MEMBER OF THE MONTH – ELISE TAMISIER, Films de Force Majeure
In this new monthly interview series EDN will focus on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group.
Our second member of the month is Elise Tamisier. Tamisier is currently based in Marseille, France, where she works both as a director, producer and photographer. Last year she directed SANS SOMMEIL, a short experimental documentary on the city of Paris, deriving from a non-stop 24-hour photo shoot with sound recording. For the past ten years she has been involved in several film projects with the two producers, Jean-Laurent Csinidis and Marie Tappero, and the filmmaker and scriptwriter, Jérôme Nunes. Finally the four of them decided to found their own production company, FILMS DE FORCE MAJEURE, also based in Marseille. Together they have recently launched Tamisier’s first creative documentary project, NAOSHIMA UTOPIA, whose subject is akin to their own artistic interests - contemporary art, utopian systems, and international relationships.
EDN has talked to Tamisier about her current project, about participating in workshops and pitching events and about being a creative documentary director who also has to wear a producer’s hat.
EDN: Can you tell a bit more about your current project NAOSHIMA UTOPIA where you work both as director and producer?
ET: Since the 1990s, the tiny island of Naoshima, in the Japanese inland sea, has been hosting a huge artistic sponsorship project. Urged by a businessman, a utopia was set in motion: a location, outside the world, where art, human beings and nature would live in perfect harmony. NAOSHIMA UTOPIA is about the exploration of this contemporary art heaven, a place where it seems impossible to tell fiction from reality.
EDN: How did you get involved in this project and where are you now in the production phase?
ET: NAOSHIMA UTOPIA originated from my visit to this island in 2010. For someone who discovers it, Naoshima island is mesmerizing: away from the hustle and bustle of the world, I was physically steeped in a place entirely dedicated to art, within a heavenly natural environment – halfway between Charles Foster Kane's "Xanadu" and Thomas More's "Utopia"… After spending a few days there, the fascination gave way to questions. What is the role of art in this amazing project? How did the inhabitants experience the setting-up of the project? What is the link between them and the project itself?
After I came back to France, I started to develop a documentary project. Through the exploration of the island, the film NAOSHIMA UTOPIA will deal with the place of art in society and the complex relationships whereby an artistic project, power, the local population and the environment are interrelated.
NAOSHIMA UTOPIA is currently in development, with support of the French PACA Region. Location scouting will take place at the beginning of September. It will allow us to work on the production aspects, such as access, right clearance and the local team for the shooting that is planned for spring 2012. It is also expected to be of great help for me regarding script writing. Last but not least, we will shoot footage on location, in order to edit a trailer based on original material, which will be available at the end of October.
EDN: You have participated in the matchmaking session in Documentary in Europe in July this year. Please tell about this experience, what you got out of it and how it was to be part of Documentary in Europe in Bardonecchia?
ET: The Matchmaking session is a good first step into the pitching world. The two-day preparation was very useful to understand what a good pitch should be. The rule that does not allow you to speak about money during the presentation takes away a certain type of pressure, but it also makes us stay a bit far from reality, which is that the financing of the film has to be thought over as early as possible. It also keeps us away from production issues such as access or right clearance. After the presentation, I could define better the financing strategy of the film, working with David Hooper, from Espresso TV, who was my “mentor”. In Bardonecchia I also learnt a lot watching the Pitching session and the way producers and commissioning act during those sessions. The whole Documentary in Europe event was also a great human experience.
EDN: NAOSHIMA UTOPIA has also been selected for the 2-part workshop Docu Regio, where the second session is this month. Are you participating yourself in this workshop?
ET: Jean-Laurent Csinidis attended the first session by himself, as I was working on an exhibition in Marseille. In September, we will both attend the Lille/Tourcoing session and pitch the project together at the end.
EDN: What has happened in between the first and second part of Docu Regio?
ET: The project has really made a huge step further between the two sessions, thanks to the very strong impulse that Jean-Laurent received in Brussels from the tutors and the Docu Regio fellows...! We have reworked the script, re-written the pitch, made several applications to strategic events for documentaries, developed a lot of new contacts (with artists such as Ando Tadao, Shinri Ohtake or Christian Boltanski, with the Benesse Foundation itself, with other foundations, etc.), and finally we have set up location scouting, in order to produce a trailer. For this we received the support of the PACA Region in France, which is involved in Docu Regio.
EDN: Since the financing situation is often very difficult and the workshops do not promise money on the table, do you still think it can be worthwhile and beneficial to take part?
ET: The workshops allow us to build relationships with the documentary network, commissioning editors and other producers. They are a good way to be in the market, to understand it, and to follow its evolution, even if the market is not that wealthy. It can allow producer to adapt quicker to new situations.
EDN: What are the advantages of taking part in a workshop with a 2-part structure?
ET: In our case, we had a lot of opportunities to push the project further between the two sessions. This two-month period is actually highly motivating: the first session pointed out a few points that we were able to work on before the second one. It is a very efficient type of pressure – without Docu Regio, I am not sure we would have set up the location scouting trip for instance...
EDN: How is to work both as a director and producer not being able to focus solely on the creative aspects, but also having to be involved in the often draining financial process?
ET: It is sometimes hard to focus on the creative aspects, but working together with Jean-Laurent makes thing easier: I do not have to carry on the whole process by myself. He protects me a lot from the “draining” aspects of the process.
EDN: What are the next steps for NAOSHIMA UTOPIA?
ET: After Docu Regio, I will fly to Japan and then, back to France, I will edit a trailer. After that, I want to focus on the writing of the script, as well as developing the relationship with the protagonists of the film. Regarding the production itself, we will look for at least one European coproducer. We would like to attend another pitching session by the end of the year, which would be helpful to work in this direction. And of course the financing process will go on…
EDN: Are you looking for a coproducer from a specific country and should it be someone with experience in producing art documentaries?
ET: We would rather work with coproducers who are interested in art of course, given the subject of the film. However, what we are really looking for is experience in producing in Asia, especially in Japan. So we have two kinds of partners in mind: a European coproducer with experience in producing documentary in Asia, and/or a production partner in Japan.
EDN: Are you working on other projects at the moment?
ET: I am currently preparing a collective documentary film, based on a workshop that will take place close to Marseille in October. I am also preparing a photographic exhibition that should take place at the beginning of 2012.
EDN: For how long have you been a member of EDN and why did you decide to join?
ET: In May this year we were very happy to hear that NAOSHIMA UTOPIA was both selected to take part in Docu Regio and the Matchmaking Session during Documentary in Europe. By taking part in these events, my producer Jean-Laurent Csinidis and I got to know concretely EDN, and we realized how dynamic the network is. We felt a very positive energy and a real spirit of cooperation between the members. The idea of being connected to a professional network seems natural nowadays, but starting it with a project is probably the best way to do it. So I decided to join EDN a few weeks after, in June.
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The EDN Member of the Month series is written by Cecilie Bolvinkel.
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