If You Want to Self-Produce Work, It Is Important To Surround Yourself Well By
THE CYCLOTRON’s Christine Falco
Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Christine Falco: I was born and raised in Montreal. I read a lot as a kid and liked inventing stories for my younger sister, which I would tell with Barbies and toys. My father owned a Super 8 camera. With it, he filmed all the important family events (baptisms, Christmas parties, etc.) It came with a splicer, a viewer and a projector. My father would show his films in our living room on a portable screen. I remember being impressed by it all, seeing my family on the “big” screen at home. Films were usually a place for movie stars. My mother liked Hollywood movie stars. She had many books about them. I loved reading about the actors and actresses’ lives, their scandals and tragedies.
Film Courage: What were your plans after secondary school?
Christine: I initially wanted to be a reporter in international affairs, covering war zones and conflicts. In college, I studied in a film program that offered journalism classes. The plan was to do my university studies in journalism afterwards. But it turned out I was more interested in the film classes. Back then, I didn’t know much about Quebec and world cinema. That program really opened my mind to films made outside of Hollywood. When time came to apply for university, I decided for film studies.
Film Courage: Did you go to film school?
Christine: I studied cinema at the university of Montreal. It was a two-year program focused mainly on analyzing films and learning film language. We also made two 16 mm short films. I was Art director on the first one. I co-wrote and co-directed the second one with Benoit St-Martin, who is still a good friend today. It was actually my directorial debut. There was an awards ceremony at the end of the school year. We won Best director. That was cool.
“It is difficult to wear all the hats on a film. If you want to self-produce your work, it is important to surround yourself well. Work a solid Line Producer and/or production Manager, a good accountant and a good lawyer. During production, concentrate on the creative aspects and leave the rest to your team (while keeping an eye on things). Also, leave your ego out of the process. Everything should be done for the good of the film.”
Film Courage: How did studying film and advertising play into what you do now? Why advertising?
Christine: It gave me knowledge about film language and screenwriting, about how a film set works, and a good general culture. I didn’t know then that I wanted to be a Producer, that would come later, but it gave me a good overview of how a film is made. I studied in advertising to complete my bachelor degree in art. I was mostly interested in the marketing classes.
Film Courage: What was one class you felt should have been part of the film school curriculum that wasn’t, but was a tremendous eye-opener as to how important it was when you left University?
Christine: We didn’t have classes about financing and managing a film. The program was focused on the creative aspects. So, we didn’t learn much about being a Producer except for the fact that that person finds the money and manages it. It was mysterious to me: what does a Producer do on a daily basis? I got my answer when I started to write, direct and produce my short films, and managed to get funding from Canadian federal and provincial agencies.
Film Courage: What’s the most important non-academic lesson you’ve learned in your life?
Christine: Perseverance and patience go a long way in making our dreams come true. Also, be ready for change.
Film Courage: For close to 17 years you have owned and operated Les Films Camera Oscura? How did you begin?
Christine: I started my company in 2000. Initially, it was to provide an administrative structure for my own films. Although I liked writing and directing my projects, I found myself being more and more interested by the producing work. I like being there at the beginning of a project, when the film is still an idea, and help make it happen. I’m involved in every aspect of the projects I produce. I read drafts of the scripts and give my comments; I prepare the budgets, the funding applications, I build a creative team around the writer and director; I find distribution partners. Once we get the money to make the film, my job is to supervise the whole team and manage the budget and financing.
Film Courage: How did you get involved with THE CYCLOTRON?
Christine: I knew the writer and director, Olivier Asselin, from a previous project. He had been script consultant on a short film I was producing. In 2011, Olivier contacted me. He was looking for a new producer for The Cyclotron. His producer had decided not to continue with the project for personal reasons. I liked Olivier’s previous films. His creative world is unique. I read the script and really enjoyed it. The film is in the genre of alternate history, set in Europe at the end of WWII, with quantum mechanics interfering in the course of History. It’s very different from what Quebec films usually look like.
Film Courage: How did you calculate what the budget was going to be?
Christine: Our initial budget was at 2,4 million Canadian dollars. I had found co-producing partners in France and Belgium. For almost two years, we worked together at securing the production funding. Unfortunately, my partners couldn’t confirm financing in their respective countries. So, I decided to make the film with the money we put together in Canada, which was a little over 1,8 million Canadian dollars. More than four years after I got involved, we finally went to camera in August 2015.
Film Courage: How long have you been planning the film?
Christine: We started pre-production in early 2015. The film presented many challenges, like the creation and integration of an important amount of visual effects, recreating the atmosphere of the end of the war in Europe, and the casting of Canadian actors who spoke German.
We had regular meetings with the director and the creative heads (cinematographer, art director, editor, VFX supervisor, costume designer, makeup and hair artists). The director had storyboarded the whole film, which was very useful in understanding and sharing his vision. The film was shot in order to accommodate the VFX as much as possible. Because of the small budget, we had to find the creative and financial balance between what would be done in VFX and what would be filmed for real.
As the film is in French and German (with a little bit of English), we provided coaching in German for our lead actors. Paul Ahmarani, who plays König in the film, didn’t speak German at all. He learned his lines using phonetics. We later dubbed him with a German actor.
Film Courage: What was the most expensive location? Did having the film take place in one location help costs?
Christine: We filmed in two locations, in a train station and in an abbey. We got good deals for both, and they made us save time and money by allowing us to film at the same place for weeks. We could save on personnel and material in the locations and unit departments, and on transportation.
Film Courage: How did you secure funding?
Christine: Like most Canadian feature films, the film was made possible with funding from the federal and provincial cultural agencies. Telefilm Canada and SODEC are our principal investors. The Harold Greenberg Fund is also an important investor. Investors usually get their money back and participate in the profit sharing. The financial structure is completed by tax credits and an investment from the distributor.
Film Courage: What is the grant application process like?
Christine: Film financing is a somewhat tedious process where the Producer, the Writer and the Director have to prepare several documents in order to convince financiers to fund the film. It takes from 2 to 6 months to get a decision. In a system where not many projects are funded, it can easily take more than two years to fund the production of a feature film. I think I’ve been able to hold my own game in this industry, which seems like a lottery sometimes, because of the choices I’ve made. Originality is the most important thing investors are looking for. I try to present projects that propose themes, worlds and visions not previously seen in Canadian cinema. That means I have to be very selective in my choice of projects.
“I also have to get along with the filmmaker and be in agreement with his or her view of the project. I like to work in continuity with filmmakers, so I try to find out early if it’s someone with whom I would like to do more than one film. I have long collaborations with certain filmmakers”
Film Courage: Where did you shoot the film/secure the locations, mainly the locomotive scenes?
Christine: We shot the train sequences in Gatineau (Quebec). We found a train station that housed a Swedish train from 1928 that was being used for tourism in the region. With some modifications, we turned the train into a 1940s German train.
We also filmed in an abbey in Oka (Quebec). It served for many locations in the story: the bunker, the mountain, the forest, the hotel, the library… There was also a big hangar on the premises in which we built and filmed two of the train wagons that we couldn’t find in our real train (the armored wagon and the refrigerated wagon). We also used the hangar as a studio where we filmed the actors on a green screen for certain scenes.
Film Courage: What is the sub-title process like?
Christine: The Cyclotron was probably the most complex subtitling job I had to do on a film because of the three languages (French, German and English). We had to deliver to our distributors full French and English versions. The script was written all in French. We worked with a translator for the German dialogues. Then another person translated everything to English. We also have texts that appear on the screen, that had to be translated to French and English. We then had to check everything to make sure there were no typos. It was an intense process that lasted many weeks.
Film Courage: You’ve produced over 19 films. How do you typically become attached to a project?
Christine: My decision to become involved in a project is really based on the project and the filmmaker. It’s 50/50 for me. I have to be able to relate to the project’s story, characters, themes and cinematography. I produce mostly auteur-driven films, and I try to find the ones that present the most potential for festivals and for theatres as well.
I also have to get along with the filmmaker and be in agreement with his or her view of the project. I like to work in continuity with filmmakers, so I try to find out early if it’s someone with whom I would like to do more than one film. I have long collaborations with certain filmmakers, like with Marc Bisaillon, for example. I’ve been working with him since 2001 and produced his three short films and three features. We have a couple of new projects in the works.
Film Courage: What project from your career at the time seemed most difficult but in the end taught you the best lessons that you still carry with you?
Christine: On one of my first films, we had to deal with a budget overrun which was big enough for the director and myself to have to reinvest all our fees and corporate overhead into the production. This taught me to always keep an eye on the money and to be closely involved in the day to day management of the budget during filming. Also, it taught me to say no to certain demands from directors that exceed the budget. We try to find creative ways to give the director what he/she wants as much as possible, but not at the cost of running ourselves into the ground.
Film Courage: Do you have advice to actors, writers or directors who would also like to produce their own films?
Christine: It is difficult to wear all the hats on a film. If you want to self-produce your work, it is important to surround yourself well. Work a solid Line Producer and/or production Manager, a good accountant and a good lawyer. During production, concentrate on the creative aspects and leave the rest to your team (while keeping an eye on things). Also, leave your ego out of the process. Everything should be done for the good of the film.
Film Courage: Where did you cast the protagonist Simone (Lucille Fluet) from?
Christine: Lucille Fluet is the co-writer of the script and Olivier Asselin’s wife. She has also acted in his previous films. So, she was on board from the beginning. We didn’t see any other actresses for the role. Having co-written the script, she had profound knowledge of her character and of the context of the film.
Film Courage: What was the post-production process for obtaining the film noir look?
Christine: Some scenes were shot in B&W and were refined in post. Some were shot in color and transferred to B&W during post, to help make some the story elements clearer.
Film Courage: For your cinematographer, what scenes were most challenging (such as the night shoots, scenes with the train approaching or passing by the camera)?
Christine: Nights shoots are always difficult when working with a small budget. Our cinematographer, Mathieu Laverdière, had to do a lot with few lamps. There were also challenges with the train. The train we filmed in could not move, it had to stay in place in the train station for security reasons. So, a lot of work went into making believe the train was moving with lighting outside the windows for the shots inside the train. When we are outside the train and see it moving, that was all done in VFX.
Film Courage: The film score was quite intriguing and lent an excellent sense of danger. How many composers did you look for before securing your two composers, Patrice Dubuc and Gaetan Gravel?
Christine: Gaëtan and Patrice had scored Olivier Asselin’s previous film and he wanted to work with them again. They said yes immediately as this was a great challenge for them. Olivier wanted the music to be reminiscent of compositions made for Hollywood films in the 1940s and 1950s, which were very much inspired by Wagner. I have to say that the music is one of my favorite elements of the film.
Film Courage: Where is THE CYCLOTRON currently available to watch?
Film Courage: Where do you think a majority of your audience will come from? (Europe or US and abroad)?
Christine: I think the film will do well in Europe and the US. Asia will also be a good market for the film.
Film Courage: What’s next for you creatively?
Christine: I’m currently in post-production on two films: Marc Bisaillon’s next feature film, Love, a drama based on the true story of Stephen Marshall, a young man who goes on a mission and chases pedophiles he’s found on a sex offenders’ public registry; and Ziva Postec, a documentary by Catherine Hébert about the woman who edited Claude Lanzmann’s legendary documentary, Shoah. Both films will come out in 2018. Also, in 2018, we hope to shoot our first horror film, The Forgotten, by Izabel Grondin.
CHRISTINE FALCO / FILMOGRAPHY
Christine Falco is a Canadian producer of feature films and documentaries. After completing her studies in cinema and advertising at the University of Montreal, she founded, in 2000, FILMS CAMERA OSCURA. The company’s mission is to develop and produce accessible films with a unique vision of the world, and to supervise and accompany emerging talents and accomplished filmmakers. CAMERA OSCURA’s films thrive and appeal both in Canada and internationally. Christine is also the co-owner of CIEAR, a company that produces AR games with its own technological platform.
Her two most recent productions are currently enjoying much success in festivals. The documentary A Moon of Nickel and Ice by François Jacob had its world premiere in the international competition of Visions of the réel in Nyon. In competition at Hot Docs in Toronto, the film won the Canadian Emerging Filmmaker award. It also earned an Honorable Mention for the Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Documentary at the DOXA Festival in Vancouver. The film’s theatrical release in Quebec is scheduled for October 2017.
Olivier Asselin’s feature The Cyclotron, had its world premiere at the Montreal Festival of New Cinema in 2016. The film won two Borsos awards at the Whistler Film Festival for Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography, and was released in theaters in Quebec in February 2017. The film, which recently had its international premiere at the Shanghai Film Festival (SIFF), has also been nominated at the Gala Québec Cinéma in the Best Visual Effects category.
In 2015, Christine produced the musical drama Scratch – A Hip-Opera by Sébastien Godron, which had its world premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival, and was selected in several prestigious American film festivals, including Los Angeles’ Pan African film festival, and Chicago’s International Music and Movies festival (CIMMFest). The film won the Canadian Screen Award for Achievement in Music – Original Song, and the Best Original Score Award at the CIMMFest. It was nominated at the Jutra Awards for Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score and Best Editing.
In 2014, Christine produced the documentary Slums: Cities of tomorrow by Jean-Nicolas Orhon. It was the Quebec documentary with the highest gross in theaters in 2014 in Quebec. The film obtained much success on the film festival circuit (Hot Docs, RIDM, Filmfest Hamburg) and was awarded the Jury Prize at the Paris environmental film festival. The film’s companion website was nominated at the Gemini Awards for Best Digital Production for a documentary program or series.
In 2013, Christine produced the feature Rock Paper Scissors by Yan Lanouette Turgeon, starring Roy Dupuis. The film came in first at the box office for Canadian films during its first week in theaters and won the Jutra Award for Achievement in Music – Original Score. It was nominated at the Canadian Screen Awards in the same category.
Christine also produced Marc Bisaillon’s feature films Guilt (2011) and Cowardice (2007), which were shown at the Mannheim, Namur and Vancouver festivals, and several award-winning short films, such as The Barnhouse (Caroline Mailloux, 2014), The Greens (Serge Marcotte, 2010), The Schoolyard (Chloé Leriche, 2007), and Border Shop (Frédéric Desager, 2006).
Interested by virtual reality and its impact on cinema, Christine is currently producing The City of Ghosts, a cinematic interactive experience in augmented reality, created by filmmaker Olivier Asselin.
In 2017, Christine will produce Catherine Hébert’s documentary Ziva Postec, and Marc Bisaillon’s feature Love. Both films are scheduled for release in 2018.
Christine has been a member of ACE (Ateliers du cinéma européen) since 2013. She was selected in several prestigious film co-production workshops: EAVE (2011), Transatlantic Partners (2010), Rotterdam Lab (2008), National Screen Institute Drama Prize (2006), and Berlinale Talent Campus (2004).
From 2009 to 2016, Christine taught film production and was Head of the film producer profile at L’Inis.
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The Cyclotron is a thriller that takes place at the end of the Second World War. Simone, a spy working for the Allies, is entrusted with the mission to find and execute Emil, a scrupulous Berlin scientist who discovered before the Americans the way to build an atomic bomb, and is fleeing with his secret. Simone finds him on a night train speeding towards Switzerland. German soldiers, led by König, a German scientist, who want to arrest Emil and make him talk before he leaves the country, are also chasing him. Things get complicated when memories of love and quantum mechanics get intertwined in the pursuit.
Genre: 108 MadCap, Sci-Fi,Thriller
Cast: Paul Ahmarani; Lucille Fluet; Mark Antony Krupa; Manuel Sinor; Olivier Barrette; Benoit Mauffette
Crew: Olivier Asselin
Year of production: 2016
Running time: 95 Minutes
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