Frédéric Cassoly, the man in the shadows of the Alpe d’Huez Festival

The resort is already buzzing… From January 16 to 22, 2023, Alpe D’Huez will host the 26th general rehearsal of the International Comedy Film Festival, organized by Frédéric Cassoly, director of the International Comedy Film Festival, together with Clément Lemoine. In the shadow of festivals whose main mission is to defend cinema, from Cannes to Lyon to Alpe d’Huez, he is seen with an infectious energy. Acquaintance.

Who is behind the Alpe d’Huez Comedy Film Festival?

This is the “General Tour” agency, which specializes in film events: we prepare the Alpe d’Huez festival from A to Z, but we also participate in Cannes, where I worked as head of audiovisual press for thirty years. The agency is also working on the Marrakesh of Laughter. For the small story of Jamel and Melissa (Debbouze) meeting in Alpe d’Huez, it gives an idea of ​​the atmosphere that reigns in this festival, which creates many meetings, challenges. Finally, we are collaborating with Thierry Frémaux on the Lumière festival in Lyon, a great event about cinema and all its heritage.

How would you define yourself?

I would define us as a bit of an artist because we are a small infrastructure with a main mission of defending cinema. I came for the second year of the Alpe d’Huez Festival, or rather the Festival of Comedy Films, because it took place in another resort (Chamaruz) and in the meantime we got to know five generations of mayors and several places. It has not always been easy, as such events sometimes turn into political topics, but we are at Alpe d’Huez after a tender call that we won thanks to the participation of our team as well as some people from the municipality. the festival we saw when we grew up as our own children (laughs).

This Festival, despite its huge popularity, remains family-oriented, how do you do that?

Yes, we want to maintain an atmosphere that in no way excludes professionalism at this event celebrating comedy. Note that even though there are many events around comedians, there are no other festivals in France or Europe for that matter.

Can we talk about a typical French comedy?

We are strong in comedy cinema in France because we have real specificity. And then the comedy develops after suffering for a long time from not being taken seriously by the film world: it was not stylish enough and it was not at all easy to find partners or sponsors. We wrestled with Clément to bring comedy out of this somewhat cheesy and schoolboy character. I still remember the TV reports in the early years of the festival that introduced the music of “Bronzes” to show the themes: it irritated me, because if this film is a reference and we adore it, it reduced any of our programs. in snapshots. In recent years, we’ve seen the full extent of it with social comedies, even with cops like “la Daronne” (camped by Isabelle Huppert), and of course with very popular comedies like Philippe Lachau (Baby Sitting, Alibi. com). ) or Chtis. Plus, Dany Boon now commissions Pathé to open his films with us – we’re proud of that.

Apparently, personalities like Philip Lachau are considered your “babies” of the festival?

Yes, we have many examples like Amhed Silas who blew up in Ascension and of course Philippe Lachau who established himself first as an actor and then as a director with Babysitting and then The festival opens the door to young talents. Year after year we find young directors of short films returning for feature films, like Yvo Muller with Maria Rêve (Prix du Public 2022, Cabourg Festival) last year. Many of those without audiovisual funding have found their partner here. This is an achievement for us.

How to go forward to help cinema?

I have often been advised to open a film market, but on the contrary, I see that our Festival naturally contributes to these professional exchanges without investing money to create a market: often in this mix of professionalism and leisure. deals are being made. Many projects were born here. It’s a festival that rewards comedy, of course, but also a form of creativity, the ability to dare. This is a Festival that will not grow much, primarily because the hotel facilities cannot be expanded, but above all we want to maintain this intimacy that encourages meetings.

Why not ultra-chic, but a very warm resort option like L’Alpe d’Huez?

Station mayor Jean-Yves Noire told us that 40 years ago, Johnny Hallyday and other personalities had their habits here…but a lot was built back then. Fortunately, for two or three generations they have been putting wood back into concrete and are very careful not to fall for the challenge of the concrete mixer! But before settling permanently on Alpe d’Huez, they opened us up to other resorts, and even offered Nice! We are very happy to be here with a very loyal community that sometimes comes as a family for years. It makes sense to us. We are now in the third week of January, excluding school holidays, which allows the resort to continue to be well-stocked with very positive feedback from traders.

What is your manpower for an event of this magnitude?

During the year, we have eight permanent employees, there are twenty more people in the team, and let’s not forget forty wonderful volunteers. Given the size of the event, it remains ridiculous in terms of staff, but funding is compelling: we are only up to 20% institutionally funded (region, departments and host cities…): the rest, i.e. 80%, private comes from partners. This is atypical, and it explains why we are back to fundraising for next year’s 2023 edition almost at the end.

Is the festival an insufficiently profitable model?

This is not only about our festival, institutional subsidies tend to decrease in recent years. Even if we have very loyal partners who have been with us for fifteen years, like Guillaume Jouy, head of OCS, who is already there with the TPS brand, we have to reinvent ourselves. He is part of our big family of partners that we will see regularly throughout the year, and sometimes informally since February: we never leave each other and invent things together. My role is also to bring all these partners together – which I don’t do at other events like Cannes or elsewhere – precisely to create things together. For example, last year we initiated our international opening with a comedy by Canadian Ken Scott.

What pitfalls should be avoided in the preparation of the festival?

There’s not much room for doubt, we’re always moving forward, and then I put a lot of things into perspective. Obviously, events are not easy and this environment is not easy either. I’ve been at the Cannes Film Festival for 30 years, so I know how to step back and let’s not forget that we’re there for the love of cinema above all else. Maybe one day we will want something else: to build a chip shop (laughs). But to make it short, I would say that the festival is 20% super square, 80% improvisation.

What can we wish for in cinema today?

Thank you! We have great French cinema and great comedies.

You were talking about the film market, is it largely driven by festivals?

In Cannes, you can’t compare because it’s an industry. If 20 years ago we could still see the entire teams of the films in competition walking around the Croisette, now it is impossible because everything is very safe in public places. At Alpe d’Huez we are on a human scale and we know from the feedback of actors like Cad Merad or Franck Dubosc that they are happy to host their own festivals. We were also strategic about shots.

Can we say that with the current crisis, we have never wanted to laugh so much?

Of course, of course. What a breath of fresh air to be able to laugh in a room. Of course, this is laughter therapy in uncertain times. It’s a reward when you see people coming from the first days with a smile and ready to relax. And then you have to remember that comedies are often box office hits that fill theaters.

This year he dedicates 26c festival year, doesn’t it make you dizzy?

No, there are already hundreds of moments that describe the festival: we are a real box of memories between Jamel Debbouze arriving at the scene and the cow from the movie or Joe Starr judging the festival’s turntables in the evening. Chamois d’Or, without forgetting all the professions born here, with a transition to directing actors like Franck Dubosc (Alors on danse, …). And then we must not forget that comedies are part of the success of the box office, filling the rooms. Although they are still not represented in Caesars…

If you had to sum up the festival in one sentence?

It’s a smart mix of established talent and younger generations

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