#StorytellingMatters Interview with... Fabrice Puchault, Head of Society and Culture Department at ARTE

Sunny Side of the Doc 2021 aims at helping bring to light talents and stories which question, engage and impact. Through a series of #StorytellingMatters interviews, discover the vision of our most influential partners in the international documentary ecosystem.

Be together! Please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what your company’s main objective at Sunny Side of the Doc.

I’m the Head of the Society and Culture Department, one of the documentary departments at Arte France, the French section of the European culture channel, Arte. Our department co-produces: History documentary films (20th century) as either 90’ one-offs or as 3-6 x 52’ mini-series; 90’ investigative documentaries; 90’ in-depth films by major auteurs; and 52’ society-based films, etc.
Attending Sunny Side of the Doc is first and foremost a way of supporting a valuable initiative, an international and continental market place for documentary. It’s also about trying to find partners to offer Arte’s viewers a range of programmes that open up the world and tell major stories reflecting changes in society.
We are a European broadcaster and so devote special attention to history and major global events. No part of the world is excluded from our co-production policy. Publicly-accessible, powerful stories can emerge from anywhere.

Be positive! What has been your greatest professional accomplishment over the last 12 months? What lead to this success?

Our accomplishments are down to our team and associated filmmakers.
Three things that make us proud: Our 10 x 3’30 animated documentary series Liberated! produced by Ovidie looks at prejudices and taboos around female sexuality. This series generated more than 18 million views in the space of five months via our Arte.tv platform and YouTube channels.
Second, Arte.tv and our network channels generate more than 138 million views per month in France. The channel has transformed into a platform available in six European languages and we have succeeding in reaching a wide range of younger audiences.
And finally, the documentary Flee for which we were the first co-producer on board with Final Cut For Real and Vivement Lundi, which won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at Sundance Film Festival 2021. 


Be inventive! What new strategies are you looking to develop in order to attract international partners as well as provide engaging content in 2021/2022?  


Our media is changing rapidly. We now consider our three editorial offers (Arte.tv, the linear channel Arte, and our network channels) all of equal importance. These three media enable viewers to access our programmes in different ways.

Platformisation, hyperdistribution and Europeanisation are three key elements of Arte’s strategy. Co-production agreements are also becoming essential for putting together a unique offer, as well as intra- and extra-European editorial cooperation agreements. We will undoubtedly place more emphasis on purchasing programmes of international value, and sometimes in priority for our non-linear streaming formats.
All this will be within our specific editorial policy. We’re obviously not looking to compete with super-powerful global digital players, but simply offer a credible alternative by being present where audiences are.


Be aware! To that extent, what will make a good documentary pitch/encounter for your organisation this June? What’s the best way to reach out and start co-creating?


We want to be surprised by powerful projects and original creators. But we’re also looking for a powerful stance and opinions. We’re looking for comprehensive stories no matter where they’re from, as long as they intrigue and capture Franco-German and European audiences. Off-kilter opinions that are open-minded and accessible, offering viewers stories about the complexity and ambiguity of real life, stories with a powerful dramatic element that follow facts and real lives as closely as possible.

There’s no point in offering us a 12x52’ series on tanks and submarines – we’re not the channel for that. Want to get in touch with our team? There’s no secret recipe. The best way is to send us a project in keeping with our editorial guidelines. For a better understanding of what we’re looking for, visit our website in English: arte.tv/en


Be inclusive! How is your organisation stepping up to the challenge of fulfilling a mandate for a diversity of voices and a more inclusive pipeline of upcoming storytellers across the entire production process?


Co-production is indeed a tool for inclusivity.

First, every year we’re increasing the presence of women as filmmakers and directors (which today make up around 40% of our department’s programming). What’s more, over 25% of our programmes are co-produced with countries all over the world, with films from Egypt, Mali, Nigeria, Russia, Taiwan and Chili, made by both male and female filmmakers from these countries.

For example, we joined forces with the Generation Africa initiative lead by Tiny Mungwe and Don Edkins, which features more than 20 films from East and West Africa. The film Zinder by Nigerian director Aïcha Maky, has been met with great success. For French filmmakers, we focus on supporting emerging talent of different genders and origins. Arte sets out to discover a diversity of viewpoints. This is one of the most important elements of our editorial policy and one of the hallmarks of our programming. 


Be inspired! Who would you want to put on the spotlight at Sunny Side of the Doc 2021, for some well-earned recognition? And why?


I don’t really know what “inspired” really means… perhaps rather “engagement”, “develop” (in the photographic sense), “question”, “search”. As Agnès Varda once said: “When making films, I don’t want to show things, but to give people the desire to see.”

That said, if I had to give a name, I would say Alice Diop for her film We, which was awarded with Best Film at Berlinale Encounters 2021. Her film as a utopia shows “us” in a country – France – and as a society which is dislocating under political polarization and the rise of racist nationalism.


Interview  |  #SSD21  |  Storytelling Matters  |  Sunny side of the Doc 2021  |  ARTE  |  Fabrice Puchault  |  Gold Partner



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