Carole, Producer and Director

Interviews & Portraits, Lifestyle

Founder and CEO of  The Soul Edition™, Carole Bienaimé Besse is a French producer and director.  She was made Knight of Arts and Letters, one of France’s top cultural awards and honors from Minister of Culture in 2010. Beside her work, this true Parisian, mother of two, is involved in the fight for gender equality and against gender stereotypes that persist in television. She’s member of the Women’s Rights Council at Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel the french high authority who protects audiovisual communications freedom.

TSÉ: Where are you from?
Carole: I am French.  I have Caribbean’s (Haïti) origins. I grew up in Provence (South of France). I live in Paris, left bank.

TSÉ: Could you describe one of your typical day?
Every morning begins similarly. I usually wake up at 7am, if I was not woken up one hour before by one of my children. They get up very early…too early! Five days a week I start with 30mn of work out. It is a personalized fitness yoga series based on Tracy Anderson’s Method. I end up the session with meditation. It is a very important moment for me. After that everything comes together very quickly: shower, breakfast, preparing and dropping off my children at school. Then my first meeting, which is usually a breakfast business meeting in a café. I like Café de Flore’s first floor, it is very quiet, or Café Marly at the Louvre Museum.
If I don’t have a meeting I arrive at the office around 9am. When I’m not filming, I’m usually writing, developing my next films in the morning, then I focus on The Soul Edition (TSÉ) with the team depending the time difference.
Before I used to produce more but today I concentrate on my own film projects and TSÉ. I found out that directing is what I really prefer in the whole process of film creation. I am very honored to have been chosen to curate TSÉ. TSÉ‘s values are in perfect harmony with my editorial line which focus on Culture and History. Things must have some consistency, it is important to me.
The morning flies and it is already 1pm. In France we take time for lunch even though it is the occasion to talk about business. I do not like it. I don’t really like the idea of doing a break and I prefer breakfast to discuss business. This is more efficient and talking business over a coffee or a (green) tea seems more natural to me … and less antithetical to the pleasure of sharing a good meal! On top of that, it has the advantage of not cutting your working day.
When I can, I pick up my children from school at 4.30pm. If not, I come back from work at 7pm. Family time matters. Before I used to go out a lot for my work, I used to go to all the previews. Now I ask to receive the DVDs at the office or a link via email. The negative point is the size of the screen; nothing can replace the experience of a movie theater!

TSÉ: How did you start your career in the media world?
Carole: Randomly! I knew no one in this industry. It happened almost twenty years ago. At that time I was Junior Communications Officer at Sotheby’s France, a friend of a friend who used to be a producer, were looking for a production assistant to work on a documentary series for the BBC. That’s how I started. First as production assistant, then I quickly became production manager, then executive producer and finally producer. Every day I mesure my luck to have been able to start my career with the BBC, which represents excellence in documentary business and so drama. These early Anglo-Saxon experiences marked me for life, since I’ve always favored international co-productions, whether small or ambitious. I need several cultures to coexist to be happy at work.
In 2008 I created my own production company in London, then in Paris almost two years after. Why London? Because I was already partner of Malcolm McLaren’s production company at that time, and it was easier for me to start there. After the birth of my children I closed the French company. “Do not bite off more than you can chew” says the proverb which is a wise advise.
I must also say that I started to write and direct films at that time.  First a documentary film about designer Jean Charles de Castelbajac. Then I wrote two other films. One dedicated to couturier Karl Lagerfeld and another one to Jean-Paul Gaultier for Channel 5 and NRJ Group. Then I wrote and directed the documentary film “Abraham Lincoln, The Roads to Freedom” for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. I am very proud of that film, which was distributed in many countries and had good reviews. I was invited to The White House during the filming and it was broadcasted on numerous occasions during the commemorations of the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
The film I’m working on right now is also an historical one. The difference is it’s a feature documentary (for cinema) and it is produced by an American production company. I’m thrilled even if it is a lot of pressure.

TSÉ: How do you embrace your blackness? Was it a long journey for you to get there and how did you do it?
Carole: Growing up as a minority is challenging even if at the end it gives you more strength and acuity. Everything I love about myself today is everything I hated when I grew up. Hopefully my mother (who is white) was there to constantly remind me that I was beautiful and smart. She is the one who teaches me to embrace who I am and helped me to become the woman I’m today. Family was essential! My family teaches me to see the world with no limits, except maybe the sky!

TSÉ: What does it mean to be a woman of color today?
Carole: It means to be stronger as you usually have to face double discrimination: as a woman and as a person of color. I guess this is why I became feminist when I was young understanding that there was still a lot to do. Being a black women means that you still have to fight the cliches. This idea of black women even as exotic, hypersexualised creatures or on the opposite very angry are still a strong cultural stereotypes we have to fight back. Being a black women is often to have to take care of everything family + work, with less rights in many countries. That is why I see them as true modern days heroes!

TSÉ: What are the living personalities that inspire you the most (both professionally and personally), but also in style?
Carole: beside my mother I would sayKathryn Bigelow, René Depestre, Toni Morrison, Steve McQueen, Shonda Rhimes and Aaron Sorkin. They are true inspiration for me. Regarding style I would say Pat Cleveland, Diane Von Furstenberg and Diana Ross, have always been strong reference point of mine. These three women are exceptional and very inspirational, as they empowered other women.

TSÉ: What is your morning beauty routine? Do you have a ritual?
Carole: I would say my gym workout. Even if I am exhausted and cranky, this session changes everything. This is my second waking up. After that my routine is very simple, beyond my shower, I wake up my face with Crealine H2O Solution Micellar by Bioderma , then to moisturize my skin, in winter I use Vinosource Crème Fondante Nourrissante by Caudalie, and during summer Crème Premières Vendanges by Caudalie. I make up very slightly, mainly to hide my dark circles in case of lack of sleep. I use Studio Tech by Mac and a little of Blot Powder and some mascara from L’Oréal. I do not wear lipstick just lip balm by Moraz and by Carmex it is better for kisses!

TSÉ: Do you wear perfume? If yes what is your fragrance?
Carole: Depending on my mood I create a bespoke perfume based on Frédéric Malle ones or Jo Malone fragrances combining. During Summer is prefer Tangerine Vert by Miller Harris  and when it’s really hot Eau Dynamisante by Clarins. I also like the smell of Huile Prodigieuse by Nuxe I use it after shower in the evening in the summer, it has the scent of Caribbean islands …

TSÉ: How would you describe your personal style?
Carole: Casual during the day. My motto is less is more. My ‘uniform’ is based on basics. I do not really care about the brand. The only thing that matters is materials and textures. I want natural, organic and noble ones.   At night it’s different, I like the idea of being someone else! I wear heels and dresses in general. Generally I twist my outfit with statement accessories. They are not ostentatious, but they give the right attitude. My favorites designers for working days are Isabel Marant, Vanessa Seward… Zara and Top Shop. For the evening I also love Alaïa, Stella Jean, Lanvin, Duro Olowu and Dries Van Noten!

TSÉ: What are your basics?
Carole: Blazers, baxter slim jeans, leggings, slim leather or suede pants, white shirts and organic cotton white tee-shirts in summer and V-neck cashmere during winter.  My palette is based on grey, beige, white, black! Colors is for my accessories!

TSÉ: What jewelry do you wear?
Carole: As we say in French, i like  bijoux de peaux, jewelry that you do not have to take off like tattoos. Plus my bespoke wedding band and engagement ring. But I also like statement earrings and cuffs. My favorites are vintage ones from Kenya, North Africa and South America. I like to stack my vintage cuffs with Aurélie Bidermann’s.

TSÉ: What are your beauty essentials?
Carole: – Face: Bioderma, Crealine H2O Solution Micellar. I use it in the morning and at night before going to bed even if I don’t have make up on. Detox mask by Caudalie
– Body: Lipikar Body Lotion by La Roche-Posay. In winter I mix it with argan oil. This mix is also perfect to avoid stretch marks during pregnancy. For my hands I use Aromatic Resurrection Balm by Aesop . It is a very good moisturizer and important thing not greasy. You can use your phone after applying it!
– Hair: I like Organic Root Stimulator products, they are organics. I like the line based on olive oil. I also use Beurre de Karité.
– Makeup: Mac products. The favorite brand of makeup artists on TV sets. This is how I discovered the brand. Then I met Latifa who’s make-up artist for the brand. She taught me how to makeup, it changed everything.

TSÉ: What are your favorite places?
Carole:Shopping: online shopping is an incredible time saver. You can try the clothes at home and see if it fit with your other clothes and accessories. Top Shop, Net A Porter, Match Fashion, Zara, Le Bon Marché, etc … it is now possible with almost all brands and in all price ranges. When I am abroad, I break the rule and prefer shopping old style, it is always the occasion to meet nice people and vintage treasures!
Restaurants and hotels: L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (Paris), Yen (Paris), Zuma (Miami and London),  Gelina Abbot Kiney, Nobu Malibu and Paradise Cove (Los Angeles), La Maison Arabe (Marrakech), Villa D’Este (Como), Murtoli (Sartène), Les Deux Garçons (Aix-En-Provence), Chez Denise (Uzèrche).
Book: La Hune in Sain-Germain des Prés but it is closed now. I also like l’Ecume des Pages Boulevard Saint-Germain. They have everything and on top of that a great selection for children.
– Work out: Tracy Anderson

What are your favorite travel destinations?
Carole: Los Angeles for its light. New York for its energy. London for its phlegm. Lisbon for its elegant disuse. I also like the timeless Zanzibar. Corsica, Ibiza, because I am a frustrated island girl. The Caribbean of course, it’s atavistic. ….the west coast of Africa (Bénin, Côte d’Ivoire..), France (Provence, Brittany and South West)… and Paris my home since I’m nineteen!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to create his business in entertainment?
Carole: Due diligence is the key. Before starting an entertainment business it’s important to study the culture and tradition of the country it will be located. Learning everything will help to understand how the system works.
For exemple, in France we love Culture, Creation and Art in general. The fundings are good. The only problem is inertia, detestation of risk, fear of youth, and the elite social-grouping that prevails in this industry. When you integrate this parameters so you can adapt and optimize your business, depending on these constraints.
Starting a business in Anglo Saxon countries is different, the financing will be harder but if the project is viable then the doors will open and you’ll have more money at the end. The Anglo Saxons understood a long time ago that to be able to reach a large audience, the creator of the program must be representative of the audience. Creators must think out of the box and producers/broadcasters must work with the most diverse people they can, to be able to create a program that reaches universality. Anglo-Saxon optimism is also a super dope.
Important thing also is to be able to read the signs and listen to your gut feeling. Working hard is fine if you go on the good direction. Working hard on a bad idea, on a bad concept is wrong. Going against the trend is counterproductive. Knowing when to stop is a strength. If you have entrepreneurial failure it is not dramatic. The greatest successes were born after failure. Steve Jobs has failed many times before making Apple the company it is today. The best success stories are made with failures. In summary, be patient and do not get discouraged.


Photo by Thomas Déron
Dec. 16, 2015

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