Jacques Bidou studied Philosophy until he became trapped for life inside the world of cinema, settling on the essential side of production. Bidou is the second guest of the Masterclasses this year and we listen to him give a lesson on ‘The Producer of the Creative Documentary’. We went on a trip with this veteran bodyguard of more than 110 films, including with filmmakers such as Ridley Scott, Rithy Panh, Marc Recha, Patricio Guzmán, Massoud Bakhski, Tsai Ming-Liang and a number of other cinema greats.
“Our first film was called African Chronicles which captured the unique moment in which it was possible to vote in South Africa in 1994. We were interested in that inner look of local people in a very political project. Our production company, JBA Production, is closely linked to the politics in which our generation has been very committed,” said Bidou, after sharing with us a sequence of the film that shows the magical moment lived by blacks in South Africa when they finally voted freely against apartheid.
“Our work is a great journey in which the relationship with the creator is fundamental. When we start a project, we do it starting from the desire of the creator, that ball of energy that we want to expand. How do we work together?”
He related from the importance of ‘the first meeting’ between filmmaker and producer and gave the example of the then young Cambodian director, Rithy Panh, who presented himself accompanied with 300-pages of his idea. “We spent three intense days to see where he was. We both knew that a movie was going to come from there.”
“Producing cinema is a journey,” he reiterates. “It’s getting on a sailboat during a time in which you’re confined and you have to be attentive to that commitment to creation that is linked to the desire of the filmmaker. Therefore, it must be strong because the worst thing for a producer would be to have to end up making the film better than his own director,” he notes ironically.
He continued to set out the guidelines that those of his profession should have, such as “Desire, because we have to convince and face up to many sharks…the willingness to learn and avoid adopting the attitude of the tourist who walks about without really being interested in anything, because you have to be humble,” and “ethics and generosity are fundamental.” In that sense, anyone racist or xenophobic shouldn’t bother to bring him a project. Bidou will not produce it because in his code, “if there is no ethical position, there is no film.”
He went on to the second phase covering the development of the project, where the protection of the filmmaker is very important because it is the moment that demands more time, during the loneliness of the long-distance runner where you have to write, to think. Hence, the next maneuver in the journey of the sailboat is to discover the road to production, to look for the equipment, to establish the time, to find the places. “It is when the complicity between filmmaker and producer is created”, says Bidou.
He advised “not to let the director leave with an empty backpack because the more knowledge he has, the more freedom he will have,” in the same way that he indicated that a filmmaker must be calm. This utopian dream can test your nerves. There is more than one case.
With complicity, the assumption of an ethical project, with transparency in the process, and that look of who, without a doubt, knows that I am embarking on this adventure with you, Bidou has made it possible for us to be a few thousand, perhaps millions, that have enjoyed some of the movies he has produced. A fine journey indeed.