CEO of Abbout Productions and Vice President of Metropolis Cinema in Beirut, Georges Schoucair is renowned as one of the top producers in the Middle East. Since he took over the production company in 2005, he has worked with over 20 Lebanese directors, and produced 22 local films. He’s recently expanded into international co-productions, and was representing those films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

We spoke to Schoucair while he was in Cannes to learn more about his recent ventures.

Could you tell us more about the Lebanese projects that you’re currently working on, and are here in Cannes to represent?

I’m here for my film “Tramontane”, the first feature film of the Lebanese director Vatche Boulghourjian. The film is currently in post-production. Nadia Ben Rachid, who has worked on films with Abderrahmane Sissako, will be editing it in Paris this June. The idea was to come to Cannes to find distributors. We already have a French co-producer, Gabrielle Dumon of “Le Petit Bureau” and their sister company “The Bureau Sales” will be handling the film’s international sales. This is my most advanced Lebanese project for the time being.

I have two other ongoing projects that will hopefully be shot next year, a film with director Dima el Horr, and another with director Ahmad Ghossein that will take place in South Lebanon. Then, there is a third film, “1982” by Oualid Mouannes, coproduced with Michel Zana and his company Sophie Dulac Productions; its shooting has been postponed to next year because we still haven’t closed the financing. I’m here to interact with the people from La Francophonie and Cinemas Du Monde, and to work with potential distributors and sales agents in order to produce my films next year.

You are a co-producer of the foreign film “Dégradé” (Palestine/France/Qatar), which was presented at this year’s Semaine De La Critique. Tell us about how you’re branching into the foreign film market.

I’ve co-produced eight foreign projects in the last year. More than a year ago I realized that the financing of international independent productions was getting more and more complicated, and therefore private equity funding was becoming a source of money that is really interesting to producers who are struggling to close their financing. On my side, I wanted to expand beyond the Lebanese frontiers and only producing one or two films a year in Beirut.
As I knew investors interested to enter International co-productions, I thought that it would be good to open my horizons and explore other options; The first idea was to find a financially viable company that will be able to sustain on the long term and hopefully help financing Abbout Productions films as well, but that’s not a guarantee, as I’ve always been attracted to independent films. The risk is almost the same whether for Arab films or international ones. The second reason was to strengthen my network with producers, distributors and sales agents, and learn more about international markets. And, of course, there’s a pleasure in just being a part of it.

I met the directors of “Dégradé” in Montpellier where I was a member of the jury. They were working on another project called “Casting” that I really liked but it did not get financed yet. A few months later, they came to me with this project: “Dégradé”. The distribution company, Le Pacte was already attached to the project, as well as Elle Driver, for international sales. Everything was there, except for a financing gap. So I stepped in to help. The good surprise is that it’s in La Semaine De La Critique.

I tend to co-produce films by prestigious filmmakers that would be showcased in international festivals like the Thai film Cemetery of Splendor by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, which is in this year’s selection of Un Certain Regard, and I’m also a partner in an upcoming film by the famous Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel. My ambition is to help raising financing to six films a year and to create a solid line up of films, both independent and international.