In the small world of Luxembourg cinema, Melusine Productions has a fairly unique CV in terms of nominations at major international ceremonies: three at the Oscars, two at the Golden Globes, four at the European Film Awards and five at the Césars, including a statuette won in 2013 for the co-production “Ernest et Célestine”, the adaptation of the work of Gabrielle Vincent.
In the coming weeks, this list may well grow even further. Because the latest addition to the Contern-based animation film company “Wolfwalkers” is well placed to be among the nominees for the next Oscars and Bafta.
But before that, it will already be one of the favorites in the category of best animated film at the 78th edition of the Golden Globes, the event which launches the season of major cinema ceremonies each year. It will be held overnight from Sunday to Monday.
“I have never been seen at Fouquet’s”
“How do we feel a few days before such a deadline? I admit that the ‘people’ side doesn’t interest me too much. I rarely go to these ceremonies. I think I had to go to the Césars only twice, for example. And no one ever saw me at the dinner given at Fouquet’s after the evening, ”launches Stéphan Roelants, CEO of Melusine Productions, with a lot of frankness and a touch of humor. “I know my words can be taken as absolute snobbery. But I don’t feel comfortable in a tuxedo, a cut in my hand. So spending 5,000 to 6,000 euros for three days there, as is the case at the Oscars, is too high a cost in my eyes. What’s more, more often than not, we are not sitting with the floor of ‘stars’, but in a corner. It’s quite uncomfortable. Even more when you know some health concerns like I do. ”
Disney, Pixar … have control over these ceremonies
But in the eyes of Stéphan Roelants, these appointments have two great assets: “On the one hand, they enhance my teams, whether those of Melusine, the production company, or those of Studio 352, which brings together the artistic side. And on the other hand, they allow us to carry out ever more ambitious and daring projects. And that is very important. ” Being nominated is already a victory in itself for him, as the “Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks… have a stranglehold on these ceremonies. Practically sponsoring the event and leading an aggressive policy, ”says Stéphan Roelants.
The CEO of Melusine Productions, Stéphan Roelants, became Luxembourgish in 2020.
(Photo: Edouard Olszewski)
These nominations, and in particular those obtained at the Oscars, have enabled this company, founded in 1997, to create a solid reputation for itself and to carry out projects. “Without the feature film ‘Song of the Sea’ (2014) there would never have been ‘The Breadwinner’ (2017). And without those two, ‘Wolfwalkers’ wouldn’t be here today. And we wouldn’t have caught the eye of Apple… ”he smiles.
“Apple is going all out”
Because the big difference between the latest Melusine Productions and its predecessors, it is there. The presence of the American giant behind the Irish-Luxembourg co-production. “Apple bought the film to offer it on its Apple TV + platform. This gives us a window into 150 countries. And today, they are putting the package in the countryside for the big ceremonies. “
And the presence of the brand with the bitten apple changes everything, or almost, in the perspective of these major ceremonies to come. This time, Melusine and its now usual Irish partner, Cartoon Saloon, will be able to face almost equal to equal the big American productions which accompany them in the list of nominations. Including the two Pixars released in 2020: “Soul” and “Onward” (“En avant” in French).
A real campaign to be carried out
Because if the critics count in obtaining an award (and those surrounding “Wolfwakers” are rave, from New Yorker Magazine to Vanity Fair, via the Hollywood Reporter or the Wall Street Journal), it is the campaign that surrounds a film in the Oscar race that counts. A real political campaign to be carried out. “For our previous films, the Film Fund Luxembourg and its Irish counterpart were helping us. But the firepower is obviously not the same as what Apple can provide. And here, as I said, the American company is playing the game. There are big ‘bilboards’ deployed in New York or on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Interviews with the director (the Irishman Tom Moore from Cartoon Saloon, editor’s note) all over the American press. It’s a big machine that got started. We can win the Golden Globe! ”
At Apple, we believe a lot in the Irish-Luxembourgish animated film.
(Photo: Apple TV screenshot)
As when it comes to Netflix or Amazon Prime, it is impossible to know how much this “firepower” is. Communication is well locked. All of this is padlocked in an armored contract. However, an anecdote told by Stéphan Roelants allows us to get an idea of the scale in which we navigate. “I’ve been to the Oscars twice, including once in 2014. It was the year ‘Frozen’ won. I ended up in a cab with someone from Disney. He knew me a little and we started the discussion. He asked me what our budget was. I understood he was talking about our film. So I answered 9 million. He told me it wasn’t bad at all. I then laughed, retorting that his production amounted to 135 million dollars. And there he told me he was talking about the campaign for the Oscars. With us, it was valued at 800,000 dollars and with them at 8 million… ”, laughs the native of Mons, in Belgium, who acquired Luxembourg citizenship in 2020.
“Close to having reimbursed the Film Fund”
“Wolfwalkers” being one of the first possibilities for Apple (and its young Apple TV + platform) to win a prestigious award in the world of cinema and thus to catch up some of its delay on Disney and Netflix, already awarded in the past, one easily gets a vague idea of the power that this can generate. And from which Melusine Productions could benefit. Like all Luxembourg cinema.
“We tend to say and read that the Film Fund Luxembourg gives money to waste through its grants. In our case, we had received 1.9 million euros. However, today, we are not very far from having reimbursed everything… ”A Golden Globe or an Oscar in the coming days would inevitably bring a little more…