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EDN Member of the Month – Héléna Fantl


In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group. Our EDN member of the month for May 2018 is Héléna Fantl, Project Manager, La Fémis, France.

Héléna Fantl, Project Manager
at La Fémis, France

EDN has talked to Héléna Fantl about La Fémis’ international programs and plans for the future. La Fémis (Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de l’Image et du Son) is the French state film school under the responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and Communication. It is funded by the CNC (France’s National Centre of Cinematography and the Moving Image).

At La Fémis Héléna Fantl is in charge of the school’s training programs. This has included the creation of the renowned but now terminated program Archidoc, which helped the development of original film projects using archives, and she has run the Summer Class, a documentary training for young filmmakers from emerging countries. Prior to focusing on documentary development workshops, Héléna initiated and organized international film school teachers platforms, and film and new media workshops.

EDN: Can you start by telling a bit more about your background and your road to La Fémis?

HF: I came to La Fémis at the end of the 90’s, at the very moment when the school started opening to both international and continuous training programs. I had a background of linguistics and sciences of education, and a large experience of conceiving and running training programs in several countries. Maybe my personal experience (I had come to France as a political refugee from the then-communist Czechoslovakia) also enhanced my interest in the variety of history approached, in singularity of storytelling and in valuing of unique personal stories – all this was of course banned in the totalitarian universe with one single truth and one official historical narrative. Besides that, I believe in learning by sharing and I always have been passionate in gathering and accompanying people in progressing in their skills.

EDN: At La Fémis you are in charge of the international training programs. What are the objectives of these programs and who can take part?

HF: There are currently several international training programs run by the school: the Université d’été (Summer Class) which is a 2-month program for young documentary filmmakers and film school students from African, Asian, South American and East European (non-EU) countries, run in French. As the program is entirely funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, applicants must be sponsored by the French Embassy in their country.

The Atelier Ludwigsburg-Paris is a year-long, intense training for junior European producers and distributors.

We’re also running training programs focused on fiction film directing and sound post-production, aimed at emerging filmmakers and technicians from Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

EDN: The school was known for the Archidoc program, which focused on projects using archives. Can you tell us more about this program and why it was terminated?

HF: Archidoc started in the early 2000’s. It was a time when archives all over the world were opening: ex-communist countries, and also the 2nd WW archives in France, etc. We thought this new available footage would be a powerful stimulation for filmmakers all over Europe and trigger new training needs. It was true, but the interest of filmmakers went well beyond the official state archive funds. Many directors which developed their projects within Archidoc were working on personal and family archives, using many different supports: film footage of course, but also sound recordings, stills, letters, personal diaries, postcards… Many of the selected directors worked on unique, singular stories for which they wanted to find a correspondingly unique and singular directing approach. This was an amazing challenge for the tutor team, composed usually of two directors, sometimes a director and a producer.

Alas, Archidoc does not exist any more as Creative Europe – MEDIA stopped supporting us, in spite of the many outstanding, award winning films and the amazing European filmmaker community we were helping to build. But without EU support, we unfortunately cannot run this program.

EDN: What are some of the success stories that came out of Archidoc?

HF: Lots of Archidoc developed films were selected in major festivals and some got awards: among many, Cinema Komunisto by Mila Turajlic, The Decent One by Vanessa Lapa, Demons in Paradise by Jude Ratnam and latelyThe Prince and the Dybbuk by Piotr Rosolowski and Elvira Nievera… The list is long. Another type of success is the professional growth and development of younger, junior filmmakers who were boosted both by our faith in them and the environment and help of more experienced colleagues. An amazing power of common work, solidarity and interpersonal magic.

EDN: How are the international programs at La Fémis funded and has it in your experience become more and more difficult to attract funding to this kind of training?

HF: Yes, it is definitely increasingly difficult. As mentioned, Archidoc, which was previously supported by Creative Europe ceased to exist. And the situation is rapidly changing also for workshops aimed at France-based professionals. Until now, these used to be sponsored by the unique local adult training-insurance system. But this system is currently being heavily redesigned.

EDN: At the end of this year La Fémis is organising a documentary workshop with the involvement of EDN director Paul Pauwels. What is the focus for this program?

HF: It is a three short session workshop focused on pitching, both formal and informal. In France, there have been relatively few pitching sessions and almost no trainings. There used to be even certain reluctance to pitching in general. This changed lately. Professionals realize to which extent such training can be a benefit for their skills and for their current and future projects. It is a privilege to work with Paul and producer Christian Popp (also see our interview here) whose experience, skills and generosity are beyond what anyone can hope for. The workshop will be held in French with an English language pitching option.

EDN: Are there new initiatives planned for La Fémis’ future work and the documentary programs?

HF: Yes, we’ll be organizing shorter trainings and we’re reaching out to France’s overseas regions and departments.

EDN: And last but not least what lies next for you and La Fémis in the calendar?

HF: This year’s Atelier documentaire, a 9 session documentary development workshop aimed at professionals based in France, I’m in charge of, just started. It is a very intense training that runs almost over a year. Besides that, we’re now offering accompanying of professionals aiming at validation of academic credits due to experience.

I’m also preparing the second session of a documentary workshop for professionals in Martinique. And MOOC programs will also be launched shortly …

More information:

For an overview of all previous EDN Members of the Month, please visit: