Berlin 2012: Adeline Fontan Tessaur, Co-founder and International Sales Director, Elle Driver Talks About the Company’s Future (Q&A)

Adeline Fontan Tessaur - P 2012

Elle Driver burst onto the scene with its sales and finance company in 2008 and has since been a powerful force on the international sales circuit. Led by Adeline Fontan Tessaur and Eva Diederix, who now head up a team of nine, Elle Driver has defined itself with its eclectic tastes, inventive marketing techniques and art house-meets-rock star vision of cinema.

Elle Driver invaded Park City last month, snagging Twenty-Eight Hotel Rooms early on at Sundance. TF1 international vet Adeline Fontan Tessaur also has big plans for Berlin. In addition to the fest’s opening night title Farewell, My Queen, Elle Driver will be at the EFM with high-profile pics like the Sundance hits Bacheloretteand Young and Wild. Fontan Tessaur took time out from deal-making to talk to The Hollywood Reporter about Elle Driver's future.

THR: So let’s start with a question I’m sure you’ve never been asked: Why the name Elle Driver?

Fontan Tessaur: We were looking for a classy, punchy and modern name that didn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve seen every movie by Tarantino and loved the name Elle Driver. Eva liked it too, but we still hesitated. And then around 2 AM the night before we had to submit the name of the company, I was watching TV and Kill Bill came on. It was right in the middle of the scene where the two blondes Daryl Hannah and Uma Thurman are fighting. It’s a hysterical scene and since, as is turns out, Eva and I are also both blond, we decided on the name. Today, I can’t think of a better name to define us.

THR: How did you and Eva get together?

Fontan Tessaur: Eva and I have known each other since we started in the business. A few years ago, at the Tokyo festival, when we were both working for different big companies, we shared our mutual desire to work independently, to work with all kinds of projects and accept the risk factors involved, to promote auteur cinema just as much as commercial cinema, to discover new talents and also work with people we’ve long admired. And especially to make decisions rapidly in order to initiate projects quickly. This desire took shape when Wild Bunch wanted to create a structure of human-sized proportions and asked us to finance the costs and gave us an acquisition budget. They gave us carte blanche to do what we wanted. We can’t thank them enough for giving us such freedom.

THR: What sets Elle Driver apart from other international sales and finance companies?

Fontan Tessaur: The lineup speaks for itself, doesn’t it? We’re also two women who sometimes have more masculine tastes!

THR: How has Elle Driver evolved today?

Fontan Tessaur: We just finished our fourth year at Elle Driver and so many positive things have happened. In 2011 alone we had four international success stories: Silent House( produced and financed by Elle Driver), Hysteria, Bachelorette and Farewell, My Queen. In less than 4 years, we established ourselves as a major player in international sales, a provider of quality (presence in the selections of Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Toronto and Sundance every year) and sales success, all while developing real relationships with our producers and talents.
And of course, we were successful with our first production financed 100% by Elle Driver — Silent House, a remake of Casa Muda and a big release in March in the U.S. for Open Road.

THR: How do you see Elle Driver in 10 years?

Fontan Tessaur: For both his talent and for the symbolism of it all, we want a movie by Tarantino or one of his children. After all, Elle Driver is called Elle Driver in homage to him.
For our lineup: balanced, innovative films from both new talents and major directors and producers, French or foreign. And always genre movies or films with strong concepts. We’re also looking to do more financing and production. It’s important for us to be able to support new projects that will make people want to get out and see them.

THR: Do you remember your first film market?

Fontan Tessaur: It was in Berlin, a long time ago.

THR: What was the first film you sold?

Fontan Tessaur: As far as I can remember, I sold catalog titles La Ciociarra and Cinema, Paradiso.

THR: How has the market changed since Elle Driver was founded?

Fontan Tessaur: Everything is faster, the competition is more intense – we need to hear about and act upon things as early as possible. We need to have more certitude about projects, take on more radical and more original titles and stand out from a market that has become quite conservative. For certain films, we need to create an event surrounding them and be creative in all domains. Today, we’re more and more ahead in terms of financing and co-financing our productions and intervening sometimes right from the script stage or casting. Our ideal situation is a balance – a mix of audacity and prudence by welcoming young talents spanning all genres and also confirmed artists. Up until now, we’ve succeeded in this. We knew how to develop relationships based on confidence with our producers, talents and diverse financial partners. Everything is transparent and the desire to work together is still there at the end of every movie.

THR: What kind of titles in particular are you looking for at this year’s market?

Fontan Tessaur: Any genre as long as it’s good. Big commercial films, auteur films, genre movies, films with strong concepts or just totally insane. We consider everything.

THR: What is a typical day like for you in Paris?

Fontan Tessaur: I spend an average of 10 days per month in Paris, 15 if I’m lucky. I wake up in total fury with my agenda for the day in my head, then try to avoid the morning police best I can on my scooter who could easily charge me with at least 10 possible offenses, make sure to schedule a lunch that lasts for at least one hour because hey, we’re in France after all, spend more than 3 hours on the phone with every time zone possible, respond to at least 100 emails (90 of which are urgent problems), smoke at least 10 cigarettes (I’m trying to quit), stop myself from eating a chocolate bar…then end up eating it later, read at least one script, watch a movie if I can, get in an argument at least a dozen times with everyone on earth, have lunch with a producer, re-read a script, try to finish it, complain about the injustice of this business “I should have gotten that film!” And then try to escape the nighttime police on the way home…