New Unifrance topper has big plans

Hatchondo eyes upping overseas operations

PARIS — Europe’s richest international film promotion org is under new management. Regine Hatchondo, the energetic former cultural adviser to Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, boarded Unifrance as its executive director in April.

Founded in 1949, Unifrance numbers some 600 members, including producers, sales agents, helmers and actors. Org’s annual budget has been cut by about $400,000, but it remains healthy at $12.1 million. Hatchondo says she’s up for the challenges that the entertainment business is facing as credit is still tight.

Hatchondo plans to increase the visibility of rising French talent on the international scene by enabling them to travel with their films.

“One of our cornerstone missions is to push the new faces of French cinema forward, show the diversity and the versatility of our directors and actors,” she says. “Festivals are crucial in helping us brand French cinema in all its diversity.

“Our events can help foreign distributors by promoting films already sold in their territories and help sales agents by highlighting unsold pics.”

Whether as general secretary of the Directors’ Fortnight or as Delanoe’s cultural adviser, Hatchondo has worked tenaciously to promote French cinema at home, guide young filmgoers and aid emerging Gallic filmmakers and actors.

One of Hatchondo’s most significant achievements was to help launch the Paris Cinema Intl. Film Festival when she served as managing director of Mission Cinema, a film commission founded by Delanoe.

Now in its seventh year, fest has seen its success grow year on year.

“She’s been very receptive to everyone’s feedback about what needs to be done at Unifrance,” says Agathe Valentin, international sales topper at Les Films du Losange. “One of her first steps was to organize meetings with artists, producers, sales execs.”

“She’s well-appreciated by the French creative community,” says an insider. “She’s dynamic, and she has what it takes to revamp the organization and French cinema abroad.”

Hatchondo also plans on stepping up overseas operations.

“We already organize festivals in emerging markets — China, Brazil, Moscow and Budapest — and our first goal is to keep this up even if results are not immediate,” Hatchondo says. “We hope to strengthen these festivals’ popularity to help alleviate foreign distributors’ P&A.”

In a move that will also help French distribs and sales agents, Unifrance will improve its Web database, giving updated info on theater admissions, plus VOD downloads as well as TV and DVD sales, Hatchondo says.

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