Shunned by French studios, the director of ‘Amelie’ lands a contract with Netflix

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Paris (AFP)- He directed perhaps the most famous French film of the century so far with ‘Amelie’, and now Jean-Pierre Jeunet says he will make his new film with Netflix after failing to find mainstream support.

The US streaming giant has had great success poaching directors who are finding it increasingly difficult to secure funding elsewhere, including Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”), Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) and Jane Campion ( “The Power of the Dog”).

Jeunet was also straining to find studio support for his movie, “BigBug,” a dystopian comedy set during a war between humans and robots that premieres Friday on Netflix.

“Hardly anyone wanted my new film in France. I came close to total depression,” Jeunet told AFP.

“I heard the same words, the same sentences as for ‘Delicatessen’ (his first album in 1991) and ‘Amélie’: it’s too weird, too detached and therefore too risky.”

Netflix, however, called at the right time.

“They said yes to the project in 24 hours,” Jeunet said.

The streaming platform has encountered some of its biggest hurdles in France, a country with strict rules on how long movies have to wait between a theatrical release and home viewing.

In order to win concessions, he poured money into the French film industry – a boon for riskier propositions like Jeunet.

“People laughed at me”

To be fair to French studios, the director’s track record has been mixed, with 2004’s ‘A Very Long Engagement’ and 2013’s ‘The Young and Prodigious TS Spivet’ failing to match the excitement around his earlier films. .

But for Jeunet, it only underscores what he sees as the hypocrisy of the French film industry – complaining about the financial weight of foreign streaming platforms, while being equally obsessed with money.

“Marketing has all the power and decision makers are people out of business school who want to tell you how to make your movie,” he said.

2001’s ‘Amelie’ was an international hit ERLEND AAS NTB SCANPIX/AFP

“As soon as the movie comes out, they have their eyes on the number of tickets sold. If it’s 200 people, it’s a disaster. And now (with Netflix) we have half a billion potential viewers – if only one percent watch the movie, that’s a lot of people.”

“When I signed with Netflix, people laughed at me saying I shouldn’t do it. Now everyone calls me saying they want to do the same thing.”

‘The world changes’

He dismisses fears that streaming platforms are killing cinemas.

“Things don’t replace each other, they add,” he said.

“Platforms have not replaced cinemas, which have not replaced cinemas. Great films will always be screened in cinemas. The world is changing, we have to adapt.”

The studio may have changed, but “BigBug” remains a Jeunet production: “People who like my work will love it; people who don’t will love to hate it,” he says.

“There are two types of directors: those who are constantly renewing themselves but who have no style. And those who, in a certain sense, always make the same film: Tim Burton, Woody Allen…

Jeunet struggled to find studio support for his new film
Jeunet struggled to find studio support for his new movie “BigBug” Joel SAGET

“I fit more into the latter tradition, although it might get bored more quickly,” he laughed.

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