In Cannes, literary adaptations make their cinema

Only the microcosm of the Parisian edition had fun counting: in 2021, Gallimard will climb the steps of 74 nine timese Cannes film festival. Never seen. The authors edited or translated by the house have inspired a good number of directors, between Arnaud Desplechin, with Deception, after Philip Roth, Nanni Moretti, with Three floors adapted from the novel by Eshkol Nevo, François Ozon, who chose Everything went well, by Emmanuèle Bernheim, Paul Verhoeven with Benedetta, from the biography signed Judith C. Brown.

Also on the Croisette: Compartment n ° 6, by Juho Kuosmanen, based on the novel by Rosa Liksom, Mothering Sunday, Eva Husson, adaptation of Mother’s Sunday, of Graham Swift, or My wife’s story, by Ildiko Enyedi, based on the novel by Milan Füst. Without forgetting, in the selection of films devoted to the environment, The Snow Leopard, by Marie Amiguet, who accompanied Sylvain Tesson to the Tibetan highlands to hunt down this elusive animal …

“Bringing a book to the screen is often a guaranteed audience for producers”, Nathalie Piaskowski, Executive Director of SCELF

Behind the scenes, in Cannes, there is a market unknown to the general public, that of the purchase of rights between publishers and film producers, sometimes commissioned by directors. A complex game, often long-term, where purchase options can be asked or renewed each year, negotiations started, but not always concluded.

According to Nathalie Piaskowski, director general of the Civil Society of French-language publishers (SCELF), which receives remuneration linked to film adaptations and their distribution, before distributing them to publishers, “Bringing a book to the screen is often a guarantee of audience for producers, since 40% of feature films totaling more than 500,000 cinema admissions in France are literary adaptations”. “A result that even rises to 50% for those who have exceeded the 2 million tickets sold in the cinema”, she adds. In addition, adapting a book for the screen generally takes two years less than writing a screenplay from scratch.

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Mme Piaskowski specifies that, “Of the 680 films that are released each year in theaters in France, around 20% are literary adaptations”. Of this total, she says, 30% concern works in the French language. The prices for the transfer of rights vary, depending on the notoriety of the authors, from 25,000 euros to 500,000 euros. “It is the result of a negotiation between a producer and a publisher”, explains the director of SCELF. No scale, therefore, only the law of the market applies.

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