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Nadia Maxwell at Cannes

Film and Moving Image
image Image: CoCreate NZFC

Nadia Maxwell is an Ōtautahi film and television producer and founder of Overactive Imagination based in the Arts Centre. Her previous credits include the feature films HUMAN TRACES which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and REUNION starring Julia Ormond released in NZ and the US. Most recently she produced the docuseries SHEPHERDESS for Sky Originals. She’s just returned from the Marché du Film in Cannes where she was pitching a slate of South Island-based films.

The Marché du Film kicked off in Cannes on 14 May 2024. This year it felt like there was a sense of optimism in the air. Perhaps for me it was wishful thinking, wanting to believe it after what’s been a tough time for independent film. The landscape of film and the habits of filmgoers have put filmmakers under the squeeze these last few years. Throw in the US strikes for good measure and it’s been a disruptive time. Yet still, there was a sense in Cannes that people are trying to figure things out, that maybe we are turning a corner. You have to be foolishly optimistic to survive in this industry at the best of times so on we go!

I was in town pitching director-driven genre. Back in 2018 I received some slate development funding from the New Zealand Film Commission. Applying for that funding, forced me into thinking more deeply about strategy. It takes everything you have and then more to make a film, couple that with raising two kids and there’s often not a lot of time to put your head into strategy. So when I did, I realised that the last few markets I’d been to, when I pitched my genre projects, sales agents leaned forward, when I pitched drama they leant back. I love drama, some of my favourite films are dramas but without serious cast it is very tough to raise finance on them in this market. And so, I made a conscious decision to curate a slate around director-driven genre projects looking to reflect some aspect of humanity back at us, as the best genre does. Fast forward to 2024 and while audiences are down, there is a clearer sense of what is working. Genre is a clear proposition and I’ve never felt that more strongly than this year.

AI was big on the Croisette with multiple markets sessions and Microsoft trying to win us all over with a free bar. I took the drinks but not their platitudes “AI isn’t creative, you are”. Someone joked, we probably all unknowingly consented to our bodies being scanned in return for the free drinks…

The other big takeaway from Cannes this year was that co-production is increasingly the future of independent cinema. The Europeans are pros at co-production, feels like almost everything they do is cobbled together out of multiple territories. The traditional models of financing films are no longer working in the ways they once did and production costs are rising; making co-production, with the like-minded partners, an attractive model. Not without their own complexities of course, but co-production can open up other pathways – and we need every pathway we can get at the moment.

As always on leaving Cannes, I was reminded that cinema is alive and important. Summed up beautifully by this year’s Palme d’Or winner Sean Baker “The world has to be reminded that watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone, while checking emails and half paying attention, is just not the way – although some tech companies would like us to think so. Watching a film with others in a movie theatre is one of the great communal experiences. We share laughter, sorrow, anger, fear and hopefully have a catharsis with our friends and strangers –  and that’s sacred. So I see the future of cinema as where it started: in a movie theatre.”

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