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Jacques-Henri Bronckart • Producer

Production, a heuristic approach

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Jacques-Henri Bronckart • Producer

Jacques-Henri and Olivier Bronckart founded Versus Production in 1999. It’s a young production company that is beginning to make its presence felt in the Belgian scene (read the article). After several minor co-productions and some documentaries under its wing, Versus jumped into the realm of fiction, following young authors’ footsteps and producing their first works behind the camera. After Bouli Lanners’s, Micha Wald’s or Oliver Masset-Depasse’s short films, Versus has accompanied them in a cinematic adventure, where production is, above all, a matter of friendship. A label soon, perhaps?

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How did your desire to produce films come about?
Jacques-Henri Bronckart: I had directed a film club at university; it was there where I experienced cinema from an organisational point of view. I meet Jean-Claude Riga and Marie-France Collard through my professors. Both of them produced documentaries. I worked with them during 4 years in Latitude Productions, in what was a peculiar setting: I had the freedom to do what I liked, since I love being independent. At a given time, I longed to work with directors of my same generation and focus on fiction. I meet Micha Wald and her La nuit tous les chats sont gris, Micha’s first short film and mi first production. At that time, I realised that my job at Latitude, was a bit schizophrenic, since I was an employee and a producer all at once. Personally, I felt like I was missing cards in my hand in order to play the game of managing production as I understood it. Then I left Latitude and started Versus along with my brother Olivier, who had been working with the Dardenne brothers for a couple of years. He was their production administrator [currently, he is the executive producer for Films du Fleuve]. I’m better at developing accompanying projects, and Oliver specialises in economy, a company’s structure and management. We complement each other well. What mattered to us from the beginning was looking towards the long-term side of things in terms of accompanying. We started by what we did best, in order words: documentaries and short films. Today, we are reaching the key point where we are reaping what we have sowed. If there are many jobs and challenges to overcome, this means that things are going as planned for the time being. This is, above all, a good omen.

All of Versus’ projects are with a new generation of filmmakers...
It’s my desire to work with directors of my generation, people that share with me more than the simply fact of producing a film. First of all, our common tie is the love for making a contemporary type of cinema that is in tune with today’s world, a cinema that is also a questioning one from a technological point of view. These are the filmmakers who want to transmit a story, a film, a different way of telling things... it’s all about strong friendships. A kind of clan has been formed. Fortunately, to produce a film, besides organising the financing strategies , or meetings, you also have to go to the cinema, share tastes, common references, and sometimes very intimate things. By knowing somebody well, we can know where, when and how to give him our support and what he needs, guiding him to where he needs to go.

Artistically speaking, you hold an important position.
Yes... no... I don’t know. No matter what you call it, there is an entire set of editorial or artistic accompanying work. It’s not about instructing the directors on what to do, but about guiding them towards the place that they must reach. More than anything is a heuristic approach, which I don’t like, because it has nothing to do with directing.

You are now getting 2 films ready and making 4, will it be possible for you to be present in each one of them?
Yes, this is because we have been able to put a hardworking team in place. They are reliable and competent people. This allows me to focus on the two things that are vital for me: accompanying the directors and taking care of the financing. Most of all, I don’t want to become a sort of filmmaking factory. If I weren’t able to be present at the key moments, such as scriptwriting or casting, I would be losing a great deal. I also hold a very honest relation with the directors, and if something wouldn’t work, they would tell me about it! (laughs) Besides, each film requires a specific organisation.

Which was the first film that got your attention?
I believe that the key films were those of Hal Hartley, Trust and Theory of Achievement, which, apparently, contained a whole range of things that I loved about Godard’s and Bresson’s cinema, I even found it in American independent films. They were very contemporary and characteristic of an era, they had a type of visual sensibility. To sum it up, what touched me was something very artisan like.

Are you thinking of making your own films?
Maybe I would feel the need to do so if I produced bad directors (laughs). But I admire and respect their work a lot, which is why I don’t feel the need to do it better than them. You must also be aware of what you are capable of. I found my strengths, and that’s what I shall do!

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