Roger Frappier studied political science before beginning a successful career in cinema. When we talk to him, we realize that for him these two disciplines are eternally linked. Frappier has been making cinema for 50 years. He also plays politics.
Published at 1:19 am. Updated at 5:00 am.
Even today, the influential producer continues to fight for full recognition of artists, for more trust in producers, for the creation of a sustainable film industry, etc.
The former young activist of the Rally for National Independence (RIN) is never far away. “We should ask ourselves the question: Should Quebec fully repatriate culture? If the Quebec government decides that culture is important, it should devote the necessary resources to it,” says Roger Frappier, to whom a former classmate, the political scientist Denis Monière, has just dedicated a biography: “Roger Frappier: Daring Quebec Cinema” ( Hands Free Editions).
The importance given to the vitality of the cultural industry should be essential in a precarious culture like Quebec’s, constantly threatened by the weight of the Anglo-Saxon steamroller that surrounds it, recalls Roger Frappier.
“Cinema is one of the great vectors for spreading culture. We always say that Quebec is its culture, but we still only give it 1% of the budget, which is nonsense. The total number of people working in cinema and television in Quebec is 36,000. The aviation industry employs 40,000 people. »
We gave Bombardier a billion and are now being given a fortune. If we are to be what Quebec is all about.
Roger Frappier, producer
The producer of “The Decline of the American Empire” and “The Great Seduction” challenges the prejudices that exist about artists, these “luxury BS” according to the formula established by a certain right-wing in Quebec. “My greatest sadness for 50 years is that we have failed to make governments and public opinion understand the nature of this great Quebec industry. Because we receive subsidies, we are considered to be at the expense of governments. But not Bombardier…”
He cites from his memory an article of the Cinema Act that stipulates that the state must give priority to “the creation and development of independent and financially autonomous Quebec companies in the field of cinema.” “This, SODEC [Société de développement des entreprises culturelles] It doesn’t, believes Roger Frappier. The 30-year-old film-by-film financing system can no longer work. We must return to the essence of the law. »
Of course, the producer preaches for his congregation, but he also speaks knowledgeably. Between the release of Hochelaga, Land of Souls by François Girard in 2017 and the new film by Lyne Charlebois, which he produced with his company MAX Films just 15 years after Borderline, three of his projects were rejected by institutions (SODEC and Telefilm Canada ). ). “Six years without a film, when you have a company and salaries to pay, it’s not possible,” he said. I had to go international. »
So, out of “necessity,” Frappier co-produced Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, a project he had had in mind for several years. “The dog’s strength took a lot of energy and many years of my life. I’m absolutely glad I did it! » says the producer. This great film, nominated twelve times for the Academy Awards, won the Oscar for Best Director last year for Jane Campion.
Producer of some of the most important films of our national cinematography (A Zoo at Night, Jesus of Montreal), Roger Frappier is also a talent scout who, in particular, gave his first chance to a young filmmaker named Denis Villeneuve, now considered one of the best directors of the world. He wants us to give production houses more trust by giving them recurring funding as well as envelopes linked to their films’ performance at the box office and their impact at international festivals.
“It is completely ridiculous that a television production company can produce three, four or five shows a year while a film production company cannot produce more than one feature film a year, which is not the case. “That almost never happens,” he said. There are 200 film production houses in Montreal that produce around thirty feature films every year. How do you want to be financially independent? »
15 years ago, at a time when Telefilm Canada’s famous scope of performance – which I have often denounced – was based only on commercial criteria, Roger Frappier was able to produce Borderline, the adaptation of the novel by Marie-Sissi Labrèche, despite four rejections of grants from institutions . “Lyne [Charlebois] was the first woman to win the Jutra for best performance. That’s what envelopes do. Even if it is true that things can arise that are not worth it…”
We, he and I, sometimes had differences of opinion on certain topics. Especially with films he produced that I had reservations about. As a producer, he often behaves like a father who does not tolerate criticism of his children. His conflicted relationship with criticism dates back to the 1970s, when he criticized Robert Guy Scully for his incompetence after his friend Claude Jutra criticized him in Le Devoir to Kamouraska. A few years earlier, Frappier himself had briefly been a critic at Le Devoir…
“My relationship to criticism changes depending on the critic,” he says cryptically, recalling some of the wounds associated in particular with the critics’ reception of the film Ding und Dong and that of Denis Villeneuve’s Un 32August sur terre. Quebecois in Cannes. “My big rants were more directed at institutions and against the rejection of projects that I found unfair,” he says.
Why don’t we ask the novelist to rewrite his second chapter before giving money to his publisher? Why don’t we tell Daniel Bélanger to rework his chorus? We only do this for the scenarios. When we present a scenario to the institutions, it is because we assume that it is ready.
Roger Frappier, producer
The answer would certainly be that a film costs much more to produce than a novel or an album, and giving credit to film producers might end up favoring only a handful of them. The fact is that Roger Frappier rightly regrets that Quebec filmmakers are hardly able to build a filmography where a feature film is made every 15 years, like Lyne Charlebois.
“Almodovar makes a film every 18 months. Here it is as if it were written in the constitution that everyone has the right to direct a feature film, he jokes. Not everyone can play for the Canadian. Anyone who has a work within them must be able to work in continuity with production houses that have a solid foundation. Then we will have an industry. »
He gives the example of Robert Lepage, whose film career was somehow halted in mid-flight. “The same week Robert won the World Best Director award in Athens, his film was rejected by Telefilm Canada,” recalls Roger Frappier. In the same week! I called him to give him my envelope. He refused it. He was too disgusted. We judge films based on scripts without considering that the work of an artist like Robert Lepage is always a work in progress. »
Even though Frappier has seen Quebec’s film industry partly built and partly deconstructed in his 50 years in the business, he remains optimistic. “Things are changing!” What I think is great at the moment is the space that women are taking up. The two films that were most successful at the box office this summer come from Anik Jean and Louise Archambault. At the Toronto Festival, the two Quebec films Solo by Sophie Dupuis and Les Jours Heureux by Chloé Robichaud received the most support. »
Monia Chokri thrilled audiences at the Cannes Film Festival, as did Ariane Louis-Seize and Delphine Girard at the Venice Film Festival. “Manon Briand begins filming her new film,” adds her former producer. Women’s cinema is booming. And the great thing about our cinematography is that it supports the global revolution of women in cinema. »
Despite the difficulties he has faced in recent years, Roger Frappier would not change his job for the world. At 78, he hasn’t given the slightest thought to retiring. “When I started, I didn’t know that I could grow old with my job and have so much fun. This is my permanent university. I’m constantly learning. »
Questionnaire without filters
Coffee and me: First coffee (latte) at dawn in Caffè San Simeon with friends and second coffee (“old school”) when the conversation continues.
The film that impressed me the most as a film lover : Foxtrot by Samuel Maoz (2017), built into a powerful triptych.
The film I would have liked to have produced: Billy Elliot by Stephen Daldry (2000)
The film that will remain most associated with my career: The Decline of the American Empire by Denys Arcand (1986)
The Quebec film I absolutely have to see: The Cat in a Sack by Gilles Groulx (1964), the beginning of the modern era in Quebec cinema.
Who is Roger Frappier?
Roger Frappier was born in Sorel in 1945 and is one of the most influential producers in Quebec cinema. With his company MAX Films, he has produced some of the most notable Quebec films of the last four decades, including The Fall of the American Empire, A Zoo at Night, Jesus of Montreal and The Great Seduction.
Frappier was in turn editor, director and head of fiction at the National Film Board.
He notably launched the careers of Denis Villeneuve and Manon Briand (“Cosmos”, “August 32nd on Earth”, “Maelström”, 2 Seconds, etc.) and co-produced Jane’s “The Power of the Dog”. Campion, Oscar for best director in 2022.