US in Progress, developed in the framework of Champs Elysées Film Festival in Paris, is the first and only
industry event devoted to U.S. indies in Europe. Its aim is to foster the circulation and distribution of films between U.S. and Europe.
The event takes place twice yearly: November at the American Film Festival in Wroclaw, Poland and June here in Paris.
Usually five or six films are selected, all in post production stag, and a jury then decides which will be given further support to finish the film.
Sponsors give needed technical support to the winner.
The European trade publication Cineuropa conducted interviews with the co-Founder and Head of US In Progress,
Adeline Monzier, and with Jury Member and Cannes Marche du Film Executive, Julie Bergeron.
The winning film this year was “Diverge“.
The team from runner up film here “Queen of Glory” is also interviewed below.
“Most American producers have no idea how to reach the European market”, Adeline Monzier , Founder and organizer, US in Progress
by Claire La Combe
Cineuropa sat down with Adeline Monzier at US in Progress Paris to discuss various aspects of both American and European indie film circulation.
Four years ago, when she was head of the Europa Distribution network, Adeline Monzier created US in Progress, a program dedicated to low-budget U.S.
indie films. Today, she is also in charge of the Unifrance office in New York and runs a production company, Black Rabbit Film. In Paris, Cineuropa took
the opportunity to discuss various aspects of both American and European indie film circulation with her.
Cineuropa: Why set up a U..S indie event in Europe?
Adeline Monzier: I realized that most American producers had no idea how to reach the European market. Usually, they lack a distribution strategy, not
doing the right things at the right time. Films weren’t able to have the run that they could have had. US in Progress is based on that idea: we show a
selection of films to European professionals before they hit the festival circuit. It is about raising awareness. We are focusing on very few films that we
think can have a career in Europe or that are worth discovering.
Do you have any success stories?
We have a few success stories. For example, two years ago, we had “Ping Pong Summer” by Michael Tully: Films Boutique discovered the film here and picked
up the rights; they knew it would be a niche film with a specific audience, but they sold it in a lot of territories… Not always theatrically… But in terms
of revenues for the filmmaker, it was a very interesting deal.
What’s your opinion of the circulation of indie films?
American indies in Europe have a tough time because there are no subsidies to support the distribution of these movies. The European markets are so
overwhelmed by American movies that for national bodies, it doesn’t make sense to support their circulation. When faced with a very good European film and
a very good U.S. film, distributors will always pick the European one because they can get subsidies. That said, for the audience, American films still
have an appeal. The English language will always be easier to sell… So there is ambivalence.
What about the European indies on the U.S. market?
European film is a very small market in the U.S… Foreign movies represent around 2% of the market share, and between 0.5% and 1% are French films. That
means there is less space for non-French, non-American movies.
The American market is very strong and concentrated as well, as in Europe, and blockbusters draw in most of the audience. Plus, Americans are not at all
used to subtitled films, and there is no dubbing, because it is too expensive[sic], except for animated films sometimes . (Editor, Sydney here: because Americans do not like dubbed films!)
Do you see any differences in terms of financing practices between Europe and the U.S.?
They are two very different systems. The entire system in the U.S. is based on private equity. You need to have the right connections. Also, the average
production budget for an indie film is very low compared to a European film. But Americans are very resourceful; they can usually play several different
roles in their films, from editing to producing, just because they want to achieve economies of scale, whereas in Europe, it is much rarer to have a
director juggling different positions.
Do you think digitization has had an impact on film circulation?
It is definitely easier for indie filmmakers to distribute their films nowadays. They have access to platforms and VOD. A lot of independent directors now
use the day-and-date release because theaters enable you to raise awareness about the film and to help the audience to go and see the film on VOD. Still,
income from VOD is very low for independent films. With digital, the problem remains the same! You have to market a film; if you don’t have the money to
promote the film, then it is going to be lost within the platform.
Can we predict that digital will foster a common system between the US and Europe in terms of producing?
No; the markets are too diverse. A lot of European filmmakers go to the US to shoot because they want to enjoy the freedom of not having the old subsidy
system schemes. On the other hand, you have American filmmakers looking for European producers in order to benefit from the whole funding system. So today,
there are a lot more cross-connections, but the systems are very different, and I don’t think they will merge, even with digital.
“The biggest challenge is to make a film that will circulate and find an audience”
Julie Bergeron, Cannes Film Market, member of the US in Progress jury
by Claire La Combe
Cineuropa sat down with Julie Bergeron at US in Progress Paris to discuss support for independent film and its future prospects
On Wednesday night, the American film “Diverge” by James Morrison was awarded the US in Progress Award. Just after the ceremony, Cineuropa met up with one
of the jury members, Julie Bergeron, head of industry programs at the Cannes Film Market. She elaborated on her views on the topic of support for
independent film and its future prospects.
Cineuropa: Why are you part of the US in Progress jury?
Julie Bergeron: There is a lot of interest in seeing films from US independents; it is always interesting to look out for films that are made on a low
budget and with strong stories. We support the winning producers by offering an accreditation for the Producers’ Network at Cannes to help them to pursue
meetings and networking, and hopefully find distribution for their films.
Have you seen any kind of evolution in the selections?
Yes. It seems that they are receiving more and more projects. It is an event that is now well known in the U.S. and Europe. With the link to Poland and the
event happening twice a year, we saw an evolution in the diversity of the projects. This year, the diversity was very strong, with a horror-comedy film, a
sci-fi movie and an LGBT romance.
Do you think all of this diversity has a place in the next Producers’ Network?
Yes, of course! We welcome 200 producers at the Breakfast Meetings every morning in Cannes, and they come from all over the world. It is a place where they
wish to connect with sales agents, financiers and potential partners to network and discuss their projects. The idea is specifically to support producers
who want to connect with the international market. That is the biggest challenge for every filmmaker: to make a movie that will attract a larger audience
than in its own country.
Do you see any similarities between American and European independent films?
They are different because in Europe, there is a lot of public support for films, and there is a strong tradition of the author-driven movie. In the U.S.,
the independents have to find private financing for the films. Plus, they don’t have access to any co-production, because there are no co-production
treaties in the US, whereas in Europe, the movies can access funding from many territories. The US independents are very much on their own when it comes to
financing their films.
What kind of qualities was the jury looking for in the winning film?
We had a lot of discussions; the stages of the presented films were not the same. “Diverge” is the one we found to be the most advanced: it is a low-budget
film, and the story – while there is some work still to be done – is really there. There are a lot of genre-film festivals, and hopefully the movie will
travel. And also, I think that a young audience driven by sci-fi and genre would like it.
Do you think such an event should be created for European films in America?
I’m not sure; it would be difficult… If a European film does not find a sales agent in Europe, it might be difficult to find one in the USA. The movie
would need to have a strong “American” sensibility… There are some work-in-progress (WIP) experiences in Latin America, and they work well. But in Latin
America, they don’t have a lot of sales agents; they have to show their films anyway to break through, as they have no alternative. Europeans are more
reluctant to show a film that is not yet finished, especially those who are in countries with a strong production capacity. Now the market goes really
fast, the windows for the films are getting smaller and smaller, and you have to be sure whenever you show the film that it is the best way to present it
to professionals… But wait… I’m not saying that such an event shouldn’t exist!
How do you see the future of the independent film industry?
I think there will always be filmmakers making films independently because it’s a strong medium for expression. In fact, it’s the strongest: you have the
sound, the image, the music, the story… You have everything!
Who will be financing them?
Well, you still have strong companies! My hope is that companies that own the distribution platforms, like VoD players, Netflix and all these people, will
start investing in the creation process. Canal+ in France takes part in the financing, so if we can bring these “pipes” to invest in the content, then we
have a chance, and they are starting to do so, slowly. But it is going to be increasingly driven by big audiences. The pressure there for the kind of
independent films that we saw at US in Progress is enormous. If these small films are not picked up by a big festival and noticed by the industry, their
chances of finding distribution are tiny.
“European audiences are more film-educated”
US in Progress Filmmakers Speak Up
by Claire La Combe
Cineuropa sat down with Jamund Washington (“Queen of Glory“), Nana Mensah (“Queen of Glory”), Baff Akoto (“Queen of Glory”) and Gabe Klinger (“Porto, Mon Amour“) at
US in Progress Paris to chat about the current and future independent film environment
The four young filmmakers, all living and working in New York City but hailing from diverse backgrounds ranging from Ghana to Brazil, via London, exchanged
their opinions on the current and future independent film environment during a chat characterized by idealization and a smidgen of pessimism.
Cineuropa: What is your opinion of film festivals? What role do they play?
Jamund Washington: Anything that gets people to go and sit and watch your story is great.
Nana Mensah: At this point, in the way the game has been shaped, it would not be possible to make independent films without festivals; they are great entry
points for films outside the system. There is a sort of renaissance that allows people like me to make films now – the barriers are lower.
Why come here to Paris, to Europe?
NM: In Paris, I can put my fingers on the pulse of European culture. I think “Queen of Glory” has more meaning here than perhaps in an American market.
With its visual aspects and its African topic, our film has links with Europe. We have already received such a warm reception here in France, so I’m hoping
that will continue.
JW: European audiences are more film-educated. We feel like the audience will better understand the stage that we are now at. Not that there are no places
where you can find that audience in the United States… I’m just generalising.
Gabe Klinger: Parisian moviegoers are the most sophisticated in the world, and that’s a fact! No one can contest that.
Baff Akoto: The French would contest that (laughs). But seriously, film is culture here, as opposed to predominantly entertainment, which is the case in
JW: Yes, culture in the US is like a small subculture of big entertainment.
Do you have an opinion on the European film-financing system?
BA: I know that the co-production financing system is good. And the soft money in Europe attracts everybody in America from big studio productions to small
indie films because it allows a lot of projects to get made that would not necessarily find money. And it provides a framework, too, alternatives that are
available for films that would never get financed in America.
How do you feel about digitisation?
BA: In England, a lot of films only get the chance to break out because of digital prints. Anything that helps smaller films to become more visible is
GK: I’m going to be the contrarian. Because digital is not an archival medium, and so we are risking losing all the digital information in 25 years, all
these files and DCPs can be corrupted and become inaccessible. In terms of circulation, digital is going to be your best friend, but still… For Porto Mon
Amour, we will use digital distribution and on-film copies. It is a luxury; a lot of producers would spend the money on something else. It is the way I
want to engage with an audience that still appreciates watching a movie on film. It’s just more expensive.
How do you see the future for independent films?
JW: I wish I knew – it would make my life a lot easier.
JW: I don’t know; I think a lot of stuff is going to happen… We should just keep telling stories.
GK: It is exciting because there is a lot of demand for content right now, and that’s because of the new platform for distribution. Unfortunately, most of
it is not in theaters… We will see… The pessimist in me says that the content we are producing now is not going to live very long in cinemas.
BA: Cinema is not going to die, though. No one goes to church, and people still go to the cinema; it is the one place where we still commune.