Thibaut Bracq is the programmateur of the Angers Premiers Plans, a film festival in France which has the reputation for discovering promising and emerging filmmakers. Thibaut was one of our international guests at the Friss Hús International Short Film Festival in Budapest. During his visit he explained to us in detail how the Angers Premiers Plans Film Festival works, what is the key to their success and how they reach their audience.

interview by Genovéva Petrovits

Angers is a festival which focuses on first features. Since when has Angers had this profile? 

Angers is a debut feature festival, which means we select only first and second features, first shorts and also student films. We deal with different kinds and genres of first films. We have been specialised in debut films from the very beginning of the festival, it was the first idea. It was in 1988-89, before and after the fall of the Berlin wall, when Europe was changing a lot. The idea was to find new talents in the whole of the new Europe, to build up a new European cinema at that moment.

We accept everything that’s a first feature, we are open to every genre: animation, fiction, documentary and also genre films and comedy – even though it’s really difficult to make good comedies. We only look for European films., but as a lot of European production companies and film schools are opening up to the world and the students shoot films outside of Europe, we also have non-European subjects.

Do you follow the filmmakers – for example, do you accept their first feature for the festival after their first short film had been there?

Absolutely, one part of my job is to follow the directors, to see what they are doing. –- are they producing a new short, arethey preparing a feature etc. That doesn’t mean that their following film is going to be selected into the festival. Sometimes we find new talents in the student competition, then follow them to their first short, then we try to follow their feature’s script development process, then their first long and sometimes we support even the release of the film in Angers. But it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be selected automatically. It really depends on the quality.

How big is the programming team?

It is not so big. We are two permanent programmers during the whole year, and one person joins us for 5 months. We also welcome some students every year, who work with us at the festival preparation as training courses, and they work with us through every step of the selection. We organise some stations to watch short films together. The team deals with every film we have received, which means 2500 films – 600 features and 1900 shorts, including student and animation films too.

What about your audience?

We think a lot about the audience. We are showing the competing films in a huge screening room, which is quite full most all the time. For all the films that we put in competition, we always have to think about what we are showing to all those people. It’s true for every festival, even if it’s a tiny screening room with 50 seats or a big room like this – If you want the audience to come back for the next screening too, you have to be demanding but at the same time it has to be interesting. You have to be very careful with what you are choosing to screen, but that doesn’t mean that you have to compromise – we only select what we like, but we always think about how to make it interesting and good. We also have a special experimental session called ‘Freestyle’. The experimental films are in an Out of competition section, and we put them in a smaller (300 seats) screening room.

Is the audience aware that they are at a first-short / first-feature festival, or is it a more relevant information for the professional audience?

They are absolutely aware of it. We communicate about it all the time and they know exactly where they are and that’s one of the magical things of the festival. We always insist on that specificity with the press, with professionals and with the audience as well. They have to be aware of it, when we are doing introduction with directors before every screening, and also Q&As after every screening. This is really unique to see all those people attending the screening of unknown directors. The festival is 28 years old now, and people trust us completely. We can screen almost everything we like and they follow us, so it’s really great. It’s a long-term work with the audience, one of our colleague is working all year long with the audience : with students, teachers and workers, and tries to develop a new and eclectic audience. For 3 years now, we have specific screenings for deaf and blind people for instance. So we are constantly building new audience.

Do you have a screenwriting development workshop as well?

We have a few professional events and seminars during the festival, we are working with professional people from the region. 11 years ago we started to think about how we could help directors to go from their first short film to their first feature film, because this is a very delicate moment in every country, even in France – where the financing possibilities exist, but are very competitive. So we decided to create this workshop, with the support of the actress Jeanne Moreau, who was the president of the jury in 2004. She fell in love with the festival and wanted to help the young directors and their first feature project. So with the support of the Media programme, the Region and the city hall of Angers, we created a workshop which takes place in August. We select 7-8 first feature film scripts. The directors come and we organise one-to-one sessions and consultations on their scripts with confirmed directors, screenwriters and other film-professionals.

Most of the time when the directors are developing a first feature, they are dealing a lot with pitching, how to convince people, how to finance a project and after a few months they lose what they wanted to do from the beginning, they lose their artistic point of view. So, we also organize some masterclasses with directors and professionals, and some premieres of recent films selected in Cannes, open to the audience. This workshop opens a new year of cinema in Angers, with the climax in January with the film festival!

If you should name a success story?

A lot of filmmakers have started in Angers. Claire Burger and Marie Amachoukeli, the two directors of Party Girl, were selected a few years ago with their student film. After that they attended the festival with their first short film and then they sent their first-feature project to and participated in the workshop. They won the first-feature Cannes award, the Camera D’or last year. But there are a lot of success stories. For example, the two previous Palme D’or winners Nuri Bilge Ceylan last year and Abdellatif Kechiche in 2013 also presented their first films in Angers.

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