Some anniversaries are more symbolic and decisive than others.
This Monday 30 November 2020, Philippe Reynaert turns 65 . And what looks like one more year to add to the long list of exciting years that preceded it is above all the signal that the daily life of the emblematic director of Wallimage will change completely in a few hours.
Tomorrow, it’s decided, the man with white glasses will slip away to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. A normal step in a professional life, a milestone expected by many. But in this case, let’s be honest, the shockwave is impressive. When you have managed a company like Wallimage from the day 1 of its creation until its 20th anniversary, you have inevitably left your mark. And not only the minds.
In retrospect, we can say that when Minister Serge Kubla appointed Philippe Reynaert as head of the very first Belgian economic fund dedicated to cinema and, more broadly, to the development of regional audiovisual, he was bold and had a brilliant intuition. Instead of a technocrat who would have taken several years to find his bearings by immersing himself in the realities of a very specific environment, he places in exactly the right place a hard-core film buff, very active, keen on communication, already maintaining close contacts with the profession. In Belgium and abroad. A man who is as comfortable in the media as he is in international conferences, but who will never be as happy as when sitting in a movie theater enjoying the latest creation of one of his favorite artists.
“On the other hand, cinema is also an industry.
At the beginning of the years 2000, Belgian producers are looking for most of their financing abroad and willingly relocate their shooting and post-production there. Taking Malraux’s precept as his own, Philippe Reynaert has taken the gamble of reversing the scheme : he wants to persuade foreign producers to come and get money in Wallonia, thereby committing themselves to spend this sum and a substantial part of the rest of their financing here. This initiative is all the more daring as the industry is still almost non-existent here.
Gangsters will be the first French feature film to receive Walloon funding. But it is especially the late Bernard Rapp, delighted with his Walloon experience with his film Pas si grave, who will help Philippe Reynaert to convince more French producers to relocate certain activities to Wallonia.
In 2003, the Tax Shelter was born, which, thanks to our fragmented institutions, is harmoniously juxtaposed with the Walloon fund. As a result, the system of Franco-Belgian co-productions quickly took on an unsuspected scope. The number of international files filed at 6, rue du 11 novembre explodes and the whole Walloon industry develops while the excellent regional technicians finally find work close to home, obtaining salaries more and more in line with the French market.
The story of Wallimage is just beginning, but the model is defined. And it works. In 2004, Jean-Claude Marcourt took the reins of the regional economy. During thirteen very intense years, he regularly consolidated the strength of Wallimage, which during his term of office saw the creation of a number of successful audiovisual companies, soon to be supported by a specific entity. Wallimage Entreprises, created in 2008, is managed by the young Virginie Nouvelle who will support and amplify the work of Wallimage (Coproductions).
Accompanied by a vigilant but always enthusiastic board of directors, Philippe Reynaert has been able, over the years, to increase the scope of the Wallo fund. During all these years, he was supported and coached by some historical figures such as Jean-Pierre Désiron, Alain Tabart or Yves Vander Cruysen, who unfortunately passed away this week by the Covid, sowing sadness in the Wallimage team and particularly in the heart of Philippe who started the Wallimage adventure at his side. With them, Philippe was able to create a mixed fund called Wallimage-Bruxellimage and open Wallimage to new technologies. He also encouraged producers to diversify into Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, German or Italian countries and established the Wallimage brand abroad in international forums, meetings or associations, thus giving unexpected visibility to Wallonia.
During all these years, production companies will be born and develop, studios dedicated to post-production, animation and special effects will be created. Some of them will disappear, but most of them will prosper and become references at the Belgian and international level.
The theory of evolution
Philippe Reynaert’s longevity at the head of an organization like Wallimage is exceptional and spectacular. It is essentially based on a strong initial vision that has been continuously refined and amplified, triggering a success that has never wavered. But it also owes a lot to the astonishing capacities of communication and conviction that allowed Philippe Reynaert to work constructively with a great number of interlocutors, among which the two ministers in charge of Wallimage who have succeeded one another since 2017. Pierre-Yves Jeholet and Willy Borsus have both contributed to the solid structure that is Wallimage today, ensuring an exemplary and transparent transition at the head of the company in a complicated health and economic context.
Virginie Nouvelle, who is now at the helm of She is now more than ever aware of the magnitude of the challenge that awaits her, for it is a legacy of twenty intense years that she will have to bring to fruition in the service of an entire region dedicated to increasing autonomy; a legacy that she has obviously helped build alongside her mentor, which is a significant asset for the economic health of the Walloon audiovisual sector. Even if Wallimage will never be exactly the same again, the company will continue to rely on the strategy put in place by Philippe Reynaert.
We will miss his enthusiasm, his exceptional work capacity, his strength of conviction, his intuitions, his relational impact, but everyone at Wallimage is imbued with his vision and the future of the fund is largely assured by the peaceful, harmonious and constructive management of his succession.
In the coming months, Philippe Reynaert will not rest on his laurels. It will not disappear from the media landscape overnight. We are all convinced that he will bounce back here and there, in a more detached way, carried by his unalterable passion for cinema.
Life does not end at 65 years. It starts again under different auspices. Let’s bet that it will still be surprising, rich and very long for this exceptional man of whom we are so proud to have crossed the road and shared the path.
The Wallimage team