Jérôme Paillard is the insider par excellence of the film industry. At the helm of the Cannes Film Market, the biggest film market in the world, the jovial 66-year-old Parisian has seen the rise and fall of every major player in the independent industry over the past three decades.
Since taking over the Market in 1995, Paillard has led the Cannes market through industry booms – the Miramax-led indie wave of the 1990s, the Netflix streaming revolution of the mid-2010s – and the meltdowns, from the dot-com crash of 2002 and the 2008-2009 recession to the (still ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic.
But Paillard, who is retiring from the Market after this year’s Market, says music, not film, was his first love.
“I come from a family of musicians. My father was the famous conductor Jean-François Paillard; my mother was a musician [renowned harpsichordist Anne-Marie Beckensteiner]. I studied music and mathematics. Nothing to do with cinema. »
Music, however, brought him to the movies. After completing his studies at the prestigious Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, Paillard worked as a professional musician – a classical oboe – which led him to the French classical label Erato Disques, where he started as a sound engineer, becoming financial director. by 1986. From there, he joined Erato Films, the cinema division created by the legendary French producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier (cousin cousin; Bohemian; The cook, the thief, his wife and her lover).
“I walked in like they did [Maurice Pialat’s 1991 biopic] Van Gogh and produced around 13 films with them,” explains Paillard. “In 1995, the company had closed and I was looking for a new job. The Cannes market was looking for a new director, and Toscan suggested that I do so, as he was expected to join me in five years, as the new president of Cannes.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned. When Pierre Viot, president of Cannes since 1984, resigned in 2000, it was Gilles Jacob, not du Plantier, who took his place. Paillard was alone.
“I was lucky, though. Pierre Viot was an incredible president,” says Paillard. “And for the first five years he gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted with the market.”
He had his work cut out for him. When Paillard arrived in the mid-1990s, the Cannes Film Festival and its official film market had little to do with it.
“At the time, the film market was quite small; it was a few screening rooms in the basement of the Palace under the mythical Cannes red carpet,” recalls Paillard.
Above ground, the movie industry was booming. In 1994, Quentin Tarantino pulp Fiction won the Palme d’Or and grossed over $200 million worldwide, an unprecedented sum for an independently funded film. European production companies such as StudioCanal (Primary instinct) and the British company Working Title (Four weddings and a funeral) were proving, alongside companies like Miramax and New Line Cinema – both of which had recently been acquired by Hollywood studios Disney and Warner Bros. — that there was real money in film outside of the perceived mainstream.
But all this business took place outside the Market, in hotel suites and apartments along the Croisette.
“My first decision, when I arrived in 1995, barely six months before the market, was to include everyone at the Market, those from the Palace and those from outside, says Paillard, to recreate a large market for all players. .”
Paillard introduced changes that were both small – the publication of a printed guide with photos of all market participants (known to Cannes regulars as “the bible”) – and groundbreaking, including the launch, in 1998, of of the Cannesmarket.com online site, which eventually became Cinando, the essential B2B platform for the global film industry. Under his leadership the market grew considerably, moving upstairs and outdoors with the addition of the Riviera stalls on the Palais waterfront (in 2000) and broadening its appeal beyond the main focus of Cannes on art house films.
“We were always outside the Palace, in apartments,” recalls Brian O’Shea of The Exchange. “But each time we had contact with Jérôme, it was always easy. He was always welcoming, always ready to help.
“Very anti-French” is how many international executives describe Paillard, whose affable nature and infectious charm come without a hint of Gallic snobbery.
“I’d say he’s a real ‘can-do’ guy, if that didn’t sound too American,” says Jonathan Kier, head of Upscale Productions, who has stayed in touch with Paillard since he was assigned to his team as an intern. at the American pavilion in Cannes in 1996. “Just look at what they did during COVID. In 2020, when the festival was canceled, they were the first to launch an online marketplace – at a time when no one knew how it would work.
By all accounts, the 2020 Online-Only Marketplace – Paillard used the Marketplace’s Cinando platform as the basis for online screenings, virtual meetings and industry conferences – was an unqualified success. “He kept the business going when a lot of people thought it was all in danger of falling apart,” says a European sales manager.
Now, after 27 years at the helm, Paillard says “it’s the right time” to step down and hand over leadership of the market to Guillaume Esmiol, a tech-savvy executive who joined the Marché du Film in 2020 to help to turn it into a hybrid event.
Paillard’s future is up in the air – literally. Along with spending time with his wife, two adult children and two grandchildren aged 5 and 7, he plans to use his retirement to focus on his love of flying, working as a flight instructor on small aircraft. And rekindle his love of music.
“I practiced the oboe more and even started to sing,” says Paillard with a laugh. “All classical music, mostly French, from the 19th and early 20th centuries. So far from the world of cinema.