Luc Besson's Film School Faces Closure

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Luc Besson

L’Ecole de la Cite aimed to bring in students from varied backgrounds without the stringent entrance requirements of other, more exclusive, Parisian film schools.

Luc Besson’s cinema school appears to be another casualty of the director’s legal and financial troubles.

In an email sent Monday morning, founding director Laurent Jaudon said that he was leaving the school effective immediately.

“I’m sure our paths will cross soon and, until then, I wish you luck in all your projects,” he wrote. Jaudon also changed his LinkedIn profile to read, “a director without a school but with lots of students.”

The cryptic message follows weeks of speculation after prospective students began to share rejection letters on Twitter last week after being notified that this year there would not be a fall intake.

In a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter, a spokesperson for EuropaCorp said the school will “take advantage of the summer to reorganize and has decided to postpone the recruitment of new students.”

“Because of insufficient state funding and because private donations are not at the necessary level, the school must redefine the conditions for financial balance,” it said.

At this time, students of the fall 2017 intake will not be returning for classes in September.

L’Ecole de la Cite was founded by Besson in 2012 and housed on his massive film studio outside of Paris. The school aimed to bring in students from varied backgrounds without the stringent entrance requirements of other, more exclusive, Parisian films schools. Besson himself was rejected by the top French film schools for being too commercial. The school accepted 30 students per year for a two-year program and was free to attend.

The school has been fully funded by donations, with fashion luxury group Kering, French channel TF1 and camera and lighting companies NextShot and TranspaLux currently listed as partners. CanalPlus, Gaumont, Pathe, channel M6 and bank BNP Paribas were all previously sponsors but have left the project in the last few years, with private funding falling precipitously from 1.8 million euros ($2.1 million) in its first year to 180,000 euros ($210,000) last year. The National Cinema Center and the Ile-de-France regional film body each contributed 200,000 euros ($234,000) this year.

The turmoil at the school follows Besson’s personal and professional problems.

Actress Sand van Roy accused Besson of rape following an encounter at a Paris hotel on May 18. The actress had a role in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and the upcoming Anna, starring Helen Mirren. Van Roy said the night of May 18 was the latest incident in a two-year long abusive relationship.

Following van Roy’s accusations, two other actresses and a casting director came forward with their own accusations in an article for investigative website Mediapart published July 9, though they all remained anonymous. Besson has denied all accusations.

The turmoil at the school also follows the international flop of Besson’s long-awaited sci-fi epic Valerian, which grossed just $225.8 million worldwide after costing upward of $200 million to make. EuropaCorp reported losses totaling nearly $180 million in two consecutive quarters since the film’s release and has laid off 22 workers.

Jaudon did not respond to requests for comment.