Producer Nicole Robert revisits her 40-year career
On November 2, the Cinemania festival will open with the premiere of Dog White, an adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel directed by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette and produced by Nicole Robert. For the occasion, we wanted to talk to the latter, who is celebrating her 40-year career. A career punctuated by outstanding films, such as that of Nicole Robert: The tuque war, Requiem for a Heartless Handsome, Karmina, Quebec-Montreal, nineteen eighty one and its consequences, The magnets, Everything is perfect, The Seven Days of Retaliation, nelly… At the moment, she is developing a series taken from the bestseller The Void, by Patrick Senecal. It will not be his first, since we already owe him the beloved series life, life.
But in fact, what is the role of a producer, exactly? “I’m still learning it! laughs Nicole Robert.
Basically, the producer is responsible for the entire production of a film: at each stage, she helps the filmmakers realize their vision by providing them with all the financial, logistical and artistic means required. In other words, the producer is the boss. Moreover, she was a pioneer, Nicole Robert, the cinema (not only Quebec) counting a lot more producers than producers.
“Even as a child, in the schoolyard, I wanted to be a chef. I’ve always had this need to control my destiny,” explains Nicole Robert.
On the other hand, she was absolutely not destined to work in cinema. With a Bachelor of Arts in her pocket, she worked in graphic design in Trois-Rivières. Then, with friends, she participated in an animated film designed around the song Quebec Love, by Robert Charlebois. “It was a time when everyone could kind of do whatever they wanted. We won prizes and we wanted to continue, and that’s where my entrepreneurial side came in: I suggested that we create a company. »
To be in her place
Back in Montreal, Nicole Robert had trouble finding work. “I went to see Roland Smith in Outremont, and I left with a job of candygirl. »
Micheline Lanctôt, a friend, got her a freelance job in the animation company where she was then employed… Out of a desire for independence, Nicole Robert founded the animation film company Animabec. In the process, she caught the attention of Rock Demers, who was working on an ambitious project: Tales for all.
“This encounter changed my life. He had asked us, at Animabec, to do his visual for Les Productions La Fête. We had a really nice contact, and he offered me to come and work for his company as head of derivatives. It didn’t turn me on. He came back offering me to produce with him The tuque war. »
By her own admission, Nicole Robert had no idea at the time what that entailed. She knew, however, that she would not be “the boss”.
“I said to Rock: thank you, but I don’t work for the world. So he came back to me, this time offering to become vice-president of Productions La Fête. He wanted to collaborate with me, you have to believe! »
By accepting, Nicole Robert became by extension the producer of The tuque war : a first experience which turned out to be decisive.
« We ‘pitched’ ourselves into it naively, with a very small crew: filming in winter, with snow, children, a dog… I was learning my trade: I had no idea of all the movie-related functions. It went well. And I knew I belonged. On a set, I’m like a fish in water: bring problems! »
His artistic spirit also served him from the outset, both for the search for solutions and for the support of the filmmakers.
The taste of the first films
Always driven by this desire to choose her own projects, Nicole Robert left La Fête after Operation peanut butter and founded Lux Films in 1987.
“I wanted to give myself the means to do what I wanted, to set up the projects of my choice. »
Because Nicole Robert does not limit herself to raising the capital necessary for the realization of such and such a film in the hope that it will be successful.
“I choose what I want to bring to the screen. I’m very eclectic in what I produce — I’m open to all genres. But I have to agree with the purpose of the film, and the film has to have a purpose. »
In 1992 came another of those “life-changing encounters”: with Robert Morin, for the film Requiem for a Heartless Handsomeof which the producer is rightly very proud.
“When I met him, I immediately wanted to work with Robert. I know pretty quickly if I want to work with someone: I work a lot on intuition. It happened to me to refuse good projects for this reason. It starts with the human, always. Making a film takes time, years, and it requires close collaboration: you have to love the humans involved. »
After the cult horror-comedy Karmina, in 1996, Nicole Robert founded, with Gabriel Pelletier, Jacques Langlois and Richard Speer, GO Films, which she chaired before becoming its sole shareholder. Many young filmmakers were able to make their first feature film there: Ricardo Trogi (Quebec–Montrealwhich not a distributor wanted at the start), Yves-Christian Fournier (Everything is perfect), Eric Tessier (On the doorstepselected at Sundance after a hard-fought funding round), Yves Pelletier (The magnets), Patrice Sauve (cheech), Podz (The Seven Days of Retaliation), Guillaume de Fontenay (Sympathy for the Devil), Jean-Carl Boucher (Flashwoodby the young star of nineteen eighty one and co)…
“I love the first works. A first film possesses a freedom, a naivety and a spontaneity which are not repeated afterwards. It’s a surge of the heart, like a first love. »
Many of his first collaborations spawned others: obviously, we like working with Nicole Robert again.
Slow down, or not
Recently, she sold GO Films, a subsidiary of Lux Films, a company she still owns and under which she continues to operate. During the transition, she produced white dog, which will be released everywhere on November 9th. In 2023 will come The plungerby Francis Leclerc, based on the award-winning novel by Stéphane Larue, and of which she is the executive producer.
And there is this already mentioned serial project, in English, according to The voidby Patrick Senécal (author, for the record, of On the doorstep and Seven Days of Retaliation)… Without speaking about 1994-1995by Ricardo Trogi, which is in the process of financing…
If Nicole Robert confides in wanting to slow down, with « time passing » and all that, the fact is that there is no shortage of projects. Moreover, during this assessment interview, Nicole Robert may look in the rear view mirror, we feel that what really interests her is what is in front.
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