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New Chapters for Shoot the Book

In the six years since it first arrived on the scene, the Shoot the Book pitch session has grown in breadth, scope and above all, ambition. A fixture in Cannes since 2014, Shoot the Book has also spread to festivals and markets in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Annecy, but this year will mark its most significant step forward.

While the 11 titles selected for the pitch session offer a more diverse slate than ever before, event organizers will also introduce new components such as an international rendezvous and several master classes, with the intention of turning the sessions, which run from May 20-21 in the Palais’ Salon des Ambassadeurs, into a key destination for producers and publishers alike.

“Three years ago we recognized that if we wanted to offer our event a chance at long-term success, we’d have to open it on an international scale,” says Nathalie Piaskowski, general director of the SCELF (Société Civile des Editeurs de Langue Française), one of the event’s co-chairs. “It could not be limited to France and France only.”

This marked a departure from their first few years, when the sessions sought to connect French publishers with the international crowd, providing a useful icebreaker in a landscape where 95% of French literary adaptations were produced by local outlets.

In France, the two industries have always worked closely together. In the past, authors like Marguerite Duras, David Foenkinos and Frederic Beigbeder found success in both fields, and nowadays adaptations — such as Cannes Competition title “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo,” Un Certain Regard entry “The Swallows of Kabul” and “I Lost My Body” in Critics’ Week — account for nearly a fifth of all audiovisual production. And because the two teams play so well together at home, Piaskowski and her team wanted to offer publishers a similar shot abroad.

The industry trade organization SCELF has co-run the event with the publicly funded Institut Francais, a partnership that has granted the sessions a wide global reach, and together, the organizers developed specialized pitches tailored to the interests of particular markets. While their session in Cannes primarily focus on projects ripe for feature adaptation, event organizers brought possible animation titles to Annecy, series to AFM and cross-media IP properties to Shanghai.

Meanwhile, their Cannes offering has continued to evolve. Since 2017, the selections have broadened to include select publishers from Germany, Georgia, Norway and Canada, always reflective of that year’s country of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Moreover, Shoot the Book’s programing slate has also expanded; it now hosts film-financing workshops, B2B sessions and networking events alongside the pitches.

“We wanted to make [Shoot the Book in] Cannes a platform [leading the adaptation market],” says Didier Dutour of the Institut Francais. “And we wanted to strengthen that platform with professional mixers, with a firm understanding of the two industries focused on financing and contract law. We want the two industries to better understand one another.”

Last year’s B2B meeting hosted 20 French imprints, only nine of which had been invited for that morning’s pitch session — a fact that attested to the value of such meetings. And so this year, following the pitch session on May 21, the organizers will launch their most ambitious undertaking yet — a three-hour rendezvous spotlighting 40 international publishers, only half of which are French.

Structured as a marketplace, each publisher will be given a small stand and will have two projects to present, while interested parties will be able to book meetings with the featured publishers in advance. To spark producer interest, organizers sent out a catalog mid-April detailing all 40 publishers present and their two selected projects. The organizers have focused on outreach and communication, staying in contact with interested parties and remaining at their disposal for explanations and assistance.

In fact, they’ve let the attending publishers draw the crowd as well. “The [online booking] system will work both ways,” Piaskowski explains. “Producers can reach out to publishers, and those publishers can seek out specific producers. We only have three hours, so each party can make the most efficient use of their time.”

In their attempt to better include publishers from places as diverse as Switzerland, Spain and Indonesia into the ecosystem of the Cannes Market, Piaskowski and Dutour have assembled the various side events into a cohesive itinerary spread over two busy days.

“We had to present before the publishers — some who have a lot of experience with audio-visual adaptations, others who do not — the various financing routes, contractual issues, optioning practices, and walk them through various steps from optioning to development to production,” notes Dutour. “And we organized all kinds of events for May 20 doing just that.”

And sometimes they had to correct a few erroneous notions about the event itself.

“Many international publishers have an impression of Cannes that isn’t always accurate; they looked at Cannes and thought about glitter,” adds Piaskowski. “We had to show them that Cannes was more than just glitter; Cannes is also a workplace, and it’s a workplace that is open to them as well.”

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