Cannes Residence homes in on new talent

Interns come to bag a Gallic producer

PARIS — New Yorker Laurie Collyer, one of six budding young filmmakers staying at the Cannes Intl. Film Festival’s new internship Residence in Paris, looks around her elegant, high-ceilinged room and can’t quite believe her luck.

“It’s great. I feel like a princess,” she says, only half-joking.

All the spacious rooms in the nearly 1,000 square-foot Residence, which opened in October, are equipped with new computers, wide-screen TV sets and video players so the residents can work undisturbed. Through the windows is a charming view of a cobbled Parisian street.

But like the other residents, who hail from places as far-flung as Poland, Japan and Tajikistan, Collyer wasn’t invited to Paris for 4-1/2 months simply to scribble and enjoy the view. Having received critical acclaim for her first film, “Nyorican Dream,” a documentary about Puerto Rican emigrants in New York, she is hoping that her Parisian sojourn will help her bag a producer for a feature film.

“I didn’t come all this way just to write,” she says.

Producers and means to next projects are what the 300 million francs ($41 million)-a-year Festival Residence, part of the fest’s Cinefondation for young filmmakers, hopes to deliver.

Unlike other programs for budding directors, the Residence doesn’t get involved in script development. But in a canny move to bring new blood into the French film industry, it does introduce its young charges to a steady stream of Gallic producers during their stay.

Fest prexy Gilles Jacob, the brains behind the Residence, says it is all about building loyalty to the French film industry — and, or course, to the festival.

“We want them to be Cannes’ future suppliers,” he quips, “we want a return on our investment.”

Of six residents who were in Paris for the October-February session, four have either found producers or are on the point of signing with Gallic production companies, including the reputed indies Lazennac and Haut et Court.

“The point of the Residence is to help participants achieve concrete results,” says Jacob.

In a further move to build their French connections, when the residents aren’t hobnobbing with producers, directors and/or film critics, they can brush up their lingo skills in intensive courses provided by the Residence.

Says Jacob: “If they are to direct co-productions with France they need to speak some French.”

They are also encouraged to frequent Paris’ movie theaters, receiving free all-you-can-see cinema passes in addition to a monthly allowance of 5,000 francs ($680).

So far the Residence, which receives the bulk of its funding from sponsors AOL Time Warners, Nestle and L’Oreal, is still a fairly well-kept secret.

For the current session, there were only about 70 applications, making the job easier for a selection committee that was headed for the first two runs by French director Olivier Assayas. A fresh committee will be announced for the next two.

“We advertise mostly by word of mouth,” says Sylvie Perras, the Residence’s director. “On the official festival Web site there’s just a tiny link to us, small enough that not too many people notice it. If it was bigger, we’d have 700 applications, not 70.”