EAVE EXCLUSIVE Interview with Didar Domehri

EAVE group leader Didar Domehri about the COVID-19 crisis and what film producers can do now

© Geraldine Aresteanu


- Our daily lives have changed enormously due to the corona virus. What would you do at the moment if the times were normal?


 I would be doing a lot if things were like they used to be. I would be in the middle of the shooting of a film called KING by French director David Moreau. Actually our first day of shooting was the day just before the lockdown. I would be also at the end of the preparation for the film À L’OMBRE DES FILLES by Etienne Comar whose shooting was supposed to start by the end of April. And I would be finishing the post-production of two films: PETITE FLEUR by Santiago Mitre and MEMORY HOUSE by Joao Paulo Miranda. And I would hopefully be enjoying the success of the theatrical release of SOUS LES ÉTOILES DE PARIS by Claus Drexel. But of course this release didn’t happen and will be delayed for a couple of months. So actually I would have had a very busy month and the corona virus crisis is a very big shock of course for all of us.

- What does the lockdown mean for your work on these projects?

 I had to rethink with all my different partners a new schedule of preparation, shooting, post-production and release of all my films. And this, in a world of science fiction – when we don’t know when we will be de-confined, when the frontiers will re-open, when we will get out of our houses, when we will be back in business and when the lockdown of
each country will stop. And when you co-produce with other countries the frontiers are a major problem.
What I had to do first was to ensure the safety of the technicians who are working with us on the current productions. Then we had to stop shooting. I have worked a lot with the French union SPI, the Syndicat des Producteurs Indépendants, that has been helping us producers to put in place all the measures announced by the government. Hopefully, the state will sustain part of the salaries for a few weeks. This public aid will be very helpful, given that the technicians have not been able to work during the corona crisis.

- Is there any financial support you can get for your company and the film team by f.e. the French government, the EU or other?

 First of all, the CNC, the Centre National du Cinéma, has adopted new emergency measures for authors and companies to cope with the covid crisis. And there is an  emergency fund that has been established for creators. The CNC has also authorized an exceptional distribution via pay per view on demand for films that were released just before the crisis. Not all distributors have chosen this option. Many of them want to wait for the cinemas to open in order to re-release their films.
Important also are the funds for the authors. The government also announced bank loans with very interesting rates for companies that are in need. All these measures have been announced, but their implementation is another thing, of course. This is what we are now experiencing in real life.

- What can producers in general do in this situation? How can you find a way through the crisis caused by the virus?

 We have to look not only at the present situation but also at the future. Film insurance is a very big issue. The insurance policies don’t cover the interruption of the shooting beause of the corona crisis and so the companies don’t pay for the downtime costs. This is a matter for the film industry in the whole world. And the problem is also: what will the future be like? Are the insurance companies intending to cover our production costs. So we really need to speak to them, we need to pressurize our government to speak with the insurance companies so that they agree to cover us when we are going back to shooting again. Currently we are thinking about new protocols that are mapping a list of new safety concerns and solutions and trying to figure out every scenario that needs to be addressed before we can go back to shooting. And I think this is what we all producers should be doing now, working on these different scenarios for the future: what can we do to ensure the safety of our technicians, of the actors, of everyone. We have to prepare the future now. Producers should join forces and hammer strict guidelines of how to make content for the future as quickly as possible because there will be a grey zone from the end of the containment until we can go back to normal. And I think we are not going to be able to shoot like we used to. So we really need to work on new guidelines and new safety measures.  

- So when do you think you can start over again?  

The most optimistic are saying that we can go back to shooting in July or August and the most pessimistic say it might be October or even December. And this is more or less the same in all the countries. We don’t know when the frontiers will open again and when we will be able to go back to work. We are doing crazy schedules and we don’t even know what we are talking about.
And the problem is that the directors we work with want answers and they want security, they want schedules, they need deadlines. So I think in the meantime we should try to develop our projects, still try to finance our films, and work from home as much as we can.

- Can you observe that there is a good time now for the creation, writing and the development of new projects?

I think so, yes. Even if the directors I was talking to were very stressed out by the situation, they can really concentrate now. I think they are back on track and I think this is good for writing and developing projects. It’s a good time to think. It is the time to see what kind of films we want to make after the covid crisis and to take the time to reflect on the DNA of the films that we are producing. And this is always a time that we are lacking and missing while we are running all over festivals and travelling all the time. So we should take advantage of this time.

- You are EAVE group leader. Is there anything that EAVE can do for its graduates and participants?

Producers should join forces. Not only in one territory but in all the countries. Probably the EAVE network could help providing them with information on the different measures taken by each country and try to list the initiatives from all the different countries and inspire them to help get back on track. Because everything will be different after the end of the containment. And we should share the information each of us can gather. I think the keyword is to play collective. We can‘t go through this crisis alone.  

Page published 30 April 2020. Updated 27 April 2022.

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