TMC David Dufresne Fort McMoney Coproduction Interview Eng Version
david Dufresne onf/nfb
Fort McMoney & the art of co-production
An interview with
award-winning independent writer and filmmaker
Creator / director Fort mcmoney
David Dufresne is an award-winning independent writer and
ﬁlmmaker. He has recently joined the MIT as a Fellow at the Open
Documentary Lab, Comparative Media Studies/Writing. Fort
McMoney is his new ﬁlm, an interactive game documentary,
produced by ONF/Arte and Toxa and acclaimed by the NY Times
as the "wedding of the ﬁlm and the video game". In 2010, he
authored and co-directed PrisonValley, a web documentary, with
Philippe Brault (Upian/Arte), which won a host of international
David Dufresne was a long-time reporter for Libération and
managing editor of iTélé, France’s 24-hour newscast. He has also
published a dozen investigation books. He was also one of the ﬁrst
Internet players in France (he published the ﬁrst webzine, La Rafale,
in 1995).Today, David lives in Montreal.
who is David Dufresne?
“Fort McMoney is a game documentary that engages players with
the oil industry, Fort McMoney is the virtual representation of a
real place, the town of Fort McMurray, located in Canada’s oil
Best Interactive Documentary Gémeaux (Canada)
Special Mention JuryVisa d’Or RFI-France 24 (France)
Knowledge & Education Category Grimme OnLine Award
Best Interactive Documentary Festival International du Film de
Grand Prix Boomerangs Interactive Documentary (Canada)
Site of the day FWA / Favourite Website Awards
Finalist at the SXSW festival 2014
Nearly 375,000 players from 201 regions in the world
Nearly 6500 ‘arguments’ shared by players
2 years of research
60 days of ﬁlming
8 hours of available content
Fort McMoney: the numbers
S.O. : Fort McMoney is a major co-production - did the partners co-develop
and work jointly on the project? what was the role of the co-production
DD. : Producers play a pivotal role in i-Doc creation, taking care of a lot
more than just the ﬁnancials. They’re involved in everything that has to do
with the production side of things, like development, coding and visuals.
If you think, as I do, that the interface makes the story, then certain
producers are actually co-authors. But above all things, Upian and Toxa
are well-established web agencies with unparalleled expertise and strong
S.O. : did the partners need to meet physically?
was communicating via online meetings enough?2DD. : Meeting face to face is a must! It’s still the best way to work with
someone. Seeing your work partners at regular intervals, even
occasionally, helps everyone move forward at a faster pace and resolve
issues quickly. I ﬁnd myself doing more and more work using the two-day
workshop format, for example, because it helps us make real progress.
S.O. : as you’ve had the opportunity to work with Arte more than once, what
kind of best practice strategies have you learned for working with
international co-partners? Did you need to meet physically? was
communicating via online meetings enough?
DD. : Being a Franco-German network, Arte is international through and
through. And that’s great, because the digital revolution is too, allowing
for worldwide broadcasting without borders. It’s changing habits
everywhere. We used this idea when developing Fort McMoney. The
discussions we had with our media partners in Germany, Canada and
France started a whole year before the project went live. We wanted to go
beyond simple traditional exchanges, focusing on content instead of
visibility. The idea was to get Le Monde, The Globe & Mail, Radio Canada
and Sueddeutsche.de really involved in the process and not just count on
their large audiences.
3DD. : A number of editors chose one or two journalists to become avid
Fort McMoney players. Their job was to provide us with insight, expert
advice and/or analyses. The goal was to stimulate the audience, a key
element in making any game successful. Concurrently, some of our
partners talked about the game in their media and published in-depth
investigations on the oil industry, which gave us content for the game in
S.O. : When you create a project for different national or linguistic groups,
did you have to think about how to make the content relevant for each
audience? Did that impact Prison Valley or Fort McMoney at all? Both really
address documentary subjects that have global relevance.
DD. : It wasn’t really an issue in either case. Although our forums/debates
for Prison Valley were somewhat “localised” since the prison issue isn’t
dealt with in the same way everywhere. For Fort McMoney, we had three
game masters (one for English, one for French and one for German) to
ensure that we answered user questions as best as possible. But there
are lots of signiﬁcant diﬀerences on the promotional side of things.
People from diﬀerent parts of the world don’t necessarily look at
innovation the same way, just like they don’t see eye-to-eye on a variety
S.O. : One of the most exciting and innovative aspects of Fort McMoney was
the live interaction with global players in three languages, French, English
and German. How did you structure the community manager role? was there
one person? or more than one?
DD. : Because we were almost always connected, the three game
masters (GMs) were able to moderate debates and advise players at all
times. We released information as time went on and analysed Fort
McMoney’s progress. Philip Lewis was the GM for English-speaking
players, Frédéric Dubois, for German-speaking players and I was the GM
for French-speaking players. Apparently, a lot of hard-core gamers really
enjoyed the game’s “live” aspect. It obviously took a lot of time, energy,
and, therefore, money to make it happen day after day, but I think it’s one
of the main reasons we got such a huge response. What we’re most
proud of is how involved players got in the debates, often using high-level
arguments. We got over 6500 posts in two months! Our goal was to
create a debate around a topic many people considered closed.
S.O. : Did the three player communities have much contact? can you describe
how that was designed??5
DD. : I had a set timetable for the ﬁrst two months of play (when the GMs
were involved) that listed what GMs had to publish by what date, what
analyses had to be done, and so on. But the timetable was ﬂexible so we
could make changes as the game evolved and world events unfolded. We
had an email “meeting” every morning to update each other on what was
happening in each of the game’s “countries.”.
S.O. : What insights have you gained from Fort McMoney that you are taking
forward in Off/Side, your new interactive documentary on sports business?
6DD. : The web’s real-time immediacy oﬀers amazing narrative options
compared to commentary, which takes more time. And creating an
involved community is possible as long as you put in the time necessary
(which is a lot!) to help it thrive.
S.O. : do you see the possibility of using the technology/platform you’ve built
for Fort McMoney again? are you?
7DD. : We could replicate the Fort McMoney format in other cities around
the world, but I’d rather ﬁnd new ways of telling a story than duplicating
what’s already been done. In my opinion, the industry’s recent shift
towards interactivity amounts to research and development in
documentary ﬁlmmaking. It’s like we’re working in a lab that’s open to
everyone. But everything that comes out of this lab isn’t necessarily
relevant, because everything shouldn’t be interactive. Form should
always serve the subject.
One thing’s for certain, there’s a strong wind blowing, which means
there’s a big storm brewing. And the entire industry is already reaping the
beneﬁts. The public sector (NFB, Radio-Canada, CMF, Arte, France
Télévisions and CNC) has played a key role in supporting these changes.
Now it’s time for the private sector to do its part.
S.O. : There is a co-production treaty (or mini-treaties) between Canada and
France. Do you have any advice for Canadian or French documentary
makers or interactive digital producers on how to approach an international
co-production in terms of ﬁnancial arrangements? Are there any tips or
common pitfalls you can discuss??
DD. : I know a lot of French ﬁlmmakers dream of working with Canadians.
After all, Montreal is considered the Mecca of interactive technology. NFB
and CMF productions are studied closely in Paris, and vice versa. But we
can’t forget the distance issue. We need to see each other, meet up and
travel to work together successfully. Skyping and emailing aren’t enough.
And I sincerely believe the signiﬁcant cultural diﬀerences between us can
lead to great things as long as we take the time to understand and
S.O. : cont.
DD. : In simple terms, I’d say Canadians focus on the “how” while the
French focus on the “why.” That’s why I consider Fort McMoney to be the
result of a combination of skills, but also of cultures and approaches.
Toxa and the NFB were the North American inﬂuence while my
accomplice, cameraman Philippe Brault, and the Arte team brought a
more European ﬂavour to the project.
The way things are today kind of reminds me of working in France in
1994-1995 when we read Quebec webzines and a friendship was
emerging between us as we had just started building the French-
S.O. : does the treaty help or hinder getting a co-production off the ground?
There are obviously so many factors to consider!9DD. : I can’t really answer that. It’s more of a question for producers. I
think we need to go even further by increasing the number of bi-national
workshops, meetings and festivals, like the Emergence Lab organized by
the Institut français and the CMF in Banﬀ last year.
10DD. : The total budget for the Fort McMoney project is $872,000. Of that,
the NFB’s participation was $270,000 — about (30%) of the total budget.
TOXA, the project initiator and major producer had access to funding
programs devoted to interactive works via the experimental component of
the Canada Media Fund. It was also made possible thanks to the
participation of ARTE, another partner in the project via a license.
From what I know, FortMcMoney.com is a web documentary with
production costs in the midrange of documentary productions in Canada,
and more speciﬁcally at the NFB.
The money made it possible to ﬁnance a content-rich documentary game
that, like traditional documentaries, required several production stages,
including development (4000 hours), research, investigations, shoots in
various locations (60 days), editing (7 months), travel, etc.…
SO: for the ﬁnancing of Fort McMoney - what percentage did each
partner contribute? were there any roadblocks that made it difﬁcult to
work with international partners?
1. Remember that international co-productions generate additional
2. Ensure everyone is headed in the same direction, meaning they all
agree on goals and deadlines for every step of the project.
3. Think about the work to be done by each party at all times, from
project development to post-launch marketing eﬀorts.
SO: What are the top three things a producer should be aware of when
thinking about an international co-production?
12DD. : Clearly deﬁne each player’s role. Not everyone can give their
feedback at every step of the project. Establish trust early on.
SO: What is the best advice you can give a producer for thinking about
13DD. : I’d like for treaties to help more than just production teams. We also
need to help authors (through training seminars and bursaries) and
facilitate meetings (through workshops and festivals).
SO: From your knowledge of international co-productions and existing
co-production treaties are there some existing international partnership
arrangements that seem to work really well??
The david dufresne Fort mcmoney
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TMC Resource Kit
the david dufresne Fort mcmoney
was prepared by:
Dr. Siobhan O’Flynn
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