"All good children" by Alicia Duffy


Flying the flag for Britain, All Good Children will be shown this year at the Directors' Fortnight section of the Cannes film festival. It's a refreshing story! Alicia Duffy's feature debut actually is an amazing European co-production involving Ireland, Belgium and France where the movie was shot.

All Good Children has been developed by the director herself, a prize-winner in Cannes's  Cinéfondation competition in 2001. She wrote her own screenplay based on the popular novel The Republic of Trees written by Sam Taylor.  It is the very first production for Caveman Films, set up by producer Jonathan Cavendish (Bridget Jones’ Diary) and actor/director Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings). The film is an Irish/Belgian/French co-production, produced by Cavendish and Irish producer Ed Guiney (Zonad) for Element Pictures. Element Pictures also produced Pat Shortt drama Garage, the first ever Irish speaking movie selected in Cannes (2007) and co-produced 2006 Palme d'Or winner The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Nice background!

As the movie had to be shot in the North of France, it was crystal clear that a French production company could become partner: Tom Dercourt (Cinema Defacto) was interested. A partner from a third country, Belgium, completed the production line-up: Patrick Quinet and his company Artémis.

Made in partnership with Backup Films, the feature is supported by Eurimages, the Irish Film Board, the UK Film Council, Film Four, the Film and Audiovisual Centre of the Belgian French Community, Canal+, and the two regional film funds Wallimage (Wallonia/Belgium) and the CRRAV (Nord-Pas de Calais region/France).  The involvement of Wallimage and CRRAV in the project was very different for the two of them. 

Wallimage came in the project thanks to Belgian producer Patrick Quinet. Although Artémis is based in Brussels, the Walloon fund invested in the project. Several Walloon technicians were asked to join the team: Igor Gabriel and Paul Rouschop for example worked on the film set, Garance Van Rossum (Le Tango des Rashevski, La Face Cachée, Altiplano…) supervised the make-up department.... Several Walloon technical companies such as Eye-Lite, 4 Movie, Merveille and CQFD were also involved. As Wallimage invested 115.000 Euros , the production team planned to spend 350.000 Euros. It's not the best return Wallimage could have hoped from a project they decided to support but Philippe Reynaert, director of the fund, immediately believed that this low-key project had a strong potential for major festivals; the personality of the other investors and the perspective to work once again with the CRRAV helped the movie to be picked-up by Wallimage in an otherwise very strong session.

Even if the project came from Ireland, All Good Children was entirely shot in the North of France as it tells the story of Dara, a young Irish boy who is moved to rural France with his brother Eoin after the death of their mother. There, the boys befriend a local English family and the vulnerable Dara falls under the spell of their young daughter Bella, but when she begins to pull away, Dara’s feelings for her start to get out of hand…

Historically, the CRRAV was the very first continental actor to be contacted by the Irish producers.  The regional film fund from the Nord-Pas-de-Calais area was asked to find two major locations: a very big house, possibly a castle, and a farm. Jérome Allard, who's in charge of the Nord-Pas de Calais Film Comission first travelled the magnificent areas not too far away from the Channel with Alicia Duffy. As they didn't find what they were looking for, they progressively moved back to the Lille area. It would have been more comfortable for the team to live there for a while.

Finally, the shooting took places in the Avesnois (100km -62miles- from Lille) during a few weeks in Augustus and September. Le château de Coutant in Saint-Hilaire-sur-Helpe, a beautiful Castle surrounded by a park was chosen to be used as the main set of the movie. As soon as she discovered these wonderful landscapes, Alicia Duffy knew she just found what she was looking for. The old castle (built in the twelve and thirteen century) surrounded by lush groves had spectacular moats. The place was rather large and could host a large team with a lot of technical stuff. Thirty technicians and no less than ten actors had to work there (they were sleeping in the area in a very nice place named Val Joly).

At the end of the day, the CRRAV invested 200.000 Euros and 330.000 Euros were spent in the area. Since the very beginning, the fund has been really excited about the project due to the fact that it was an international movie shot in the North of France. Several technicians were involved in the team, three French actors had the chance to appear in the movie for a few days and the local fire brigade was solicited because the team had to shot a spectacular fire (spoiler here!)

After the initial shootings, actors and technicians left to other locations in the same area to shot additional (but crucial) scenes. More than 40 native extras took part to the action at this point.

« We quickly decided to co-produce the movie for two main reasons, says Vincent Leclercq director of the CRRAV. First of all, we were amazed by the quality of the script. The other reason is linked to Alicia Duffy. She literally felt in love with the Avesnois and desperately wanted to shot her movie there and nowhere else ».

Wallimage and the CRRAV previously worked together investing money and energy in Anne Fontain's Entre Ses Mains but also in The Tango Singer and Cages. The stories behind those movies are to be read elsewhere on the Cine-Regio website.

Source: Cine-Regio, May, 2010