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ARP Film Meetings 2020

Industry Report: European Policy

“If we don’t preserve cinema’s specific financing, it will be dead in a few years”

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Gaumont's Sidonie Dumas evokes the future of French cinema and the future obligations of platforms. A debate that also includes Memento's Émilie Georges and Dharamsala's Isabelle Madelaine

“If we don’t preserve cinema’s specific financing, it will be dead in a few years”
Sidonie Dumas and Carole Scotta during the “What future for French cinema?” debate at the 30th ARP Film Meetings

Organised on the occasion of the 30th ARP Film Meetings, the debate “What future for French cinema?” bringing together Sidonie Dumas (general director of Gaumont), Émilie Georges (Memento Films International), Carole Scotta (Haut et Court, co-president of DIRE - Reunited European Independent Distributors – read the interview) and Isabelle Madelaine (Dharamsala – president of the Cinema Producers Union) delivered some clarifying truths, notably regarding the draft transposition decree of the European directive SAM (Audiovisual Media Services) defining the financing obligations that VOD platforms would have towards French and European production. Here are some chosen moments.

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Sidonie Dumas (general director of Gaumont): “Regarding the selling of films to platforms, we don’t have a defined politics, but when a cinema film is made, it is supposedly intended for movie theatres. For Rogue City [+see also:
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, it was Netflix who approached us during the first lockdown and we eventually decided that it was a better solution for the film. Platforms are quite aggressive at the moment because they will soon be out of new content: shoots in the United States have stopped and they only just restarted elsewhere.

It is important to get platforms into funding in France, but there mustn’t be any porosity between the audiovisual and cinema. If we don’t preserve cinema’s specific financing, it will be dead in a few years. We have to be extremely clear and firm on that point in the transposition of the SMA directive. The films’ international rights must also be preserved: they have value. We mustn’t make them stumble and give them to platforms.

Isabelle Madelaine (Dharamsala – president of the Cinema Producers Union): We were very surprised to see in the draft decree that platforms would be able to invest through pre-purchasing and co-production shares. We were then told that this was a “slip of the pen!” But we also just realised that platforms could become delegate producers by creating branches in France. Why sell out our cultural sovereignty? There is thankfully a consecrated red line for cinema: the films have to come out in theatres. But there is a problem of confusion between the audiovisual and cinema. Making a film for television or for platforms is not at all the same thing as making one for cinemas! Yes, there should be ulterior negotiations between platforms and professional organisations, but we can’t let this pass by decree.

Émilie Georges (Memento Films International): Independent distributors around the entire world are adapting their local releases as best as they can, in their chronologies, with a high level of anxiety because they are fragile and are not supported by their governments in the way that their French counterparts are. In some territories, theatre markets have dropped by between  70% and 90%. But resilience has its limits: some small distributors won’t be able to face a long crisis. Those who are pulling through are those who have put together an important catalog for themselves and it is on them that we have to rely for the future of French cinema. Platforms have been very aggressive towards distributors to buy films that they were going to release, because they prefer to buy films that have already been announced, worked on and positioned. But this doesn’t mean that they will finance cinema, particularly young creatives, in the future.

With the transposition of the SMA directive, France has the opportunity to give an example for the rest of the world. But platforms will not at all be financing the same films as those that French independent producers are currently making. We end up facing investors who will be choosing films for a given segment, rather than financing diversity, auteur cinema, and above all young artists. In addition, the transposition of the directive could give platforms the international rights for the French films they have invested in. But for cinema, giving a window is giving the entirety of a film’s exploitation. However, festivals will refuse the films that won’t have generated enough visibility. And for the career of a young auteur, if neither the press nor local distributors see their film, how will they finance their next one?

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(Translated from French by Manuela Lazic)

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