In April 2012, with seed funding from the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur programme, Elizabeth Mitchell and Maartje Alders of Tailormade Productions began a research and development trip for two weeks around the Mediterranean. The aim was to scope possibilities and partnerships in 5 countries in the region: Marseille (France), Tunisia (Tunis), Egypt (Alexandria/Cairo), Israel & Palestine (Tel Aviv), Greece (Athens) for a film production and exhibition project to take place in Spring 2013.
After arriving at Gare Saint Charles, an elevated train station with magnificent views across the city, we check in to Vertigo hostel, a very cool, reclaimed furniture and modern colour-schemed but friendly place with excellent wi-fi (infrastructure always proves to be the unsung hero of projects like this!).
I have been up since 3.30am so am keen for some lunch and we head to Place Notre Dame du Monte/Course Julien, a ‘bohemian’ area full of vintage stores, artisan soap factories and cheap cafes.
Properly fuelled, our first meeting is with Jerome Nunez of Films du Force Majeure, a local production company who specialize in documentaries and fictions as well as international co-productions, all good signs for a local partner. Force Majeure would be able to help with publicizing the project, recruiting filmmakers, organizing students to be runners/junior crew, applying for local funding and screening the work of the filmmakers at local cinemas such as L’Alhambra. It is an encouraging start.
Then we head to FIDMarseille – the preeminent, international documentary festival in the city which takes place every July. General Secretary Anaelle and Programme coordinator and Head of FIDlab Fabienne are also enthusiastic and would be happy to support our workshop programme and outdoor screenings (with which they have previous experience) even suggesting the Teatra Silva which seats, gulp, 3000 people in a reproduction Roman amphitheatre! Let the games commence!
Day 2 and we meet with the public sector ‘official’ side of Marseille, Vassili Meimaris who heads up the Commission regionale du film Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) and his financial officer, Florien. We wade through the detail of how we could qualify for funding considering the mobile nature of the project. It is possible to receive up to €30,000 per project from them and they want to help so we keep fingers crossed for future collaboration. Also in terms of promotion and contacting local filmmakers/potential participants the PACA commission is willing to help.
We get a little lost as we wander through very diverse districts before reaching the ‘center’ of the Old Port. Above the Tourist Bureau we meet veteran ex pat Englishman Richard Bower who heads up the Marseille Provence Chamber of Commerce tourism section. He is keen to make the most of the Mediterranean’s film industry to promote the area more generally and set up MovieMed, a regional network of 6 countries (including Tunisia and Egypt) to help coordinate this strategy. His advice is fantastic and he helps us to build a well-rounded picture of Marseille past and present. He suggest we meet the City’s representatives ‘Mission Cinema’ of Marseille and the British Consul in a possible next visit. In November he is organizing a MovieMed seminar in Marseille and we could be possibly invited to speak to the overseas partners.
All the contacts we made so far will be present at the upcoming Cannes festival next month, where Maartje and I will hopefully be attending as well. It’s looking very positive so far.
Next stop, Tunis!