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Olivier Courson has been with the Canal Plus group since 2003 after a governmental career that included stints at the French state council, France’s state film organization the CNC and as culture and communication advisor to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. He’s since traded state affairs for studio politics as CEO of Canal Plus subsidiary Studiocanal.
The Paris-based producer-distributor will kick off the festival with Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom on opening night before the world premiere of Alain Resnais’ competition entry You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, the animated title Ernest & Celestine in Directors’ Fortnight and several new international market titles. Before kicking off his 18th year at the festival, Courson talked to The Hollywood Reporter about his hopes for this year’s event, his healthy daily festival regimen and how losing his government position provided one of his fondest Cannes memories.
PHOTOS: Cannes Film Festival: Veterans Ready to Return to the Croisette
The Hollywood Reporter: Let’s start at the beginning. What are you planning for opening night à la Wes Anderson?
Olivier Courson: We’re also organizing the opening night party with Focus. It will definitely be a party in the spirit of Wes Anderson. It’s an exceptional film. It’s a comedy filled with emotion. It’s rare that we see an opening night film or a comedy in competition and this is both, so it’s really a unique event in the festival’s history.
THR: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?
Courson: I’m very proud of our market titles. And Cannes is always a great place to meet people unexpectedly. It’s a rich year for us in Cannes. We have all of the film teams to handle. Both Moonrise Kingdom and You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet are ensemble films so there are a lot of actors and actresses to deal with at one time, including a lot of children.
THR: What’s new for you at the market?
Courson: We’re concentrating on independent films like the Coen brothers’ latest, animated films like African Safari 3D or Ernest and Celestine are becoming increasingly important to us and we’ll continue to work on anticipated French and English-language titles like I Give it a Year from Working Title that we’ll release on Valentine’s Day. We’ve started production on Michael Winterbottom’s King of Soho and Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo. Susanne Bier’s Serena is always filming and has an exceptional cast.
THR: With so many new titles, will you be showing anything brand new to buyers?
Courson: It’s going to be a very, very active market for us. We’ll show promo clips for African Safari 3D and Marilyn’s Fragments and we have images of Serena. We’ll also show the first images of the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis.
THR: How do you begin your day?
Courson: I get up early to get some exercise. I either go running or swim. I surf too, but I don’t surf in Cannes — I’m not like the star of the Jean Dujardin surfer movie Brice de Nice. I run down the Croisette.
THR: And how do you end your day?
Courson: I go out a bit, but not too late. I try not to get to sleep past 2 a.m. It’s not my style to be in clubs until 5 a.m. I’ll perhaps go for a drink at Albane’s club or go to the party for a film or have an informal drink, then I go to sleep.
THR: What is a typical day like for you at the festival?
Courson: I don’t handle sales personally, so I’m usually meeting with producers, potential partners or talents for the projects we’re developing. There are a lot of people in Cannes so it’s a good time to advance projects. Most of my day is spent on that. It’s really essential to meet people to talk about films.
THR: Where can we find you?
Courson: I hold most of my meetings at the Canal Plus patio. It’s very nice there so people are happy to come. It’s great to be in a calm place away from the chaos. I try to see as many films as I can for potential acquisitions. I try to see at least one film a day, but that’s not always possible.
THR: What is your best memory of the festival?
Courson: One year, I saw five films per day. It was amazing. I’d just left my post as counselor to Lionel Jospin when he was Prime Minister. He’s just lost the elections, but the festival is very elegant and they kindly extended me an invitation anyway even though I wasn’t working there anymore. I saw five films a day for 12 days. It really gives a great panorama of international cinema. It’s a unique experience. Today, seeing five films a day would definitely be a challenge!
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