LOCARNO — Director of sales for nearly 200 films by filmmakers ranging from Abbas Kiarostami and Jia Zhangke to Francois Ozon, Pierre Menahem is now the co-founder of Paris-based production and distribution company Still Moving. Menahem spoke to the Locarno Industry Academy on Sunday Aug. 7, sharing the insight he’s gained over his nearly two decade-long career. Variety spoke with Menahem following his session.
Tell us about your background
In 1997, I started in international sales at Celluloid Dreams, working on festival coordination and marketing. Then I was promoted to sales, and I ended up as director of sales and acquisitions. Then, I created my own sales company, called Scalpel Films in 2004. Later, I joined a production company called MPM Film. But now, I have my own company, called Still Moving, doing mostly international co-productions, as well as sales.
What motivated you to start Still Moving?
I founded Still Moving around a year ago. My co-founder, Juliette Lepoutre, and I worked together at MPM Film, and left together. The idea was to produce or sell, or both, the movies that I want, to fulfill my own taste and passion. I wanted to take risks on films that are supposed to be very difficult or not made for the market. I still want to do that. This kind of decision you can only make when it’s your own company.
What type of films do you look for?
What I’m looking for is to be surprised. I like to feel that there is a real filmmaker inventing his own style, whether it be documentary or experimental or more classic, and that he is not trying to copy others or please the market. The films we have are mostly by young filmmakers, directors we know either because I’ve seen their short films or I’ve met them at festivals, who have a unique vision, and whom I can also get along with.
What is the importance of bringing your film to a festival?
A film festival launch is, for us, the momentum. We couldn’t do anything without a festival, especially with arthouse films. It is very important that when we pitch an arthouse film to distributors, to be able to say this film was selected in competition or at a festival. It gives it a stamp of quality. These films need not only festival selection, but also reviews at the festival. That is our best marketing of any kind. A good review for us is gold.
What do you find most exciting about your work?
When you discover a new talent. It’s so much work to look at short films, read scripts; it’s a lot. There are so many films being made, so when you find someone, you are so surprised because you have this sensation that you spotted the one talent that you are looking for. It’s very rewarding.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into distribution, sales, or production?
My advice is to build your own taste. Trust your own taste. Even if the thing that you are going for is very demanding or very difficult, stick to it. If this is what you like, try to find a way to make it work. Never do something more commercial just because you have to make a living. If you have a passion for cinema, but you don’t know if you want to be a producer, distributor or a film critic, all of them are interesting. And you can do them all. As long as you live closely with the type of film you cherish, it will be very exciting.