“The circulation of works is a matter of general interest”

– Haut et Court, Pathé, Playtime, Les Films du Bal, Epithète Film and the CNC analyze the situation at the ARP Cinematographic Meetings

A moment of debate (© Fabien Lemercier)

If all the speakers of the debate “What independent creation tomorrow?” which took place yesterday at ARP Cinematographic Meetings (at Le Touquet-Paris-Plage from November 3 to 5) welcomed the vigor of French cinematographic creation illustrated this year, among others by the Palme d’Or and the Lion d’Or, the discussions mainly shone the spotlight on the weight of the economic situation and on the solutions to be implemented to both deal with a hurry and to project oneself into the future, from consolidation to change.

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On the side of independent distributors, faced with the need to honor their MG commitments made before the health crisis on a normal market for films that are now distributed in a very different French market and currently overall shrunk by 30% in terms of attendance (and even more for auteur cinema), Carole scotta (High and Short) underlined “an inability to project until the 12-month horizon is cleared up”, while considering that everything should gradually smooth out. In addition, the co-chair of the DIRE (Independent Distributors United Europeans) recalled that even if “the industrialization of our world is clearly moving towards the audiovisual sector, everything can coexist, but we need to be vigilant on the crossing points”.

The international seller Nicolas Brigaud-Robert (Playtime) recalled that “the circulation of works is a matter of general interest. With multi-window funding and a media chronology that exists all over the world, films are circulating from one window to another. The new funding, it’s a one-stop-shop, a digital studio that takes worldwide rights, which means the end of circulation: works are reserved for subscribers. So what is diversity when works are reserved for happy people? few? ” On the question of the drop in MGs coming from exporters, his observation is relentless: “There is a disruptive effect of digital studios. They buy less and less films because they produce. There was a period when they released the checkbook on the red carpet to acquire world rights (apart from a few territories already sold). But now that they operate upstream, there is a siphon effect. Previously, exporters could spread their risks over different types of films, but as part of the market disappears to the benefit of platforms, which is normal because producers want to finance their films, exporters’ supply is reduced at the very moment when their customers abroad are weakened in terms of cash flow and solvency. on the one hand, a problem of access to projects, on the other a fragility of our markets: cqfd a drop in MG. Yet one of the great French strengths, these are all these award-winning films all over the world, French and foreign , which are sold by French companies, a unique fabric of SMEs. “

The producer Judith Lou Levy (Les Films du Bal) and its counterpart Frédéric Brillion (Epithet Films) came together on one point (the first asking that the supervisory authorities take a little more firm hold of the subject): Canal + no longer meets its commitments and of € 20 to € 30 million of its pre-purchase investment obligations would still be pending.

According to Ardavan Safaee (president of Pathé Films), “in a few months, the evolution was drastic. For 30 years, the financing lived in a world of borders where local operators created value. Today, there are no more borders: the The sector has become globalized with platforms, hence the risk of talent leaking to these platforms which attract them to series, which Pathé is trying to counteract by signing a few exclusive contracts (…) On the one hand, we can be pessimistic because there is a lack of attractiveness of cinema over which the audiovisual world has taken precedence, but we can also be optimistic because there is a renewal of talent in France (…) The question is how to promote our cinema internationally. It would be a mistake to have the French heritage exploited by Americans and that is why we produce Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Empire Where The three Musketeers (…) Our choice is to produce fewer films, but better. They are not necessarily just big movies, even if it takes a few buoyant movies to get people out of their homes. In order for films to exist in theaters, you need the exceptional, the original. It is not necessarily a question of budget, but of what is being said and to whom it is addressed. For example, there are bizarre, strange films that speak to an audience that has not yet been very interested in France. “

The president of the CNC Dominique boutonnat responded to its various analyzes and gave some courses of action for 2022. “Now, out of the crisis, we must ensure that independent distribution does not collapse. So that it continues to finance as much cinema? I’m not sure. Do we need help? Other forms of financing? (…) We must also strengthen the financing capacity of international sellers so that they have a better balance of power vis-à-vis the platforms “. On this work of accompanying changes, the CNC will set up a working group with the objective of making proposals in mid-January. In addition, as announced the day before in Le Touquet, the French Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, the negotiations with the large exploitation on the programming commitments, interrupted by the health crisis, will resume in particular to stop the phenomena of multicasting of a single film (American) in several theaters of the same establishment, and to the ‘reverse guarantee access to films in all theaters. A resumption of the discussions which will be accompanied by a mission to reflect on the possibilities of derogating from the competition law which will deliver its conclusions in April 2022.

Dominique Boutonnat also raised the question of the qualification of English works as European works because if they were no longer, this would increase among all presenters the share of works from other European countries, in particular French. According to our information, this subject can only be discussed at the level of the Council of Europe where the idea is nevertheless already in germ. Nevertheless, certain large French groups holding catalogs including many British works would naturally not be very favorable to this development. To be continued …

Finally, the president of the CNC ventured to raise the question of the definition of what a film is, “elsewhere than at the cinema” he said, stressing that young people “only watch audio-visual”. An idea which looked like a test balloon on a particularly flammable subject, but which resonates like a sketch of the future vision by the public authorities, entering into coherence with the recently revealed distribution of the amounts dedicated to “the production of new cultural products “as part of the France 2030 plan: € 300 million for new filming and post-production infrastructures, € 100 million for training and € 200 million for new VR, augmented reality and immersive technologies.

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“The circulation of works is a matter of general interest”

Hank Gilbert