‘We Guarantee Independence’  : Mediawan’s Elisabeth d’Arvieu on Key to Studio’s Success

Mediawan Pictures managing director Elisabeth d’Arvieu knows movie magic when she sees it

Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 17:31:37 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 17:31:37

Mediawan Pictures managing director Elisabeth d’Arvieu knows movie magic when she sees it.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival should prove particularly festive for Mediawan Pictures managing director Elisabeth d’Arvieu. With five in-house productions premiering in the official selection and another in Critics’ Week, the exec and her team will hit the Croisette with cause for celebration.

As an ardent cinephile, she bolstered an extracurricular passion for movies while getting an MBA from Baruch College in New York. She still takes in a film a day.

The Cannes celebration promises to start early for Mediawan, kicking off with Quentin Dupieux’s festival opener “The Second Act,” then Palme d’Or contending Hearts” from Gilles Lellouche and Kirill Serebrennikov’s “Limonov: The Ballad of Eddie,” the epic “The Count of Monte-Cristo” screening out of competition and Un Certain Regard player “Le Royaume” fromemerging talent Julien Colonna.

When taken as a whole, the strong showing nicely reflects the group’s wider ambitions, from backing idiosyncratic auteurs to banking on blockbuster spectacles to placing bets on promising new voices.

“The common denominator is talent,” d’Arvieu tells Variety. “We are here to support and accompany all kinds of talent across a rich diversity of genres. We back a broad and rich spectrum, looking to reach wide audiences with stories that touch hearts.”

While ownership stakes in Hugo Sélignac’s Chi-Fou-Mi Prods. and Dimitri Rassam’s Chapter 2 brought together the large Cannes slate, to get a fuller sense for Mediawan’s ambitions, look back to last month’s CinemaCon. It was there that execs from Mediawan’s Plan B Entertainment previewed upcoming pics like Bong Joon Ho’s “Mickey 17” and Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.”

The acquisition of Plan B in late 2022 has also brought new constellations into Mediawan’s orbit, with upcoming projects including the George Clooney-Brad Pitt thriller “Wolfs,” which is slated for release later this year, and a still-shooting Formula 1-set sports drama toplined by Pitt and Javier Bardem, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Joseph Kosinski.

Both titles are produced through Apple Studios, while Plan B’s “3 Body Problem” continues to draw eyes on Netflix — an arrangement redolent of Mediawan’s promise to partners. In France, for instance, Chi-Fou-Mi has maintained a long-standing partnership with Studiocanal, which has resulted in critical and commercial successes like Cédric Jimenez’s “The Stronghold” and “November,” as well as Jeanne Herry’s recent César-winner “All Your Faces,” while Chapter 2 still works closely with Pathé, delivering some of France’s most ambitious movies such as last year’s “The Three Musketeers” two-part saga.

“We guarantee independence,” d’Arvieu explains. “We ourselves are an independent group with no exclusivity arrangements” to any one streamer or platform or studio. “So we can help develop and finance without any fixed or forced distribution structure. That’s an enormous asset for attracting talent and creative development: We offer editorial, creative and financial freedom.”

Producers within the Mediawan ecosystem echo that sentiment. Describing d’Arvieu as a “beast who is on top of everything and -

who lets nothing get past her,” Misfits Entertainment co-founder Ian Bonhôte says “there’s no in-between” when dealing with Mediawan. “They’ve been very ballsy and they’ve been very proactive,” says Bonhôte, who founded his company with Andee “Dee” Ryder. Chi-Fou-Mi’s Sélignac says he’s benefited from easy access to both Capton and d’Arvieu to procure advice and feedback, along with a “complete freedom,” as well as resources to “build events around releases.”

“I like to have them look at scripts before I send them out to prospective partners,’’ Sélignac says. They “are so plugged into the international market, they give me some great insight and occasionally they can even tell if they know of a similar project that’s being made elsewhere!”

He also notes that Capton and d’Arvieu are ever ready to bet on unique propositions, like self-financing Dupieux’s recent “Yannick,” which became a box office hit and scored record admissions for the idiosyncratic auteur.

Chapter 2’s Dimitri Rassam, meanwhile, joked that Capton’s career path made the chairman perfectly bilingual — “fluent in independent producer speak and in corporate” — and that d’Arvieu can deftly adapt to cater to the specific needs of each production banner. Over at Palomar, managing director Nicola Serra says Mediawan has allowed the leading Italian outfit to expand its international scope and to forge ties with U.S. players such as CAA, which is representing international rights on Bille August’s “The Count of Monte Cristo” — a premium English-language series to complement the French swashbuckler premiering in Cannes.

After signing a joint-production deal with “The Lives of Others” producer Leonine Studios in 2020, Mediawan has now acquired a controlling interest in the German film and TV giant, while d’Arvieu tells Variety that her group sees future acquisition opportunities in the English, Nordic and Asian markets, adding to the group’s 80 production company partnerships. (“Not one of them has left,” she adds. “That will happen, of course, but we have a very high retention rate.”)

Today, as the ink still dries on many of those acquisition contracts, d’Arvieu and her team are already exploring synergies among their various holdings. To wit, Mediawan recently set up an in-house co-production between France’s 24 25 and Italy’s Palomar to adapt the bestseller “Fresh Water for Flowers” for the big screen.

“We have a literary scouting service that scours the whole market,” d’Arvieu says. “So we can offer our partners and subsidiaries this market intelligence, first detecting IPs and then supporting the development, encouraging our partners to be as ambitious as they want.

“At such a challenging time for the market, and with many in the U.S. once again looking abroad, the ability to assemble international casts, to shoot in Europe, and to finance and assist through integrated co-production partners gives us a substantial competitive advantage,” she points out.

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