Swiss Director Simon Jaquemet Explores World of A.I. in Sci-Fi Thriller Electric Child

“It’s an arthouse take on a sci-fi computer thriller, revolving around A.I. and parenthood. But it’s not set in the future; it’s set in the now,” says the award-winning Swiss director, Simon Jaquemet, about his next project “Electric Child.”

One of 57 projects that took part in the three-day Gap-Financing Market at the Venice Production Bridge – the Venice Film Festival’s match-making centric film-mart – the “Electric Child” team scheduled 35 meetings to help raise Euro 700,000 to complete a budget of Euro 4.6 million.

It’s Jaquemet’s highest budget to date, and his first English-language feature. The young helmer has notched up multiple awards and top fest engagements to date. Jaquemet’s first feature “War” (2014) won the Max Ophuls Award, among other prizes, and premiered in San Sebastián. His second feature, “The Innocent,” premiered at Toronto’s prestige Platform section in 2018.

Jaquemet is presenting “Electric Child” in Venice with Olga Lamontanara, one of the film’s producers. Both are from the 8horses production company that Jaquemet founded with 10 other creatives in Zürich, where the film is set.

“It’s kind of set in Zurich but it could just be another European city. It’s like this A.I. bubble,” he says.

The film will shoot in Switzerland, Germany and The Philippines.

The story revolves around a couple whose child develops an unusual illness. While the mother and baby drift into their own world, the computer-science professor father develops a pact with an A.I. character on a virtual island to save his child.

Jaquemet has been developing the project for the past three to four years. “It has a possible premise of how A.I. could advance to a super power, but I tried to tell the story in a super realistic way. I’m quite into all this stuff, and follow what’s going on,” he says.

“One layer of the film shows what’s going on inside the experiment where a young person is trying to survive on a tropical island,” adds Jaquemet of the planned Philippines shoot, which comes with tax incentives.

The team started to raise finance at the Berlinale 2020, and then attended markets online, during the pandemic.

“We’ve been to a few already, including Fantasia and the Macau film markets. We have a couple more lined up. It’s been challenging and interesting,” says Jaquemet.

“We’ve raised a lot of the financing through government funds,” says Lamontanara. Those include the Swiss Federal Office of Culture, Zurich Film Foundation, Filmstiftung NRW, as well as TV channels SRF and ARTE.

Ascot Elite is the Swiss distributor with Port au Prince distributing for Germany, and Epic Media in the Philippines. “We plan to begin filming in May 2022 for a nine-week shoot,” says Lamontanara.

The idea is to complete financing by the end of this year. “We hope to have the film ready by Spring 2023. Post production will take quite some time because we will have quite a large component of FX,” adds Lamontanara.

As for the Venice event: “It’s been great to try to find the missing money for this project and also to meet people for future projects,” says Jaquemet. “No one comes here and writes you a check. It’s more like you meet and follow up, but it’s also so great to see our partners again for the first time since the pandemic began.”

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