Cannes Facetime: Films Distribution’s Nicolas Brigaud-Robert

A prominent French industry player who’s better known for his slate and deals than his ego and drinking habits, Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, is one of the three leading men behind Films Distribution, the sales outfit which has a bunch of movies playing at Cannes and repped this year’s foreign-language Oscar winner “Son of Saul.” Ranking second to Wild Bunch in terms of number of films selected for Cannes, Films Distribution has Brillante Ma Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa” playing in competition, Delphine and Muriel Coulin’s “The Stopover” playing Un Certain Regard and Rithy Panh’s “Exile” in Special Screening, among others. Founded 19 years ago by Brigaud-Robert and Francois Yon, and later joined by Sebastien Beffa, Films Distribution has built a strategic network of European companies via its investment in Pamela Leu’s B for Films in Belgium, Jean-Christophe Simon’s Film Boutique in Germany and Fabien Westerhoff’s recently-launched Film Constellation in the U.K.

Variety: You’ve just announced a 10 million Euros investment in Fabien Westerhoff’s London-based licensing/finance company Film Constellation. You already have B for Films in Belgium and Film Boutique in Germany. What’s the idea behind this new investment and your aim in terms of international expansion?

Nicolas Brigand-Robert: Our mandate has always been to invest in talented executives and allow them to acquire and sell movies independently. So each company has a different editorial line and cultivates its own relationships with producers and directors. Film Constellation is a great asset because it gives the group a Anglo-Saxon dimension due to its London base and will make it easier to access appealing English-language material. The logic, with these companies, is also to optimize our services such as the back office while expanding our scope and portfolio.

How has the launch of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon impacted the way you work and seek project/talent?

The overall business structure has not been impacted yet, but as sellers we always welcome new buyers — even if sometimes they can be disruptive.

Any new strategic development?

We’re boarding projects at an earlier stage and we’ve started co-producing some movies, like Laszlo Nemes’ “Sunset” (his follow -up to “Son of Saul”). Considering the competitive environment we’re in, being a co-producer gives us the possibility to access projects we really want as well as increase our upside.

In terms of dealmaking, how important is Cannes film market for you?

The Cannes Film Market still reigns as the leading international market for the buying and selling of non-hollywood movie rights. This is where the deals are crafted, monies lost, and fortunes made.

What’s your most memorable Cannes moment?

Last year’s all-night negotiation for the U.S. rights of “Son of Saul,” which went to Sony Picture Classics in the end. It was a highly-complex deal, not one that I could have made in the early stages of my career. There were multiple buyers chasing the film. It was an epic journey but so rewarding.

Can you mention a new acquisition?

Yes, we’ve just acquired Pablo Berger’s French-Spanish comedy “Abracadabra.”

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