Equinoxe, the French based scriptwriters workshop associated with the Sundance Film Festival and backed by Sony and pay TV Canal Plus, is to launch a producers‘ workshop called Equinoxe Productions.

The move is part of an ambitious expansion of Equinoxe which could see the creation of a directors workshop in 1997.

Equinoxe Prod will bring together producers of projects that have already been through the Equinoxe scripters sessions with about 15 international financiers in an attempt to raise cash for selected projects. The first meeting of Equinoxe Prod is scheduled to take place near Bordeaux in December.

In the coming months, Equinoxe topper Noelle Deschamps will be approaching companies to see if they will be part of the financiers panel.

“I expect to contact the big talent agencies, some of the larger distribution companies like Gaumont/BVI and groups such as Polygram,” Deschamps said.

“Equinoxe is gradually being transformed into a series of development workshops. The idea is to get films made. We are not a school.”

Brainstorming

Set up in September 1993, Equinoxe holds two scriptwriting workshops per year, predominantly for European writers. Deschamps and her team select nine scripts and put the writers together with an international panel of seasoned industry scripters for eight days of brainstorming.

“At the end of the eight days the scriptwriters go home and have two months to carry out the changes that have been suggested by the panel. The idea is to get up-and-coming scriptwriters to accept the advice of more experienced authors. I think Robert Redford created Sundance because he felt there was too much pressure in the studios and writers need more air. We think that in Europe there is too much air and writers need a little more pressure and discipline.”

While Equinoxe already has established an upbeat reputation among those writers who have taken part, the real test of whether the system can have an effect on European film production will come in October with the release of Malik Chibane’s “Panne des Sen.”

This will be the first finished film to have passed through the scriptwriters workshop although a further five projects are now in production.

To finance the growth of Equinoxe, Deschamps is currently in talks with a new European investor. Equinoxe currently costs 3.5 million francs ($730,000) per year to run, with Canal Plus putting up $270,000 per year for three years and Sony kicking in $230,000. Added coin comes from France’s Centre National de la Cinematographic, British Screen and the European Script Fund.

Equinoxe currently receives no payment from projects that come to fruition but this may change. “I intend to see if there is a way for us to recover some of our investment if a project which has been through the scriptwriting workshops and the production workshops makes it into the cinemas. Logically we would want to take a percentage of receipts but I have to see if this is possible,” noted Deschamps.

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