Alexandra Roussel has jumped through production roles for a bit over 20 years, working both at home in France and on the international stage. After producing for Gang Films and Dog Productions Europa Corp, she established her own production house, Cocolat Rouge, at the age of 22, in Guadeloupe, where she’s originally from.
Alexandra brought her wealth of experience to the company, which not only represented directors, but also acted as an executive producer partner company. She freelanced around France for a few years, parallel to her experience managing Chocolat Rouge, until 2017 when she joined Eddy.
She joined the company two years after its creation by Jean-Francois Bourrel and Nicolas de Rasanbo, and with the addition of her talent, the company gained a new and improved roster of directors.
LBB’s Zoe Antonov spoke to Alexandra about the experience of establishing her own production house, freelancing in France, and the importance of international influence.
LBB> Were you a creative kid and were there inklings during your childhood about your future career?
Alexandra> Yes, definitely! I loved music and dance a lot. I started off with some courses in modern jazz, and I always wanted to make films about the art of dance. For me, it’s a way to interpret music of all kinds.
LBB> How did you start your path in creative media e.g. what did you do in university or in any apprenticeships. Or did advertising come out of the blue for you?
Alexandra> I’m definitely a self-made woman. I started my own production house at the age of 22 in Guadeloupe, the French West Indies Caribbean Island where I’m from. It was very exciting – I had the freedom to add creative input to the commercial projects that we were making, and we had the chance to work with some international directors and DOPs.
For example, I was able to work with a Venezuelan director from Caracas in Guadeloupe when he came to direct a commercial. It was really a proud moment of my life and was a very enriching experience. It really taught me how to manage and collaborate with directors and understand each and every one of their universes.
LBB> What was your favourite project you worked on and why? And what was the most challenging?
Alexandra> For me, my favourite project was the Bentley Bentaya car project that we shot last year. The challenge was to add a cinematic spirit to the project, and adapt two different styles in the same film. We shot the live action portion in Barcelona with the car and incredible actors, telling the story of a family bringing their daughter to the airport for her first camp trip. Her father, in order to make her feel more relaxed as they ride to the airport, shares the story of a famous 19th century adventurer, known as Nellie Bly, an American journalist and pioneer of clandestine reporting, a form of investigative journalism, as well as the first woman to travel the work without being accompanied by a man. This portion of Nellie is completely animated, and it was super interesting to work with both a live action and an animation director.
LBB> Have you spent all of your career in France and if yes, what have you seen change over the years in the industry there?
Alexandra> Yes, I have. I think the thing that changed the most was that today we work faster and more efficiently in each and every step of the process, with all of the new tools we have at our disposal. Digital is starting to take up a big space in the way we approach concepts, creativity, mixed media, and animation.
LBB> What are the current trends to look out for in French creativity?
Alexandra> In the French market, the current trend to look out for in creativity is definitely the quality of your image. Every commercial that is out right now has incredibly beautiful imagery and is often mixed with motion design or animation. The VFX needed in certain projects has to be obviously authentic and very crafted. The challenge is to enhance a simple, realistic subject with deep storytelling and crafted image.
LBB> How is French creativity different from that in the rest of Europe?
Alexandra> In France, we aren’t very ‘fantasy’ oriented. We need to be realistic – maybe with a touch of fantasy, but we aren’t the best in projects that have an over-the-top tone.
LBB> Is Paris the one creative hub for you in France, or are there other places that shouldn’t be left behind in these conversations, and if so, which ones?
Alexandra> Paris is definitely not the only creative hub. Creativity is influenced globally, so I think there are more and more creative hubs in other countries and within France emerging every day. The best part of that is that we get the chance to learn from other sources and cultures that bring richness to our ideas and concepts.
LBB> As an EP, what does your day-to-day consist of and what is the most exciting part of your role?
Alexandra> My day-to-day changes constantly, bringing new challenges. It’s what I love about my job, finding solutions and making them happen, no matter what. It can be anything from meeting with my team of producers, to dispatch projects, and working on treatments and pitches. If it’s a day of shooting, managing the client and agency with a team of 40 to 50 people minimum on set. Sometimes it’s a day of travelling, meeting future clients and agencies in Asia, the US, Europe, and the Middle East. Sometimes it’s meeting with our directors and keeping an eye out on the new talent that is always coming our way. And of course, managing the budgets.
LBB> How is the French industry addressing the cost of living crisis that has come over Europe this winter? What would be your advice to the industry on that?
Alexandra> With the cost of living crisis this winter, I must say that where our industry felt the biggest difference is in budgeting. The budgets get tighter and tighter with increasingly bigger ambitions needed at the same time. Our goal is to find solutions to keep the quality of work and produce differently. My advice is to try as much as we can to educate our clients – to demonstrate that we can not accept budgets that are too low because, in the end, the result won’t be of the quality that we all would like.
LBB> To you, what are the benefits of being freelance in France and those of being with a company? Which one do you prefer?
Alexandra> When you are in a company, you grow together with your team, and you have access to internal support. You can more easily debrief with your team in order to get better and better for future projects. When you are freelance, you’re really only a part of the executive production – you usually are not there for the initial selling aspect of the project. I think the interest in being freelance comes when you like to shoot and build all the different aspects of the production process.
LBB> Any final thoughts?
Alexandra> I still love my position in this industry after 30 years of producing. I’ve had so many experiences and have met so many talented people all over the world. This job keeps me sharp and gives me the opportunity to learn every day… That’s what is so fantastic about this industry.
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