L’Ecole de La Cité, the film school hatched by Luc Besson back in 2012, is facing an uncertain future. The school’s director, Laurent Jaudon, has left his post, changing his social media status to “director without a school, but many students” and Besson’s EuropaCorp says recruitment of new students has been postponed “to a date that will be made public later.”
Europa’s spokesperson says the school is facing “a lack of sufficient funding” from the state and private donations, but that the team is “working hard on the model to be implemented for the coming years” and will make use of the summer to “reorganize itself.”
A source with ties to the school calls the situation “a shame” as it has offered an opportunity to candidates who might not have access to such prestigious establishments as France’s La Fémis. Besson started L’Ecole de la Cité, based at his studio facility in Paris suburb Saint Denis, as a path for creative young people who did not meet the requirements of other institutions. It has accepted 60 students from diverse backgrounds per year. I can recall touring the site when it was still a disused industrial complex years ago as Besson outlined his ambitions.
Current backers include Kering, TF1, Transpa/Lux and Next Shot, according to the school’s website. Early on, CanalPlus, Gaumont, Pathé and M6 were involved, but are understood to have dropped out over time.
The disruption of the curriculum, which has been open to aspiring writer/directors and directors, comes at a time when EuropaCorp has been looking for investors to prop up or buy out the studio and is cutting a third of its French staff. Europa has contributed marginally to the school’s budget, according to French financial outlet BFM. It also follows Besson being accused of rape by an actress in May; other women recently made allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior in an investigative report by online news outlet Mediapart.
A Europa spokesperson today told Deadline, “Due to the lack of sufficient funding from the state and because private donations are not at the necessary level, the Ecole de la Cité must redefine the conditions of its financial equilibrium. Also, after these encouraging beginnings, the school team is working hard on the model to be implemented for the coming years in order to continue to attract young talents, to offer a specific pedagogical model, to stick to the expectations of the film community while taking into account the financial constraints of its funding model.
“That’s why, in order to make the right decisions, the school uses the summer to reorganize itself and makes the decision to postpone the recruitment of new students to a date that will be made public later. Today, more than ever, the school is fully engaged in this fight.”