Wroclaw, Poland from October 20 to 24, 2010. It is the first film event in Eastern Europe exclusively devoted to contemporary and classic American cinema.


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AFF Interview: Olivier Lecot

 

On Sunday morning, the final day of the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, I had the chance to speak with Olivier Lecot, the French filmmaker who shuttles between Paris and New York to develop and shoot his projects. His film A NY THING, with financing from France, although shot in New York and with the feel of an American indie film, was screened at the Festival earlier this weekend to great acclaim. Lecot, an amiable Parisian with a full command of English, is a one-man transatlantic co-production team

 

Sandy Mandelberger: “Can you tell me how your film came to come to Poland for the American Film Festival?”

 

Olivier Lecot: We had our North American premiere at the South By Southwest Film Festival last March and apparently the Artistic Director of this Festival was there and responded to the film. I got an instant invitation and made the decision to bring it here. The only question was whether the film was too European for an American program, but since the theme of the film is about Europeans in New York, they responded to it in a good way and decided to include it in the program.

 

Sandy Mandelberger: “So, how this did this project come together and what was your approach to doing an American indie film with French money and actors?”

Olivier Lecot: I had made some short films that were shown at the New York/Avignon Film Festival, an annual event in New York that showcased the work of French and American indie filmmakers. I won a few awards at that festival, which included being given free film stock by Kodak….this allowed me to make more short films shot in New York. The festival really changed my life!! Based on the experiences I had and the contacts I made in New York as a result of this festival, I met Jeffrey Saunders, an American producer and we talked about maybe finding a way to work together. After my experiences in New York with my short films, I went back to Paris and was developing a French film to star Mathieu Almaric. We got some funding from Canal Plus but did not find a distributor, so the film was never made. I then decided to reconnect with Jeffrey Saunders in order to realize my dream of making a film in New York.

 

Sandy Mandelberger: “Co-productions can be tricky…..how was yours structured?”

 

Olivier Lecot: With my New York producer, I began pitching the project to private investors in New York to make a film about a Frenchman in New York. It took many months to get some interest, but things started happening when ARTE agreed to finance the film. They were looking to do a film for television with a French director and French talents shot outside of France. They liked the idea of a film shot in New York, so my New York producer helped with locations, permits and all the administrative things. I worked with an American casting agent who provided me with the supporting cast of New York actors from television and theater, but my main actors were brought to New York from Paris. However, our big American casting coup was to get the actress Greta Gerwig, who was just about to film her breakthrough role in the film GREENBERG. To qualify for the ARTE money, we brought a French cinematographer, editor and composer on board also. We really had to walk a very fine line between the US and French approach to making the film.

 

Sandy Mandelberger: “What were some of your biggest challenges in making this film?”

 

Olivier Lecot: We had a pretty short shooting schedule of only 26 days, but since many of the shots were interiors, we had enough time to get what we wanted. The biggest headache was dealing with the immigrant process to get work visas for myself and the actors. Even though we made the film with a SAG Indie agreement, we had to hold to our low budget which had to cover costs of hosting the crew and the actors. We only had 3 weeks to do pre-production. After the shooting, I went back to Paris, since the film had to be post-produced in France.  In all, it took us four months to do the editing and the color correction and sound mix. I was trying to get the film ready for the Cannes Film Festival, but they did not consider it because they thought of it as a television film. It aired on ARTE in November and December 2009 and then we started to get it out on the film festival circuit in North America and elsewhere.

 

Sandy Mandelberger: “What kind of mood did you try for on this film?”

 

Olivier Lecot: I really admire the American films of the 1970s, especially the ones by New York filmmakers like Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch and Martin Scorsese. Those films were influence by the European aesthetic so I felt that I also could make a very American film with a European sensibility……since that is who I am. I tried to achieve a quality of melancholy that exists underneath the comic strain, which was very much the style of those films. I find contemporary French comedies to be too superficial and don’t have this serious kind of undertow. I hope to be able to continue to work on both sides of the Atlantic, although there is often confusion…..for the French, I am too American, and for the Americans I am too French. But I am developing a new project that is again to be shot in New York, so my dream is to work in both Paris and New York and bring something unique to the films that I create.

 

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