The Smurfs and ... Zorro on the menu at the 116th session of Wallimage

The Wallimage Decentralized Co-Production Council, meeting on Monday October 9 to close the 116th funding session, decided to support twelve new projects: two series and one animated feature, one feature and two documentaries initiated in Belgium, two international series and four feature films initiated abroad (Italy, Macedonia, Luxembourg), but of course co-produced here.

  • 16.01.2024

Three animation projects

Unsurprisingly, animation is once again very present, spearheaded by Peyo Productions‘ third season of The Smurfs, with 52 11-minute episodes on the menu. Located in the USA for a few years, this fantastic IP returned to Wallonia a few years ago for a new series development, faithful to Peyo’s spirit. Artistic and commercial success has been impressive from the outset, and this third instalment is set to be no exception, with the creation of a host of exciting new characters. 1.8M will be spent on Dreamwall, which will animate 39 episodes for the equivalent of 27 full-time positions. Production will be completed in the summer of 2025.

Very different in its graphics and tone, the Ki & Hi series presented by Belvision is an adaptation of a French manga that has sold over a million copies. Liège-based studio Waooh !, working for the first time with the Marcinelle-based production company, will be in charge of storyboards and sets for all 52 episodes, as well as animation for 10 episodes. This production will occupy 26.5 full-time equivalents in Wallonia, including 6 managerial positions, for a total of 5,838 man-days over a period of one and a half years. These figures may seem daunting, but they demonstrate the importance of the animation sector to Wallonia’s economic development.

Unlike the other two projects, Tally Ho! is a (fake) 3d feature film for 6/10 year-olds. It has two important industrial features: it was brought to us by Freaks Factorya new Walloon production company specializing in animation, and will be produced by a new studio in Liège, Picture Factory, under the direction of Quentin Buchkremer, who has recently worked on projects for Dreamwall, Red Dragon (Pekin), Grid, Digital Graphics, Nextframes and Movida (Nwave Wallonie). Caroline Origer’s second full-length film follows the epic adventures of Holly, an orphaned hedgehog, and Walter, a cheerful rabbit, father of 53 and exhausted by daily life. The Liège-based studio will work on layout, animation, rendering, image postproduction and VFX for this unifying work. 15 Walloon artists have already been identified. They will then take part in the six projects already in the production company’s pipeline. Wallimage is delighted with the creation of this promising new studio.

International Series

Rather rare this year, series are making a comeback this autumn, led by a very attractive project. Panache Productions is offering us the grand return of Zorro. Playing the masked vigilante (and Don Diego, of course) is Jean Dujardin. André Dussolier will play his father, Grégory Gadebois, Sergeant Garcia and Audrey Dana, Diego’s wife. Conceived and written by Benjamin Charbit (“La Bête” by Bertrand Bonnello) and Noé Debré (the “Parlement” series, the films “Stillwater”, “Le Fidèle”, “Le Brio”…), the series will be directed by Jean-Baptiste Saurel (the “Parallèles” series, the cult short film “La Bifle”) and Emilie Noblet (“Parlement”, “Les 7 vies de Léa”…). In other words, a team of… young veterans who breathe surprising madness into a universe we thought we knew by heart. If the shoot is Spanish, the sound team will be Walloon, while all post-production (excluding picture editing) will be split between Wallonia and Brussels. French-speaking Belgian audiences will discover this tangy treat exclusively on RTL in December 2024.

More academic (though), the second season of Marie-Antoinette is presented by Beside Productions. This 8 x 52-minute English-language historical series was an international hit last year, and will take a more spectacular turn here as royal power is threatened by the precarious situation of the natives. You can feel the Revolution approaching. Spoiler for those who skipped the history lesson: this will be the main topic of season 3. Here again, everything will be shot in France, partly in the studio at Bry-sur-Marne. The film crew will be made up of two technicians, but it’s in post-production that Wallonia will be spending the most, with 900,000 euros divided between various Walloon special effects companies, while Bardaf will be handling the sound work and Équipe Wallonie the subtitles.

Four feature films in co-production

Italy has become a regular partner of Wallonia, and this session is no exception, with two transalpine projects joining our line-up. Presented by Potemkino, Pier Paolo Paganellio’s Volare! is a fantastic tale that could be described as Burtonian. The 100% Italian shoot will last 35 days, with acrobats from the Tempo d’Eole circus troupe (Jauchelette) and a handful of local actors. The sound team will be Walloon, as will the VFX supervisor. The lion’s share of the costs were incurred in post-production, with special effects at The Pack Wallonie in Mons, image post-production at Équipe Wallonie and sound post-production at Genval-les-Dames.

When we think of Italian co-productions, we obviously think of Tarantula. The recent Venice Film Festival was further proof of Joseph Rouschop’s popularity in the peninsula, as his co-production in competition, Io Capitano, won two major prizes, a dozen additional awards, will represent Italy at the Oscars and got off to a thunderous start at the local box-office. The Great Ambition follows this trend of social and political films, plunging us into the 70s when the Italian Communist Party was hot on the heels of Christian Democracy. Will a radical left-wing party come to power in Europe in the midst of the Cold War? It was possible, but while Enrico Berlinguer was emancipating himself from the Soviet model and proposing a national coalition, Aldo Mauro was kidnapped by the Red Brigades. Shooting will take place in Italy and Bulgaria with four Walloon technicians, including cinematographer Benoit Dervaux. As is often the case in these configurations, Franco Piscopo will be in charge of sound mixing at Mute and solo, while Genval-les-Dames will handle dubbing, Benuts VFX, and Bardaf color grading and the digital lab.

A few years ago, Wallimage co-financed Skinwalker, Christian Neuman’s first feature film. This will also be the case for Stargazer, his new fantasy thriller initiated in Luxembourg and presented by Beluga Tree. What’s special about this very Lynchian film is that, despite its Anglo-Saxon feel, it will be shot mainly in the Verviers region (15 of the 20 days in the Walloon Region). Pascal Degrune created the storyboard, and 33 Walloon technicians took care of SFX, decoration, the electrical department, costumes and the indispensable canteen. As well as a number of supporting roles and extras. Sound postproduction and image laboratory services will be provided by Bardaf.

To save her ruined family, Zara, a 15-year-old Roma girl, is going to be sold at the bride market. His sister Adela (12), a skateboarding virtuoso, wants to win a competition to redeem her sister with the prize money. The poignant screenplay of Skateboarding is not for girls has already garnered a number of awards, and deservedly so. Its shooting under the guidance of Dina Duma promises just as much, as the director’s debut feature was selected for over 50 festivals and was the 1st Macedonian film purchased by Netflix in 2021. Entre Chien et Loup “new look” (Sébastien Delloye solo) brings us this project in collaboration with Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia. Walloon expenditure is limited, but accounts for a quarter of the total budget, thanks to a dream team: Benoît Dervaux on images (with his team), Elsa Rhulmann on sound, Thomas Gauder on mixing (Bardaf), Marie-Hélène Dozo on editing and Philippe Van Leer on sound effects (Genval-les-Dames). Almost 50% of Wallonia’s expenditure is on personnel.

Made in Belgium

This session also enabled us to co-finance three projects initiated in Belgium: a feature-length fiction film and two documentaries for television.

Reflet dans un diamant mort is the fourth feature from Franco-Belgian directors Cattet and Forzani. It’s also the first delegated production for Kozak Films, led by Pierre Foulon, previously known as a production manager. With its 1,200 shots in 16 mm, the shoot promises to be pretty crazy, especially as Kozak has managed to give it a much bigger budget than the directors’ previous films. The shoot will spend two days in Wallonia, but will travel abroad for 38 days. Seven19 technicians, SFX, props and costume rental, a camera from TSF and a canteen will ensure the Walloon presence on set, while in post-production, rushes, sound and image work, as well as VFX (from Benuts) will be located in Wallonia.

Directed by Quentin Noirfalisse and Jérémy Parotte, Après la pluie is a 70-minute documentary about the floods that hit the Vesdre valley in 2021. Les films de la passerelle decided to support Dancing Dog, the director’s production company, to enable him to concentrate on his subject. Twenty days of filming are scheduled in and around Verviers (this session’s flagship city). A Walloon subject, local production teams and director, sound rental and image editing at Cetemi, sound editing and mixing at Stand up (Juprelle), mastering at Genval-les-Dames. It couldn’t be more regional.

We’re getting close, however, with the latest project selected. Pauvreté infantile, brought to us by Prod à la demande, is directed by Clément Leenhardt and will focus on this sad phenomenon that is currently hitting French-speaking Belgium hard. What can we do about it? What structures have been put in place? How do children cope with this difference? This 52-minute documentary will be broadcast in December 2023 by RTBF as part of Viva for life, followed by a debate. 14 days of shooting (out of 20) are located in Wallonia, in Liège, Charleroi, Ottignies and Verviers, while the team will be rounded out by Raphaël Van Sitteren on image, Sophie Huyvaert on editing, and Guillaume Marique and Benjamin Dontaine on post-prod at Dame Blanche Genval.

The next session is scheduled for November 16. It will, of course, be the last of an intense year that has smashed all records for the number of applications submitted to the Walloon fund.