An interview with multi-faceted production company Person Films exploring the diversity in film production services
By Emily Lucas
We had the pleasure to speak to Cecile Leroy Beaulieu, the executive producer for Person Films Italy. Founded in 2005, Person Films is the leading production service company in Italy with a core business to produce commercials, music videos, web content, and films.
Not only do Person Films adopt an international business model upheld through their long-standing partnerships with clients worldwide, but they also boast expertise within Italy and an ability to present Italian landscapes in a variety of unique ways that can emulate the likes of Argentina and Japan.
In this interview, Cecile opens up about her background prior to her role as executive producer at Person Films, as well as discussing the importance of experimenting with different channels to keep ideas fresh and relevant. More recently, Person films have been exploring further the world of fashion and the interplay of different mediums within the fashion industry. With exciting projects from Fendi, Bulgari and an exclusive documentary titled “Fashion Insiders”, Person Films embodies the concept of a versatile production company.
Production Paradise: With 13 year of experience, Person Films has become one of the leaders in its field. Could you tell us more about where and how it all started for the company?
Cecile: I was a producer at an Italian production company, when on a service job I met my future husband, an established American director. I continued producing for him and his American clients until it naturally progressed into opening my own service company.
Production Paradise: Could you give us some insight into your background and how you came to establish yourself as the executive producer of a successful production company?
Cecile: I grew up in Italy but went to university in Boston, upon graduation, I started working with Albert Watson in New York and this was my production education.
From there going back to Italy and working for a production service, I applied that American style of working to my productions. The experience in New York was really my foundation, and this allowed me to work from the ‘outside in’, as opposed to beginning ‘in Italy’ and trying to understand how the ‘outside world’ of production functions. I do think this defines Person Films Italy.
Production Paradise: Your portfolio of work is highly expansive ranging from feature films to documentaries, still photos, and even an art installation exhibited at the Pacific Design Center. What would you say has been the most rewarding project to date?
Cecile: It’s impossible for me to pinpoint one project. They are all so diverse, and each brings entirely different challenges and rewards. I don’t see filmmaking as one category, I think it is important to be diverse and to work in commercials, documentaries, long-form narrative, stills and art projects. By doing this I am able to take what I’ve learned from one medium, and apply it to the other, therefore always evolving my knowledge and resources, and most importantly, keeping myself inspired, fresh and passionate about each and every project. I think it can wear on a person and company to specialize in only one of these mediums. Also, this is something clients can feel, when the production service is just going through the motion, and pushing set buttons, as opposed to approaching each job as if it’s a unique and ‘one of a kind’ experience.
Production Paradise: With so much variety in your work, how do you choose the best team for each project?
Cecile: This is a very good question and one of the fun parts of my job.
First, I’m fortunate enough to live in a country with such a deep pool of talented artists and craftsmen. Italy is unique, and not like any other country, in that people take a personal, passionate, and artistic approach to their work. There is a very important history here. They care.
The diversity of people I can bring together applies to the diversity of projects. It is more interesting to bring someone from an art project to a commercial, from a narrative to a documentary, or from a commercial to a longer form project, as they will add something new to the equation.
I’m a very personable producer who takes on every project as if it were my own baby. Therefore, choosing the people, not only who I am going to work with, but who I am going to share my time and respect each other’s opinion, matters greatly. Not just to me but to the clients, most importantly. When a client arrives, it is crucial they feel welcomed by an inspired, cohesive and fun team. I want the client to be part of us, and part of the family, so it never becomes ‘us and them’.
Production Paradise: You pride yourself on your access to a variety of unique locations which could “easily play for other locations around the world”. How important is the location to Person Films in the production process?
Cecile: Speaking of commercials only, there is more and more a need to find locations that are international, as far as not being a specific country, and at the same time, representing many countries. This includes not just open landscapes, but also more and more city centers, modern architecture and international businesses.
Italy has always been seen for famous monuments, Italian architecture, postcard landscapes and everything that is an Italian ‘cliché’. Our goal is to expand into the need for international storytellers, not just to tell Italian stories. This is a fun challenge, and it is surprisingly inspirational how many countries Italy can represent. If you take a look at a spot we did for Norton, you’ll see a visually striking and culturally accurate representation of Japan, Mexico, New York, Argentina, California, and Switzerland.
Production Paradise: How does your extensive knowledge of Italy’s vast landscapes make you stand out amongst other Italian production companies?
Cecile: As answered above, it is this move into servicing the international jobs, which Italy has not always been considered. The more and more we introduce people to this aspect of Italy – the unknown landscapes, progressive architecture, culturally diverse city centers – the more we open up another group of storytellers and client coming to Italy. I think this separates the Person Film philosophy from the others. We are seeking the next stories, as opposed to dialling in what is already known and obvious.
Production Paradise: On top of your expertise in Italy, you also have partners in nearby areas such as Serbia, Croatia, and Montenegro. How has your international business model widened your access to clients worldwide?
Cecile: When we are asked to do a bid for a job, we know perfectly well that it is being bid in other countries around the world. As well as it should be because that is the world we are living in today – one global production group.
We have just started creating partnerships in these countries and plan to partner with more. I believe this helps our clients as it makes us a one-stop place to multi-bid simultaneously in order to give them the most cost-effective option for their project. By going through Person Films, it is also guaranteed that the other production services will operate under our same philosophy.
Production Paradise: Your recent work includes a documentary for luxury goods brand Bulgari. Is the fashion industry a direction that you would like to continue growing your expertise in, and if so, what is it that makes it interesting to you?
Cecile: Yes, I am very interested in the direction of fashion today. A lot of brands are opening up to different content, social media, and collaborating with a more diverse field of artists. This way of ‘cross-pollinating’ different mediums, is directly in line with Person’s way of thinking and is why we are also moving into this area. The Bulgari short documentary is an exciting project and it has premiered at Tribeca Film Festival last month. It is a great example of ‘cross-pollinating’ a luxury fashion brand – with a documentary filmmaker – and screening it in a film festival. I think this is when fashion gets interesting.
Production Paradise: You are now working on a new short documentary series with fashion designers called “Fashion Insiders”. Could you tell us a little bit more about this and some of the designers involved?
Cecile: Fashion Insiders is a program produced by Hantang Culture, a leading luxury channel in China with a multimedia platform that reaches 1 billion viewers. So far, we have shot six episodes and plan to do more. These are unique, intimate portraits of some of Italy’s most influential fashion figures of the most important fashion brands in the world. Each episode is a personal journey into their inspiration, philosophy, personal life, and work ethic. It is told in an unorthodox style of audio narrative mixed with a very personal, almost Terence Malik view, of the first person storytelling. (Until each episode airs, I cannot mention the brands or designers involved).
Production Paradise: In fashion, brands maintain their own strongly defined aesthetic. When it comes to production for these clients, is it challenging to balance your own creative input with the image they are looking to portray?
Cecile: Of course every brand has a visual language that everything must filter through to create what is its image. The most challenging thing, for me, is to tell this in different ways each time. It is important each brand create an image, which stands out, not just in concept, but in look and overall style. Pushing these boundaries is what gets exciting.
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