Interview with Jacques Delacoux, CEO of Transvideo

By Jean-Noël Ferragut, AFC and Vincent Jeannot, AFC

par Jean-Noël Ferragut, Vincent Jeannot

[ English ] [ français ]

An encounter with Jacques Delacoux, one of the AFC’s associate members who has remained as genuine and likeable as the first day his company, Transvideo, became an associate member of our association. An indefatigable globetrotter, he attends international trade fairs, workshops, festivals, and master classes all over the world. He opened the doors of his company in Verneuil-sur-Avre to us, in order to tell us about the company’s beginnings, the equipment it manufactures, his perspective on his profession, his encounters, his choices, and to sum it up, just what cinema means to him.

Jean-Noël Ferragut : When was Transvideo created ?

Jacques Delacoux : I created Transvideo in 1985, when I was 27 years old. Originally, it was a company that made special modifications to products made by manufacturers such as Sony, Panasonic, Bell & Howell, Toshiba, Bang & Olufsen, Pioneer, and others. A lot of them were Asian products that didn’t have all of the requisite functions. I would add SECAM capability, for example, because SECAM was an absolutely extraordinary method of broadcasting colour over the airwaves. I developed systems that made it possible to read or record SECAM K7s, thereby making it possible to receive French programs in countries that previously could not. This taught me a lot about electronics, because most manufacturers used integrated circuits whose layout-design I was able to get my hands on. That gave me a lot of good information on how they worked.

Sony device modified for Pal/Secam by Transvideo - Photo JN Ferragut
Sony device modified for Pal/Secam by Transvideo
Photo JN Ferragut

In a very short time, we signed partnership agreements with companies like Sony and Panasonic for specific markets like duplication. As far as I know, we are the only company in the world that was authorized by Sony and Panasonic to put its name alongside theirs on their products (“Pal/Secam by Transvideo”). These were professional VHS duplicators for which I developed applications in order to add SECAM capability. I went to Japan with my product under my arm to show it to Japanese engineers and have the application approved. In all, Transvideo transformed 50-60 thousand duplicators ; we used to receive the machines by the container and would add SECAM to them.

It was a great learning experience because these products didn’t exist on the market, their manuals were often lacking in detail, and the results and quality were fantastic. At the time, 100 % of Buena Vista’s SECAM-zone catalogue was duplicated using Transvideo products, including our transcoders, which I had developed in order to flesh out the company’s product range.
We did everything in house, including sometimes the manufacturing and circuit engraving. Until recently, we cabled and soldered the circuit boards in-house. We had cabling personnel and a wave-soldering machine. The arrival of surface-mount technology (SMT) put an end to our in-house cabling operations because I didn’t want to make the investment in upgrading to the new technology.
Because of the cost of running a business in France, we had to determine what was the main business we wanted to develop and preserve within our company. Today, printed circuits have more than twelve layers with frequencies well above 3 GHz, tracks tuned to those frequencies, and miniaturization such that the components can hardly be seen. Very few manufacturers are capable of manufacturing this type of circuitry.
Today, we create our products on the computer, mostly on Macs, using specialized programs. Our company is unique in having kept circuit board design in-house. Circuitry design has become an art.

Vincent Jeannot : You are very experienced in electronics. What led you to begin making monitors ?

J.D : The market for the modification of products manufactured by others was limited and not viable in the long-term. In a past life, I had experience as a cameraman. Between the ages of 18 and 25, I had a lot of different jobs, some of which were related to film. I was a cameraman, I did silver-process photography, I’ve been lucky enough to have had Éclair 16 and 35 cameras between my hands. I think I was infected by the image-making virus, and my attraction to objects that create images was boundless, from the lens to the mechanics of the machine itself. But more than that, I wanted to make images myself. The fact that my vision has been steadily declining is doubtlessly the main reason behind my attraction to light, although I am only now conscious of it.
When I was a camera operator, I was really frustrated by the technical means we had at our disposal, especially the previewing monitors, which gave an image that was close to what had been recorded, but didn’t seem to me to be trustworthy in real-life conditions and I wanted to make camera visors with CRT monitors. Because that period was complicated by the many harmonisations that were taking place within Europe, I decided to give up on the idea.

I have always had a very good relationship with the Japanese. In general, I have learned a lot from the wonderful people I have met in Japan. One day, while I was at Toshiba, engineers showed me little displays and told me they absolutely didn’t know what they might be used for. I saw in these LCD displays a wonderful opportunity to make portable devices designed for the image-making community. They told me that the technology was purely experimental and would never be finalized, and that these little displays had no future besides equipping Pachinko machines.

V.J : Pachinko is a sort of upright electronic billiard machine, right ?

J.D : It’s an upright Japanese pinball machine. Because I am rather persistent, I wouldn’t leave them alone about it, and they finally accepted to sell them to me, without any guarantees and without any technical support. That is how I made my first 5-inch professional monitor, the LCM05. The concept was innovative and interesting for its time. It was a very lightweight yet extremely robust, modular system that let people see images outdoors in full sunlight without having to put their heads under a black hood. It was an important step because besides using special phosphorus tubes, which were horribly expensive and fragile, it was impossible to see images when there was any sort of light around.
When the first monitors came out, they weren’t a success in France because nobody wanted to use them, not even the TV channels, they all sent us packing.

V.J : Why ?

J.D : Generally because France is an extremely conservative country with its own “establishment” and has a very hard time calling itself into question. I was told : “Yes, that’s nice, it looks impressive, but if it’s so great, then how can you explain that Sony hasn’t made one yet ?” That was their irrefutable argument, and was generally followed by their self-contented laughter ; and I would leave, with my monitor under my arm…
I had the choice between giving up or trying to give it a go elsewhere. I began not very far away, in Belgium, where I had more success with the RTBF’s TV camera operators. But it wasn’t enough to keep the company going.

Then, I went to the United States along with some English people with whom I was already doing business in duplication. They told me, “listen, your monitor looks great, go show it at the NAB. We’ve got a stand there, just come and set yourself up, and you’ll see what happens.” Indeed, I didn’t get to see much because I found myself in a completely oversized world. It was my first discovery of both the United States and the NAB.
The next year, I had my own stand that I manned all by myself, and was incapable of managing the crowds of people who came. One day, someone came by and asked me for 1,000. I didn’t believe him, so I didn’t even bother answering him. I was still too used to the French way of doing things.

Then, people I met in the cinema world told me : “But this is what we’ve always been waiting for, because we have nothing on the camera that lets us all look at an image at the same time.” They were using microscopic screens like that found on the Moviecam, for example, which were good but extremely fragile. They absolutely wanted my product ! Cinematographers like Michael Ballhaus personally purchased the product. Panavison operators, too. I met Nolan Murdock, the Business Development Manager at Panavision at the time. They were working on integrating the Platinum’s video “viewfinders”. They put me on the project in a wonderfully charming American way, saying, “If you’re capable, do it, and we’ll buy it ! If not, no hard feelings.”

We spent a rather laborious day trying to put the idea of a video monitor on paper. I can honestly say that I couldn’t understand half of what they were saying and they could doubtlessly understand even less of what I was saying. I had learned to speak English with the Japanese, but with the Americans I had a really hard time !
Upon leaving, I said “I am going to make something, I’ll be back to see you in a month and if you like it, we’ll start from there.” They really laughed at me. They said, “Yeah, with you French people, there’s never any problem ! Yeah, right, in a month ! We’ll see !”
And a month later, I came back with my little monitor. They were delighted, it was less than a fourth of the volume they had been expecting, and we had far exceeded their specifications.

With the help of Panavision, which was a leader at the time, we began to market them and we sold a lot of them in the United States. Especially thanks to them, our equipment was used on feature-length films around the globe.
In the United States, I was pleasantly surprised to meet extremely competent professionals, who were also extremely down-to-earth, easy-going and generally kind and willing. The same goes for most of the legendary manufacturers I have met. To me, this is something extremely important, it is something fundamental, and it drew me towards this profession rather than another. It is collective creativity that interests me.

V.J : Didn’t you want to become an expat in the US ?

J.D : Yes, I did. I lived between Los Angeles and France for four years. I came back for personal reasons : it wasn’t easy to manage with my two children living in France. Also, here, at Transvideo, there were people who I missed. I didn’t have the funds to create a new company over there.
In fact, I’m highly very dissatisfied with the conditions in which I am currently forced to work, and with the conditions of survival that have been imposed on my company. It is extremely difficult to get by in France for a small industrial company like ours, because it is a complicated environment that is extremely hostile to growth and development. Everything is too complicated and involved, and we are therefore forced to concentrate our energy on a lot of things that are perfectly irrelevant to our business. There is a lot of wasted energy, and it becomes absolutely intolerable when you compare with how things are done elsewhere. It might work if we were in a totally closed market, but that’s no longer the way things are. In any case, globalization is absolute, and whether we like it or not, we’re on completely globalized markets and faced with competitors who don’t play by the same rules as we do.
We can live in our little complicated world if we can’t see beyond its borders. However, that’s not possible when our scope is global, because the Koreans, the Chinese, and the Americans have a simple, pro-enterprise attitude that doesn’t exist in France. Without wanting to make generalizations, of course, while I might criticise Americans for focusing on work and on nothing else, that’s also what makes their success, because one hundred per cent of their energy is focused on work.

JN.F : How many people work at Transvideo ?

J.D : Currently, there are twenty of us. The people who work at Transvideo have changed. When we mostly did manufacturing, there were about forty of us, and even more if you take the temp workers into account. Nowadays, most of the staff is engineers who do product development.

Programming R&D Laboratory - Photo JN Ferragut
Programming R&D Laboratory
Photo JN Ferragut

I personally came to realize that my job wasn’t the same anymore. I wasn’t creating anything anymore, I wasn’t doing anything but manage.
So I said to myself : “You’ve got to make a choice, and rather than trying to achieve reasonable growth from a managerial perspective, I choose to create the products I want to create for the people with whom I want to work.”

And I decided to stop working with people who I couldn’t stand. I decided that my golden rule would be never to work with assholes ! First of all, it’s not good for your health. Second of all, those sorts of people take up a lot of your time and don’t give you a lot in return. Third of all, they generally prevent you from having the opportunity of working with good sorts of people. That’s the advice I often give to people who complain about the people they work with. I tell them : “It’s not complicated ! There’s an easy solution ! Leave ! If you only work for assholes, you’ll never work for good people, that’s for sure !” I often tell that to young assistants and stereographers who complain about what some productions ask of them.

In any job I’ve ever had, as soon as someone started to make my life hell, as soon as I stopped enjoying myself or started wondering why I was there, which are about the same thing, I always left, and that is why I ended up creating Transvideo. What makes things maybe a bit more complicated in France is that because of saying “yes” to everything, we’ve lost our freedom to say “no”…
Creating Transvision has allowed me to meet exceptional people throughout the world and to learn a lot from them. One of the best experiences of my life was the 3D adventure I had with Alain Derobe. He was a man with a true vision. It was sometimes hard to keep up with his thoughts because they were in perpetual movement.

We met on the closing night of the Micro Salon. Seeing the 3DView monitor that I had set up on my stand, he asked me if I could manufacture his rigs for him. I told him that I had enough work with my own products and advised him to ask some other stand. He got really angry and asked me if I could at least add a few functions to the 3DView. I told him that I could do that with no problem if I understood what he wanted, but for the moment, that wasn’t the case. He began explaining his theory on relief, but because I was tired, I told him that if he was interested in the project, I would think about it and we would have to meet again. While leaving, I said to myself, that man, he’s on to something, he might not be as unpleasant as he was trying to come across !

Alain Derobe and Jacques Delacoux (AFC Micro Salon 2012 - Paris) - DR
Alain Derobe and Jacques Delacoux (AFC Micro Salon 2012 - Paris)

Then, we had a telephone conversation. He started by asking me whether I would ask him for money. I told him that if I could understand what he wanted, I wouldn’t ask him for anything because if it was useful to him, it would also be useful to others…I told him that in the 25 years I have been manufacturing products, we’ve always done them on our own without ever charging anyone for their ideas, and that was probably why we are still in business !
Then, he began telling me again about his theories on 3D and I still couldn’t understand anything, until one night where I suddenly woke up in the night because I had finally understood what “Scenic Box” and “Natural Depth” were. I realized that the guy was wonderful and that he was totally right !
One morning, I called him very early and told him that I had finally understood what he was talking about, and that I was going to make him a grid the next week because I thought it was what he needed. I actually called him two days later to tell him that I had something for him. And there, he was like John [sic] in the Chocolate Factory, when he’s up to his neck in chocolate…

He began filming Pina with Wenders. He was very excited, and we continued to develop the product to give him what he thought he needed to shoot the film. The death of Pina Bausch was a catastrophe. The team working on Pina wanted to finish the project anyway and make it into a tribute to her life, and Wenders went along with it. We updated the project on a nearly daily basis, it was very intense.

Wim Wanders and Alain Derobe on "Pina" set - DR
Wim Wanders and Alain Derobe on "Pina" set

Then, upon its release, the miracle occurred. It was absolutely astonishing to me, Wenders had understood how to make 3D into an emotional tool, and that was just extraordinary. I consider the film to be a masterpiece and am very glad that we were able to help Alain make it possible. It was something we did for free, but it was really useful.
We worked passionately together for five years and did lots of things together. Today, with the latest generations, we’ve really succeeded in making a unique and extraordinary product, even though it’s been copied over and over again by others, including our famous “Derobe’s Grid”.

JN.F : As often happens with good products…

J.D : That’s hardly a consolation, because I believe there are two types of companies. There are companies that innovate, and they are few and far between, and then there are companies that live off of others’ innovations, and there are lots of those. There’s something absolutely terrible that’s happening nowadays, which is that people like us are suffering tremendously, despite the fact that we received an Oscar because the Academy judged our products innovative and unique and said that they had changed the film industry.
If I take “so-called technical” industries such as rental companies, until not so long ago, they were our closest partners, both in product design and use. The reason we created electronic products that last for 20 or 25 years was for them, so that they could make a profit on their investment.

Now, most of them prefer to buy the copies instead of the originals. What goes for me also goes for the people who make other sorts of products for the cinema, such as lighting products, we’re all feeling it hard. You work for months, sometimes years, to create a new product, people ask you to make offers, and then in the end they go and buy the copies of your products and put them on the market saying, “Well, it’s the same thing !” That kills you inside and slowly kills the business, because we need to finance new innovation, we don’t make consumer products that we can amortize over millions of items sold, we don’t sell our products in supermarkets !
Today, when TV or cinema operators put Transvideo on their list, and when they receive a copy of our equipment, they are told, “If you keep bugging us with Transvideo, you won’t be working on so-and-so’s next project.” It’s abnormal, it’s violent, and it’s all just to pass off goods that are seen as less expensive because of their obsession with immediate profits, it’s just like Stiglitz’s “Freefall”. We suffer enormously because of this attitude and because of the constant subletting of equipment that is becoming a problem for all manufacturers. If we don’t have a market, we can’t afford innovate.

As concerns Transvideo and the Rainbow HD, we went back to the drawing board in September because we could no longer see where we were going with it. We said, “we’re not going to do some sort of dog and pony show. What good will it be to the end users ? We work for people who mostly couldn’t care less about electronics, signals, standards, bells and whistles and gizmos…They just don’t want to hear about that kind of stuff.”

But they need tools, and because image sharing has become commonplace on sets, we can’t just give everyone the same tools.
We need different monitors for the operator, for the focus pullers, for the Steadicam operators, for the script supervisors, it’s getting too complicated to handle.
And then the idea of a game of cards has emerged, a different card for each different profession. The users will be able to choose their profession when they boot up the monitor and then they’ll have a product that’s been especially configured for them. What we’re really eager to have is feedback from each of the different professions that will use the monitor.

V.J : So it’s still in development ?

J.D : It will be on the market beginning in February 2013, but we’re late because we’re still filing patents.

V.J : So we’ll get to see it at the Micro Salon.

J.D : The Micro Salon will be great this year, because we’ll get to present the Rainbow concept in three versions : a simpler model designed for TV camera operators, and other models designed for the cinema with brighter displays, bubbles for Steadicam operators, and they will be all-inclusive “packages” without options.

V.J : People must really appreciate the quality of your products.

J.D : It’s very difficult to judge the quality of an image. Generally, we’re talking about nearly imperceptible and immeasurable differences because images are complicated. We are very attached to ensuring that what comes out of here is the most faithful copy possible of what the camera has recorded.
It’s of utmost importance that our monitors not create artefacts besides those that the camera might have created. If you see jaggedness on the image, people need not to have to wonder if it’s coming from the camera or the screen.

We have products that are practically in real time (there is less than one frame of delay, and we’re always synchronized with the incident signal).
That means that if the camera is filming 24 frames per second, the screen will be 24 or 48 fps, but will always be synchronized with what is coming out of the camera. If you’re working at 60 fps, we will display at 60.
Most monitors just show at the frame rate that they can, and there will be artefacts between the two images because images will be added that don’t exist, or others that do exist will be deleted. Same goes for the “scaling” function ; some monitors offer zooms beyond the initial resolution, which is ridiculous because pixels that don’t exist will be displayed. In fact, lots of products display an image that doesn’t exist and, in any case, which is neither the image that you’ve recorded nor the image coming out of your camera.

That’s a partial justification for why our products are complex and have so much electronics inside, because we have a huge amount of “processes” so the end result can be what we demand. When you add the connectivity with intelligent lenses, for example, well that’s what makes them unique. A lot of brands use processors designed for TVs.
They’ve tried to optimize to make the images pleasing to the eye. Our job isn’t to make the images pleasing to the eye, it’s to display them in their purest possible form to the people who have made them and who know that they are looking at their images in an unadulterated form.

V.J : Attention also needs to be paid to the connectors and cables that are part of the chain.

J.D : That’s part of the “package”. We make our cables ourselves to be sure that our clients will have the proper cables. So much equipment is damaged today via the connectors.
Before, people didn’t care when their “video assist” didn’t work, because you could always film without video feedback.
Today, it’s completely different, because the junction between a camera and a digital recorder is capital. It would be unthinkable on a contemporary digital set to have that type of problem.
Our cables cost about thirty euros each, but they are cables that have double weaving and connectors that are specially designed according to our specifications. They’re the top of the line in terms of cables, but unfortunately they’re also the most expensive. The cables are tested one by one both in terms of frequency and material properties ; they’re what we include with our products, so yes, they’re a bit more expensive !

V.J : It would be like driving with bad tyres…

J.D : Some rental companies make their cables themselves, but they don’t have the ability to test them. It’s hard to make good crimped connections today. Other companies buy them on the Internet and end up with cables that are made God knows where and that cost less than a euro apiece, but they might not work. Others damage the central connector of BNC plugs because they’re the wrong diameter ! Some best practices still haven’t been widely adopted today : before plugging in a cable, you always ought to look inside, and these are automatisms that people who work in cinema still haven’t become accustomed to.

V.J : I hope that there still exist a number of operators and assistants who share the pleasure of working with quality tools. For me, when I connect your BNC cable into a plug, I can see the difference. I feel that it’s locked in properly, that the fit is precise, and that is a guarantee that it will work properly.

J.D : We’re extraordinarily lucky to have been brought up in the idea of excellence. I’m not especially pro- or anti-American, but I learned something wonderful from them, which is efficiency. They are terribly efficient in all they do. I met a guy at Clairmont whose job might not seem exciting : he cleaned the cables ! Whether the cable was one meter or fifty meters long, he cleaned each one throughout with a special solvent that didn’t remove what was printed on them, but did remove the gaffers’ fingerprints. The cables were each tested, checked, and cleaned. That makes a difference on a set when there’s no technical uncertainty and it’s also a question of respect. Without citing any names, there are some Parisian rental companies whose equipment looks like it came out of a trashcan. That’s just not normal.

V.J : You must have been happy to receive the Oscar !

J.D : I was happy about it for a lot of different reasons. First of all, I never thought that I would receive an Oscar. What really touched me was the fact that a lot of people from the Academy said, “But we never understood why you hadn’t asked for one before, because if anyone deserves one, you do !”
The presentation that you have to make to the Academy requires a huge amount of work. You’ve got to empty out all your closets to show everything you’ve ever done. Afterwards, I said to myself : “It’s incredible. We’ve participated in so many films, we have made so many products, we’ve worked on so many different projects, and we’ve met so many people !” I was stupefied by the absolutely mind blowing amount of work that Transvideo has produced over the last 25 years !

So the first part of the Technical Oscars is the typically nice and friendly American way of saying to you : “We’re glad you’ve done so much for us, we know you did it all for us, and we’re grateful to you.” It’s true that it’s not as publicised as the regular Oscars, and that it’s a small group of people, but it really, deeply touched me.
Through others’ eyes, you understand the true value of the work you’ve done, which I had never realized before. It gave me a bit more zeal to continue making unique products and reminded me that the reason I go on is because I enjoy being with people like that.

Amongst the wonderful people I met, there is Denny Clairmont who sponsored me for the Oscars and who has always trusted me. Nobody could have predicted that a guy like that would trust a weirdo like me who showed up in 1990-1995 in the United States saying, “Here you go, I’m going to put gizmos on your cameras !” A thought also goes out to all the people at Panavision in Woodland Hills.
Clint Eastwood helped me prepare for the Oscars with touching kindness. While filming Changeling, he had a little film made showing how he used the Transvideo monitor we specially created for him. On the day of the ceremony, he was shooting too far away from Los Angeles to be able to make the trip just for the evening. He sent me a little note to say that he was sorry that he couldn’t attend the ceremony, “because generally people really like to see me walk down the red carpet !” [Laughter]

Cint Eastwood with wireless Transvideo Monitor on "Flags of Our Fathers" set - DR
Cint Eastwood with wireless Transvideo Monitor on "Flags of Our Fathers" set

When I next saw Eastwood in Paris, he thanked me in a way that was so real and that was so normal to him, but which really meant a lot to me. Wenders is more reserved, but I am also happy to have worked with him because I really like a part of his work. I always watch the films made by the people I work with in order to understand how they work, and that really helps me come up with products for them.
The Cinec Award for 3D products in 2010 also meant a lot to me. Receiving an award in Germany for a product made for the cinema by a French company…perhaps I’ve got a lot of stupid preconceived ideas, but I still can’t believe that I received a Cinec Award.

Alain Derobe, Jacques Delacoux (with Cinec Award in hands) and Jon Fauer - Photo Howard Preston
Alain Derobe, Jacques Delacoux (with Cinec Award in hands) and Jon Fauer
Photo Howard Preston

I love the stuff I do with Imago. I also really like the work that can be done with the AFC, like the Micro Salon. I also love the work that can be done with workshops and master classes. I recently went to Louis-Lumière where Bruno Debonnel ran a small workshop organized by students (all by themselves, bravo !) and where we supplied products.
It’s extraordinary because you’re simultaneously in contact with those who teach and those who learn. You can really explain things, and moments like those are really very precious to me because they are when your product is completely laid bare. You can’t pull the wool over the eyes of someone like Delbonnel !

Also, when you get to see people using your products, you get inspiration for new products. They play along, even though they’re not always in direct contact with the equipment. I think they’re more and more removed…
Michel Abramowicz put it this way : “What I saw at Camerimage was really interesting because now I have a better understanding of your products, what they are used for, and how they are different. In my day-to-day work, I am less and less directly involved with the equipment. I hardly get to choose them anymore.”

Michel Abramowicz, in background - Photo Anastasia Durand
Michel Abramowicz, in background
Photo Anastasia Durand

In France, people have a hard time understanding the real meaning of the word profitability. Conversations about money are always quite unwelcome in France for lots of stupid reasons. Americans say, “O.K., it costs five or six thousand dollars, but how much am I going to earn if I use your product ?” They don’t give you their opinion on whether it’s expensive or cheap, they just say : “What do I get out of it ? Even if it costs 20,000 dollars, if it makes me earn more than that, it’s worth it to me !” Meanwhile, in France, people say to you : “Well it’s nice, but you know, there’s a Chinese thing that only costs 300 euros, couldn’t you make less expensive products ?” It’s as though you went to see a Ferrari dealer and said, “You must be joking ! I saw a Renault Twingo for eight thousand euros, and you’re asking one hundred fifty or two hundred thousand euros for yours ?” It’s just intolerable. This summer, I was in contact with a production that was filming in Argentina using Korean monitors : two broke down in the pampa, how much does it cost to have ten days of shooting ruined ?

I think that’s why our entire industry has got to understand the very American notion that we’re all in the same boat together, that we are cells of the same organism…It’s like saying, “I don’t care, I’ve got liver cancer but everything else is just fine !” It’s a narrow-minded perspective and generally, things go downhill really quickly from there. For me, directors of photography have a capital role to play because they have to be the standard bearers for the ENTIRE industry. They don’t have to be their own standard bearers, because the entire industry would be behind them. They ought to do this in the interest of the survival of the entire cinema ecosystem that, in my opinion, rightly deserves to survive and prosper with all of its professions and workers. The Cinema is first and foremost a story of Men and Techniques, and we too often forget that. Without Men, it wouldn’t be Cinema anymore, it would be something else, but what ?

JN.F : I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that the AFC is very grateful to you for the proportions that the Micro Salon has taken on as of late. Its success is in part thanks to you because you have always believed in our mission and gladly brought people like Jon Fauer and Howard Preston from the United States. I’d therefore like to tell you how grateful we are, on behalf of the entire AFC…

J.D : It’s extremely important not to live in our little bubble. Others also have to see that we are doing good things. The fact that Jon published articles about the Micro Salon is wonderful because it shines the spotlight on the French cinema industry and describes us as extremely creative and dynamic people. There’s no other event like it anywhere in the world, and it has to be visible abroad. It is good that Preston came because he hardly ever travels. It’s great that more and more people are interested in the Micro Salon.

I think that we need more events like it throughout the world. In France, we should also organize more workshops and master classes, because transmitting knowledge between the generations is essential in our profession. Complaining about the quality of assistants who graduate from our schools is one thing, they’ve got to be trained by us, we’ve got to teach them what we know.
The schools also have to allow students to travel in order to understand how things are done elsewhere. I’m shocked that tests are held every year during Camerimage, which is a unique event attended by students from all over the world…except from France ! We nonetheless succeeded in inviting two students from Louis-Lumière to attend on the weekend.
I feel very involved with the work done by Imago in Europe and throughout the world. Beyond the federation of associations, the master classes that they organize during their meetings are of extremely high quality and have exceptional speakers. I participated in extraordinary things in Norway and Denmark, at the Danish Film School in Copenhagen. With very few means, they had brought Haskell Wexler, Oliver Stapleton, and others…Ten cinema greats came to the school to talk about what they do and why they do it. It was wonderful !

To end on remarkable events, I’d like to say a little bit about GoKinema that Marc Galerne, K5600, and I attended a few days ago. It is an event organized by an association of suppliers during the Gothenburg film festival, in Sweden. There’s an OpenSet, a master class, and a workshop. With Robert Fraisse, an important figure in French cinema, as a guest and Benjamin B. as a moderator, it was a wonderful event of teaching and learning before a full audience.
Why can’t we do things like that in France ? Is it because there’s a sort of French individualism that makes us unable to communicate, share, and just host wonderful events where the stars wouldn’t just be the organizers ? Alain Derobe recently said to me that in France, we spend more time looking for subsidies than we do on the actual project. I have a hard time believing that we wouldn’t be able to change things if we tried.

Vincent Jeannot and Jacques Delacoux - Photo JN Ferragut
Vincent Jeannot and Jacques Delacoux
Photo JN Ferragut

(Interview conducted by Jean-Noël Ferragut and Vincent Jeannot in December 2012, and updated in early February 2013 – Translated from French by Alex Raiffe)