A dark cloud continues to loom over award winning director Luc Besson as his film school, L’Ecole de la Cite, now faces closure. In an email sent on Monday 23rd July, founding director, Laurent Jaudon, said that he was leaving the school, effective immediately.
Besson founded the school in 2012 which was housed on his massive studio outside Paris. The film school aimed to enrol students from various backgrounds, stood out from other, more exclusive film schools by not having strict entrance requirements. This was important to Besson as he himself had been rejected by film schools for being ‘too commercial’. The school accepted 60 students over a two-year period and was free to attend.
The school has been fully funded by donations, with fashion luxury group Kering, French channel TF1 and camera and lighting companies NextShot and TranspaLux currently listed as partners. CanalPlus, Gaumont, Pathe, channel M6 and bank BNP Paribas were all previously sponsors but have left the project in the last few years, with private funding falling precipitously from €1.8 million ($2.1 million) in its first year to €180,000 ($210,000) last year. The National Cinema Center and the Ile-de-France regional film body each contributed 200,000 euros ($234,000) this year.
The school’s closure follows Besson’s both personal and professional troubles.
Actress, Sand van Roy accused Besson of rape following an encounter at a Paris hotel on May 18th. The actress had a role in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and the upcoming Anna, starring Helen Mirren. Van Roy said the night of May 18th was the latest incident in a two-year long abusive relationship.
Following Van Roy’s accusations, two other actresses and a casting director came forward with their own accusations in an article for investigative website Mediapart published July 9th, though they all remained anonymous. Although Besson has denied all accusations, in the era of the #MeToo movement, allegations of sexual assault are no longer going unnoticed or unquestioned.
The turmoil at the school also follows the international flop of Besson’s long-awaited sci-fi epic Valerian, which grossed just $225.8 million worldwide after costing upward of $200 million to make. EuropaCorp reported losses totaling nearly $180 million in two consecutive quarters since the film’s release which has consequently laid off 22 workers.
These series of events beg the question surrounding Luc Besson’s legacy and how it will dictate his future career ventures. The closure of his iconic film school is not only a loss for the future of cinema but also a loss for future filmmakers.
Text: Tia Albert
Images: Joe Scarcini, Fangirl Nation, CNews, Indiewire, Gazeta, IMDb.