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Interview with Producer Matt Jaems at 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Interview with Producer Matt Jaems at 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Director, writer and producer Matt Jaems was born in Liverpool, UK. He has produced, written and directed acclaimed works ranging from client based briefs to personally driven productions. He is lead producer on the international feature-length film and cultural-urban-development platform "Rotterdam, I Love You". Matt is dedicated to creating original and creative works by directing impactful films and telling compelling stories. When producing, he looks to support other filmmakers both individually and more broadly by giving an increased international profile to the Dutch and Benelux film industries. Jaems lives in the Netherlands and works around the world. 

I spoke with Matt Jaems while at dinner at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. Here is what he had to say:

How did you get your start in the film biz and did you know you always wanted to produce?

MATT: I started in film quite late, after being a musician my whole life (since very young) and moving to studying Audio Engineering after doing my Diploma at the Royal Schools of Music in the UK. This was sort of to rebel from the more ‘expected’ route, and though I enjoyed learning the field, it ultimately wasn’t for me. Whilst studying, I befriended the head of the Creative Media faculty and found that we had matching passions for - amongst other things - comics, Batman (!) and film as an art form. I’ve been a lover of film my whole life but never considered it professionally until that point. He encouraged me to pursue editing, which I did and loved. Soon after, I realised I wanted to write and direct. I ended up producing because it turned out I had a natural aptitude for it. Though I’m still learning now of course.


Can you talk about Cities of Love in Rotterdam and how you got started in it?

MATT: I saw a retrospective screening of Paris je t’aime in Rotterdam and could not sleep a wink that night. I stayed up and researched extensively, reaching out to Cities of Love in Shanghai. After a few weeks of prep, a disastrous pitch and a lot of back and forth, we agreed I would produce an edition of Cities of Love in the Benelux. This became specifically 'Rotterdam, I Love You' and this is when the journey really began — 8 years ago. It’s been hectic ever since.


What do you look for when considering a project?

MATT: I’m looking for something that feels it needs to be told, that it can be told in an authentic way (no matter how outlandish or genre the concept). And, with a producer’s hat on, I’m looking for the elements that will make it saleable. It’s a constant consideration process, even when one had decided to do something. One doesn’t know that it will work out.


What are some of the most strategic things involved when producing a film in UK and Europe using the incentives?

MATT: Local knowledge/awareness is absolutely essential. Knowing the idiosyncrasies of the requirements of incentives, subsidies, etc. is half the battle - it can be complex and is varied. Co-producing is arguably helpful in this regard.


Do you think it's easier to get films produced with state incentives than privately?

MATT: This is something on which I have an ever-shifting position (!). I currently lean towards privately being easier.


Does Netflix and all the digital platforms out there threaten or help the business of producers in the future?

MATT: I’m very strongly of the position that it helps the business of producers in the future. Increased competition alone (never mind the forthcoming increased actual demand) is good for everyone. All ships rise together.


Was the Cannes market a good one for you?

MATT: This was a good year, though where we’re at right now the pressure was not on in a huge way for us as it has been in some earlier editions. This festival was about relationship management, checking in with various contacts around the world. So it was in a strange way a more enjoyable Cannes for me this year as it was less stressful.


Why is attending Cannes essential for producers?

MATT: There are few moments/places in the world where one can really connect with everyone else in our international industry and make serious headway. As long as one is prepared and has meetings arranged in advance, it’s always fruitful and a real locomotion boost.


What are some new projects you'll be working on?

MATT: We’re currently in development on a range of projects which are not yet public. There are some features and some series. I’m excited to finally work on a selection of productions, in very different genres and in different countries, for the first time. I expect we will make an announcement by November this year.



Interview by Vanessa McMahon


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