Why Daft Punk Licensed Songs for $3,700 to Indie Drama 'Eden'
The elusive duo believed in the film, which chronicles the rise of French house music
There's a moment early in Eden when a teenage Thomas Bangalter (played by Vincent Lacoste) and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (played by Arnaud Azoulay), the music duo better known as Daft Punk, play their soon-to-be hit "Da Funk" for the first time while DJ'ing a party at their parents' house.
The young partygoers, many of whom would go on to be key players in the '90s house music scene known as "French Touch," are instantly transfixed by the song. The film's protagonist, Paul (Felix de Givry), a fellow DJ, says in astonishment, "It's modern disco."
Eden co-writer Sven Hansen-Love, the inspiration for Paul, who was at the real party nearly 20 years ago, still remembers the moment vividly.
"It was a preview of what was coming from Daft Punk and music in general," Sven tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We felt something big was coming from them. We didn't know they would be that big, but we felt something transformative was happening that night."
Sven's younger sister, Mia Hansen-Love (Goodbye First Love), who co-wrote and directed Eden — which was picked up in September by Broad Green, the new film company run by billionaire hedge fund brothers — was too young to be at the party but remembers Sven bringing home Daft Punk's first vinyl and listening to it in their parents' living room.
"Even me," remembers Mia, "who was just the younger sister watching my brother become a DJ, I was feeling that this is where things are happening right now, and we were in the middle of it."
Two decades later, Mia, now a Cannes award-winning filmmaker, would return to that moment when she began making a film about her generation. She thought that Sven's somewhat successful career as a DJ — spanning the birth of rave culture and the international success of French Touch acts like Daft Punk — would be a perfect vehicle to capture the energy of young Parisians who came of age during the 1990s and 2000s.
But her longtime producers believed the semi-autobiographical Eden would be impossible to finance. Both of the Hansen-Loves were unwilling to make the film unless they could use the actual music that defined a generation, but rights for the songs would cost in the neighborhood of $1 million.
What the producers weren't counting on was that Sven was still in touch with Daft Punk's Bangalter — among the first handful of people to read the script — who gave his blessing to the project.
"Sven and I were convinced because it was a tribute to house music. And because Daft Punk supported the film, we would find a way to [get the music rights] for much cheaper," explains Mia. "My producers didn't believe us, because unless the rights are negotiated beforehand, you can't be sure how much it will cost."
The brother-sister team had to switch producers twice to prove they were right. Daft Punk eventually gave Eden three tracks for 3,000 Euros (a little over $3,700) a piece, which then set the price tag for every track used in the film. "No one was going to ask for more than Daft Punk received," comments Sven.
"The one thing Thomas cared about was he wanted to appear as a human being in the film and not as some image or idol," reveals Mia. This was exactly what the Hansen-Loves wanted too — a huge relief, considering Daft Punk doesn't allow themselves to be photographed and, since 2001, has only appeared publicly dressed as robots.
"They have an image of being total control freaks, which I guess they are," says Mia. "But it was a very different relationship they had with us because it's not their script or their film, so they don't have the same relationship to their image."
Bangalter also told the filmmakers a story about living life as an unrecognizable celebrity, which ended up working its way into the film. Two weeks prior to their initial meeting to discuss the script, Bangalter and Homem-Christo were kicked out of the Paris nightclub Silencio because they weren't dressed properly.
The filmmakers tracked down the doorman, who lost his job for denying the music superstars entrance, to return to Silencio to play himself in Eden and deliver the line "I have a dress code issue."
Eden has played at TIFF, NYFF and now AFI Fest. It will be released theatrically in Spring 2015.