In 2015 the Paris Opera launched a 3e Scène (3rd Stage), but not the lamented third stage dedicated to contemporary musicians, which was an initial project of the gargantuan opera house at Place de la Bastille. No, here we’re talking about a digital platform where you can watch around 60 short films free of charge and rub shoulders with the likes of Abd Al Malik and Arnaud de Solignac, Bertrand Bonello, Valérie Donzelli, Bret Easton Ellis, Mathieu Amalric, Fanny Ardant, Clémence Poésy – to name but a few…

We meet up with Philippe Martin, producer and founder of the Films Pelléas production company who also directs this collection of films, alongside his colleague Dimitri Krassoulia-Vronsky in the Marais, Paris.

How did the 3e Scène come about ?
When Stéphane Lissner became director of the Paris Opera, he wanted to launch a digital project. He came up with the idea of creating a third stage in addition to Garnier and Bastille. The project was initially entrusted to Dimitri Chamblas, a dancer associated with Benjamin Millepied.
That same year I produced L’Opéra by Jean-Stéphane Bron. Once we’d finished the film, Stéphane Lissner approached me to see if I wanted to take over from Dimitri.

“L’Entretien” by Ugo Bienvenu and Félix de Givry © OnP / Les Films Pelléas

How do you decide who to collaborate with ?
With a few exceptions, we only work with people we haven’t previously worked with. We develop an editorial approach based on the idea of collaborating with people whose work is able to strike a chord with opera. We don’t instinctively reach out to people who like opera, it’s more the other way around. Stéphane Lissner has a clear definition of what 3e Scène is: “It’s a place where we invite artists who wouldn’t usually be invited to an opera house, designed for audience members who wouldn’t usually go to see an opera.”
When we ask people to work with us, we have one small request: to make films that have some sort of connection to opera, theatre, dance, singing or music as forms of expression, or a connection to the places themselves. It’s open and structured at the same time.
Artists are at the very core of 3e Scène‘s DNA. Sometimes the artists will have a background in film, sometimes they won’t. They could be choreographers or writers… I don’t give specific instructions to the film directors vis-a-vis the platform, because you can’t go against someone’s way of doing something or tell them what they should do.

“Breathing” by Hiroshi Sugimoto © DR

Could you tell us about the various aesthetics in the 3e Scène collection ?
I try to break away from fiction and dramaturgy – from all the things that make up such a vast quantity of the cinematographic language in general. The good thing about it is finishing [a project] without knowing everything. What I’m interested in is the idea of experimenting and trying things out – of simply allowing works to exist.

How would you define your job as a producer ?
A producer’s work involves a combination of tastes, instincts and knowledge. I go out a lot and am constantly in research mode. Since becoming a producer I’ve realised that there isn’t just one way of producing. I adapt my behaviour a lot because you never know where the act of producing is going to come from, of allowing a film to exist.

Shooting of “Médée” by Mikael Buch © DR

Can you tell us about your role in film editing ?
I probably see editing as the most important step in the process: it’s pivotal in determining whether a film is a success or a failure. It’s a delicate operation because the artist doesn’t see things in the same way as you do. At this point you need to have complete confidence in your own vision. My role as a producer maybe comes down to the fact that I’m more knowledgeable than your average Joe simply giving their view on a film. You have to be diplomatic and never give up, even if it means convincing a director to change the editor halfway through the process. You have to be constantly thinking about how to make sure the film works.

What are your aspirations for 3e Scène ?
It’s a bit trite, but I don’t support today’s prevailing aesthetics. Television is dominated by visual language in news stories and slap-dash photography. Let’s not discuss the internet – these issues have even left the online sphere. It has little to do with art. It’s about having to accept the idea that amongst the mass of productions, in both film and literature, real works of art are in the minority. It may come across as pretentious to say, but what we are striving towards – and we might also get it wrong –  is to create works of art. We have built a creative space in which we can primarily focus on producing quality.

“Clinamen” by Hugo Arcier © OnP / Les Films Pelléas
“Le Lac Perdu” by Claude Lévêque © OnP / Les Films Pelléas

3e Scène – Opéra de Paris : on the Paris Opera website and on YouTube
Le fantôme (2019 – 26.11 min) by Jhon Rachid and Antoine Barillot
Degas et moi (2019 – 20 min) by Arnaud des Pallières
Les Indes Galantes (2018 – 5.49 min) by Clément Cogitore
Le lac perdu (2019 – 7.35 min) by Claude Lévêque
Vibrato (2017 – 7.22 min) by Sébastien Laudenbach
Nepthali (2015 – 3,43 min) de Glen Keane

The 3ème Scène of Paris Opera
Les Films Pelléas

Text : Jérôme Descamps
Portrait : Philippe Martin © Laurent Champoussin