Leap of Faith: Anatomy of a coproduction (Rio La Venta) Part IV of IV

And the director said..., by Antoine de Maximy (translated from French by Mary LePage)...
April 1, 1998

And the director said…, by Antoine de Maximy (translated from French by Mary LePage)

The principal attraction of an international coproduction for the film and the producer is the increase of resources. In the case of Rio La Venta, the money generated by the coproduction allowed us to bring the motorized hot-air balloon to Mexico. Thanks to the aerial images, we were able to show the Mexican forests and pyramids in an original way. For the viewer these images are, in my opinion, the most visibly interesting part of this coproduction. We might not have had the means to take the hot-air balloon to Mexico on the initial budget.

On the other hand, in a coproduction of this scale, there are more people who give their opinions. It is the primary constraint of international coproductions. And if these opinions are all valid, they are generated from different broadcasters who want a different film to reach different audiences. In the case of Rio La Venta, the best solution was chosen, considering there are three versions of the film. Thus each audience will have its appropriate film.

For economic reasons, it might have been better to finish the French version and, from it, assemble the American and Italian versions. But I admit to having reused certain elements from the American version for the French documentary – which would have been impossible if it had already been finished.

From my viewpoint, the coproduction has unfolded well on the whole. There were, inevitably, a few minor points of contention as the methods of work are different. We think sometimes that our way of working is best, when, frequently, they’re all valid.

The shooting with the Italians went equally well. Both the Italian and the French teams got along, and complemented each other – but it’s not a question of nationality, but that of the nature of those involved.

The coproduction experience was particularly interesting for me because I had never worked directly with Americans. I noticed, for example, that Americans work under the principle that the viewer knows nothing. Therefore a fairly complete explanation is required at the beginning of the film. This is less necessary for the French viewer.

Although I have not yet seen the finished American version, I have established that the main difference between the two has to do with the narration. There is much more of it in American films, and it often underlines the picture. I have the impression that it is possible to follow the story simply by listening to the American version, without actually watching the image. This is much less evident in relation to the French film.

We wanted to put in less narration and let the scene unravel with natural sounds to bring more realism to the piece. You experience the sequence with the speleologists more because you are less distracted by this voice which places itself like an intermediary between the human adventure and the spectator. In other respects, as there is less commentary, I used more music to create mystery. Too much talk hinders viewers from letting their minds roam and re-entering the story by the road which suits them.

But I understand quite well that French viewers and American viewers are very different, and this is the reason I let nova build the film for its audience exactly as it intended. If we had not made a different version for France, my attitude would have been more firm and I would have vigourously defended my version.

There it is. I hope to have the chance to work with nova again.

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