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An interview with Anne Lakhdar, producer of Fanel et Chablais de Cudrefin

As the documentary unfolds, we are introduced to the stunning landscapes and diverse ecosystems of this natural site, located at the intersection of different Swiss cantons and languages.

Filmtage : What inspired you to become an independent filmmaker, and how has your journey been so far in this challenging industry?

Anne Lakhdar : With my husband, we started Teenergy over 25 years ago because we felt that the audiovisual medias didn’t value enough what young people had to say. We thought that technique can be learnt, but that storytelling in every aspect of filmmaking was key.

We concentrated on what we knew best – bringing people together and telling stories of hope. Little by little, 4 themes emerged – environment, health, education, and human rights.

We also thought that films should be financed beforehand so that it would be easy and free for a large public to see them. Ever so often, we made films just because we thought they should be, even if finances did not always fit. We kept on knocking on all kind of doors, until some of them opened for us.

As we kept on being enthusiastic about this kind of film making, techniques, storytelling and equipment improved, and our films got better. We did not try to copy other production companies, but rather developed and stayed true to our own value system.

Recognition started to arrive through international film festivals and TV broadcasting, which helps getting attention for new projects.

Filmtage : Independent filmmaking often comes with limited resources and funding. How do you approach the creative process to maximize the impact of your storytelling within these constraints?

Anne Lakhdar : Storytelling is key to Teenergy values. Our films are best when the creative potential of different talents can work together in a synergy. That takes time but can’t be shortened. The films are carried by the strong belief that this story needs to be told and how can this best be done. There might be stress when a deadline is on to finish a film and hours can’t all be counted. But a result that is up to the expectations can help to accept the stressful times to get there.

Filmtage : The film you submitted has received critical acclaim for its unique style and narrative. Can you share the creative decisions and influences that contributed to the film's success?

Anne Lakhdar : First, there is the experience of the four other films of the series our film is part of that helped us shape this one.

Also, the subject of the film has been very special and inspiring. The geographical situation on 4 swiss counties, 2 national languages and mentalities, but also the success story of a nature reserve coming out of a landfill.

Mixing filming and animation technique to explain complex facts in a simple way has been key to understanding. We also have been lucky to be able to film some special scene during the flood.

High quality equipment, a special authorization to shoot images also by drone, but most importantly very gifted technicians helped us create beautiful images and choosing the right music.

Finally, hard work all along of a whole team, lots of talking, thinking, discussing ideas, going wrong and starting all over again certainly explains mostly the success of the film.

Filmtage : Independent filmmakers often face challenges in distribution and reaching a wider audience. What strategies have you employed to promote and share your work with a broader community?

Anne Lakhdar : It will always be a challenge to bring our films to the attention of a broad public and there is no easy step 1 to 10 to success. Again, this is hard work and a bit of luck also.

Our first step is one or several avant-premieres, inviting key people of the local communities, partners, NGOs and young people.

We found that success at international film festivals is a big help to convince broadcasters to have a look at our work. And usually, when they do, they like it.

Networking and personal contacts are also very important and take time. Wherever we are or what we do, we show and share about what we do at all kind of networking or personal meetings. That’s how our best collaborations have started.

Also, we need to be present on the web and social networks with regular posts, reels, photos etc. This is a fast-changing world and we are continually changing our strategy of presence there as well.

Our films have an educational interest and we work with universities, experts and researchers, schools and other NGOs for special events.

Filmtage : As an independent filmmaker, you have the freedom to explore diverse and unconventional subjects. Could you tell us about a particular project that was close to your heart and the importance of bringing that story to the screen?

Anne Lakhdar : Almost all our projects are really close to our heart, and that’s why we are doing them despite all difficulties. Our series on wetlands is our contribution to raise awareness and commitment to nature preservation.

A few years ago, our film “talking ears” about deaf people and how to better communicate with them was so hard to do, as part of the deaf community thought some aspects didn’t have enough importance in the film and therefore didn’t want to support it. This meant also financial struggles for us.

But when the film came out, so many people (hearing- and hearing-impaired persons, but also health professionals) told us how much they were touched and how much the film has helped them. It was worthwhile not to give up.

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