Antoine Gallimard: ‘There’s a Real Feeding-Frenzy for Graphic Novels, Comic Books’

French publisher talks abut the page-to-screen relationship in France

The literary base of French cinema is almost as important as its auteur tradition. Variety interviews Antoine Gallimard, president of Madrigall, France’s third largest publishing house. Every year, a significant number of books and comic strips published by some of the houses within the group (Gallimard, Flammarion, Casterman, Mercure de France, Futuropolis and Verticales) are adapted for film or television.

The idea of One Place, One Book, is linked to other ventures of this ilk, such as Les Rencontres Audiovisuels (Audiovisual Encounters), at the Paris Book Salon, and to a new event, Shoot the Book, which will take place this year at the Cannes Festival. What are the main advantages of these events?

One Place, One Book, organized this year by Galllimard with the Film Commission of Ile de France during the Location Expo, is a new venture which allows us to present works set in a specific place, with the presence of key representatives of that place. It’s a privileged setting for authors to talk about how their creative imagination has drawn upon those places and so give us something of an inkling into how they were driven to adapting their works; it also, at the same time, allows those producers and directors present to answer very specific questions about the shooting conditions for those works. The Rencontres Audiovisuelles, organized by SCELF (the Society of French Publishers) at the Paris Book Salon scheduled, March 21 is an important rendez-vous where publishers will present to producers, every half an hour or so, a careful selection of works for possible adaptation. Over 2,000 producers, mainly French, take part in these Rencontres every year. As for Shoot the Book !, publishers who are within SCELF, present a select ensemble of works at the Cannes Film Festival, works chosen by audiovisual professionals because of their great potential in terms of screen adaptation and international appeal. The public pitching sessions will therefore be in English.

How many Gallimard Madrigall works are adapted for the screen every year? What’s the ratio of French projects as opposed to international projects? Give us some recent examples.

On average, about ten films, drawn from works that are part of our catalogue, are commercially released every year. Among them, for example, “Ernest et Celestine,” by Gabrielle Vincent (Casterman), which was scripted by Daniel Pennac and which has been nominated for the Oscars. “Le Transperceneige,” by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette (Casterman), “Incidences,” by Philippe Djian (Gallimard), which was adapted by the Larrieu brothers and called “L’amour est un crime parfait”; and, as well, Lulu femme nue,” by Etienne Davodeau (Futuropolis). All of which have been recently released.

About a third of these adaptations are done with the foreign market. What countries do you work with?

We work regularly with the Anglo-Saxon countries, but also with Argentina, Korea, Brazil, Italy, Germany, Norway and many other countries.

How are audiovisual rights handled in the group? How do you make the most of the synergy between books and films? 

Within the different branches of the group, teams are devoted to the promotion of the rights for audiovisual adaptation of the works. They are in contact on a daily basis with directors, producers and screenwriters, presenting books to them and negotiating contracts. When a commercial release is being prepared, our marketing services and press attachés get together with their opposite numbers in the relevant distributing companies in order to closely ally and properly synergize.

The world of publishing is experiencing difficulty in many countries. Is the strength of the French film industry a sufficiently potent counter-force to this, a boon for the sake of publishing?   

Gallimard and the Madrigall group, the third biggest publishing company in France, are quite a solid front. We organize and coordinate our efforts to meet the challenges caused by the evolution of our sector. I think that the French publishing and film industries feed on, complement, and ultimately do help each other. The number of films adapted from books that are produced every year in France is eloquent testimony to this.

Increasingly, producers are looking to limit risk making over high-profile franchises, books that are worldwide hits.  How can Gallimard profit from this trend?

It’s true there’s a growing demand for long-sellers known around the world. But numerous producers look first and foremost for books which have good story, strong narrative drive, arresting characters offering great roles for actors, however well-known the book or its author are. We adapt our proposals, according to companies’ expectations.

Do you see any change in the kinds of books in demand for big-screen makeovers in or outside France?

In recent years, there’s a real feeding-frenzy for graphic novels, comic books. Our catalogue (Futuropolis, Casterman, Bayou) can supply good projects. Comedy, in all its variants, is the most popular of adapted materials.

What are the key stages these days in literary rights’ sales process?

Systematically, we bring the author into this process at a very upstream stage so that he can meet with the producer and director who are interested in rights to his work. After the meeting, a dialogue begins about what kind of adaptation is imagined, the author’s contribution to the screenplay, if he wants to be involved. Sometimes, with the author we have to choose one of several propositions. The final stage is contract negotiation.

If you could recommend three works from your catalogue to American producers, what would they be?    

I’d recommend far more than three! But, since I have to make a choice, I’d recommend, I’d talk about the comic book series “Les enfants de Jessica,” by Luc Brunschwig and Laurent Hirn (Futuropolis), and two novels: “La cuisiniere d’Himmler,” by Franz-Olivier Giesbert (Gallimard) and “Le cas Eduard Einstein,” by Laurent Seksik (Flammarion), which was presented at the Berlin Festival in the section, Books at Berlinale.

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