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October 14, 2015

The BYT Interview: Eve Gabereau


Louis Cheslaw / BYT

Eve Gabereau is a film producer and the Managing Director and co-founder of independent distribution company Soda Pictures. Since its inception in 2002, the company has grown to boast a collection of more than 100 films, many of which have won strings of high-profile awards. Prior to starting Soda, Gabereau worked in film journalism.

Would you say there are any recurring themes within the films Soda distributes each year?

There seem to be natural cycles of themes that we notice in festival programmes and films being made around the same time. I’m never sure if this is symbiosis or coincidence but it’s always interesting to reflect on and participate in it. One drawback is that there isn’t always room in the distribution marketplace for multiple films around the same themes to be released. But, we don’t really look for specific themes, we look for originality, bravery and intrigue from all corners of the world and walks of life.

You’ve also worked as a producer. Has producing taught you any particular skills that you’ve carried over to distributing, or vice-versa?

Production and distribution are natural friends in the film value chain and constantly inform each other. Most of my production work has been in association with very skilled and experienced producers who come to me for a distribution partnership first. If it makes sense for us to get on-board early then we tend to play an Executive Producer role, helping raise the last of the finance and having an input on casting and the editing process. We don’t tend to get involved on the physical production side. That said, we now have a parent company who are a strong production house so we plan to expand our remit in this area. This past year, I produced an artist feature project that was shot in Paris, São Paulo and Toronto and it had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It is niche, but it is beautiful and a true test of the senses—it is an homage to the City Symphony films of the 1920s. I am extremely proud of this work. I also co-produced an adaptation of the cult novel Remainder by Man Booker Prize nominee Tom McCarthy, directed by Omer Fast and starring Tom Sturridge. On the complete other end of the spectrum, our parent company, Thunderbird Films, are Executive Producing the upcoming Blade Runner sequel to be directed by Denis Villeneuve and star Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Now, that’s exciting!

Soda collaborated with Somerset House Summer Screen to premiere Gemma Bovery this summer. Are there any other great film events in the capital that you’d recommend to London cinephiles?

The Summer Screen season at Somerset House is a truly visionary event—it brings people together in the most incredible setting, in August when the weather should be good, to watch films on a huge screen outside. And because it is run by Film4, the marketing, and therefore turn-out, is phenomenal. Besides big ticket film events like Secret Cinema and the BFI London Film Festival, I recommend film screenings with talks because the viewing experience is much richer when you get to hear more about the where, how, when, why it was made. Anecdotes bring a lot to one’s cinema knowledge and understanding, and are fun to listen to and reflect on. Picturehouse, Curzon and the Everyman Group all put together a great, diverse programme of films and Q&As. I love what is now called “event cinema” and think there is much scope in this area.

Where does the name “Soda” come from?

Flashback to 2002. The name Soda first comes from a book called Color and Meaning, which my business partner Edward Fletcher and I were flipping through in hopes of finding our company name. We wrote down endless colour names and words related to colour theory, mostly they were rather esoteric given the book’s sub-title is Art, Science and Symbolism. I being Canadian misheard Edward say “Solar Orange” as “Soda Orange” so I ended writing them both down on our brainstorming list. I speak Japanese and suddenly had a revelation that “So-da” means “That’s it” or “That’s right” so we dropped the Orange, added Pictures, registered the URL and the name was born!

How did you meet your co-founder, Edward Fletcher?

We met when I was programming for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Edward was working in distribution at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). I needed to watch a few films they had in their line-up so I contacted him. After that, we got talking and found we had a lot of shared favourites and influences and became quick friends. It seemed like forever that we talked about setting up a company together, but in reality it was only about a year. Our first film was the French-Chinese adaptation Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, which we saw in Cannes a few months prior to setting up the company but felt it was the right one for us to start with.
Thirteen years later, Edward and I have realised that we have more differences than similarities and that this is what has strengthened our business relationship and kept us going and growing. We now have 15 full-time staff, 300 films in our library and an office dog. Oh, and last year we merged with the film and television media group Thunderbird Films and are now taking the company to a new phase of increased budgets in terms of acquisitions and releasing—and territories we cover which now includes the UK, Ireland and Canada. It’s a great time for us personally and for Soda.