EDN Member of the Month – Valérie Montmartin
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 February 2019 is Valérie Montmartin, producer and founder of Little Big Story, France.
EDN has among other things talked to Valérie Montmartin about her production company Little Big Story and her approach to navigating the documentary industry, but we also touched upon one of her current projects, Nenets: People at Risk, which has been selected for Docs in Thessaloniki 2019. Valérie Montmartin has been honoured as Best French Producer in 2018 and has a passion for stories that have the potential to travel the world and reach a wide audience.
The philosophy behind Little Big Story is rooted in the firm belief that it takes little stories to tell the grand narratives. This approach is based on the idea of a demanding citizen viewer, interested in understanding the forces shaping our world. Among the documentaries Valérie produced are #387, The world according to Amazon, The Ransom, Hong Kong, Handover Generation, The Empire of Red Gold, Switzerland: Hitler’s Bankers, Oleg’s choice and - in coproduction with Denmark - Inside a Military Dictatorship (with Bullitt Film).
EDN: Can you start by telling a bit more about your background and your road into the world of documentaries?
I’m a producer who comes from journalistic content and investigation. I have a background in Political Science and was a journalist and reporter for ten years before I ran a TV press agency for nine years. But I have always been a very enthusiastic cinephile, a trait that goes back to my childhood (screenplay class, cinema club). As a teenager, I was divided between the passion for cinema and my desire to tell real stories, so between studies of cinema or journalism…
With Little Big Story, which I created five years ago, I can combine these two obsessive passions: to make films and to chronicle the world with the stories we produce.
EDN: The name of your company, Little Big Story, suggests that you have a preference for stories that have the potential to reach global audiences. How do you go about when selecting these stories? And where do you see the greatest opportunities and challenges when approaching the industry in order to bring these stories to the market?
I created Little Big Story with a fierce determination to cross genres and styles, to focus on the international market that gives more visibility but also more financial means for productions. It can be a constraint from time to time, as there are not so many stories that can impact on the international stage, but it mainly gives us a lot more freedom. And then I sincerely think that it's with the little stories that one can tell the grand narratives, so yes, I strongly believe in universal stories, local stories that speak to the rest of the world.
And I am convinced that these films can be defended and pushed forward on the international market, whether with first films or with highly acclaimed directors. From my perspective, there’s no restriction. It’s up to the producer to guarantee the partners.
EDN: Your project "Nenets: People at Risk" has been selected for the next edition of Docs in Thessaloniki — what is the story about, in a nutshell?
Netnets: People at Risk is a feature documentary that focuses on a very contemporary and worrying paradox: how the Nenets, a nomadic people, breeders of deer for 5,000 years in the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia, will be able to face their future even as their seasonal migration takes place on the world’s largest gas safe. This film, which is intended as a polar and environmental western, will raise fundamental questions: how to preserve the memory of peoples? How can we watch them disappear on the grounds that we, as Europeans, are in need of raw materials?
The film, which is also accompanied by a documentary series in VR (5x8'), will stand for the future of the NENETS people and also involves an impact campaign. This means that we have devised an original strategy for distribution, broadcast and outreach of this project, led by an established Belgian director, Sergio Ghizzardi, also co-producer of the film with his company Domino Productions.
EDN: One could say you're a veteran when it comes to participating in EDN workshops, since it's the third time you'll be at Docs in Thessaloniki. What are your personal takeaways from these sessions and why do you like coming back?
It's true that this will the third time in three years! Thessaloniki has been the starting point of a round-the-world tour of pitch sessions with Madeleine Leroyer’s film #387 (formerly The Watchmen), for which we won the pitch in Thessaloniki. The workshop brought us luck. We were then selected at Meetmarket, Hot Docs Forum, Sunny Side of the Doc, Nordisk Panorama, and brought together 15 territories for the film. We also pitched The World According to Amazon last year, currently in post production, which is in co-production with Canada.
For me Thessaloniki offers the time needed for the filmmaking couple: the time it takes for the producer and director to build this close relationship around the film. It is a privileged moment, with tutors, and the other teams, to exchange freely and in a benevolent way around the projects. My two previous teams were simply not the same after Thessaloniki. So that's really what I'm looking for. And then again I might also be a potential coproduction partner for the other teams selected!
EDN: You have received the Best French Producer Award in 2018, presented by the French TV and Cinema producer's association. How does this national recognition impact your role as a producer?
It was a great surprise that rewarded the audacity of our choices and our strategies! At that point, Little Big Story existed for only four years, so we were super thrilled and proud! This has mainly been an advantage on the international stage, it gave me greater exposure.
EDN: And last but not least, what lies next for you in the months to come?
«Impact» will be the keyword for Little Big Story for 2019/2020. After the EDN Workshop on impact in 2017, then the workshops and selection at Good Pitch Europe in 2018, I’ve decided to place the means on film impact strategies. We are intensely developing our expertise in this field and we reflect very early on the projects to design and finance the impact campaign.
But the future is also the other genres, VR, fiction and animation. Indeed, I am developing a project that I love, a feature-length animation based on a novel by Marie Desplechin, a very famous youth author in France, and which has been selected for Cartoon Movie 2019 as a concept. A very full agenda!
For an overview of all previous EDN Members of the Month, please visit: