Marie Masmonteil • Producer, Elzévir Films
"This could result in a flow between the two mediums, allowing film talent to demonstrate their range"
- Funding and the cost of films, negotiations with TV networks and streaming platforms… Producer Marie Masmonteil gives us her opinion on these matters on the occasion of the ARP’s Film Meetings
Marie Masmonteil, head of Elzévir Films alongside Denis Carot, is also a vice-president within the French Syndicate of Independent Producers (SPI). Very well versed in the mysteries of the French support system geared towards audiovisual creations, she shares her analysis of the current funding situation for the 7th art in France on the occasion of the ARP’s 29th Film Meetings (running 6 – 8 November in Dijon).
Cineuropa: Two years ago, right here in Dijon, you were worried about the contraction of funding from TV channels for French film production, notably vis-à-vis Canal+. Where do we stand today?
Marie Masmonteil: We’re waiting for the figures for 2019, but it’s somewhat startling to note that in 2018, Canal+ only committed €110m to French-language films, compared with the €170m it invested in 2012. Funding in general is on the decline, with the exception of tax credits and regional support. In terms of the TV channels, France Télévisions and Arte have remained steadfast and have made significant efforts in this regard, but Canal+ is the main backer of French film. So, the average feature film budget is shrinking, regardless of what type of film it is, and producers are having to look for extra finance, either by funding the film out of their own pockets or by putting themselves at risk, banking on its commercial success post-release.
Is this an inescapable trend? What are the prospects for film funding from TV channels? And from streaming platforms?
Firstly, I really don’t think that there are too many films because, out of the 300 certified French feature films in 2018, there were 63 minority co-productions with other countries and 56 documentaries: 181 fiction films of French initiative – this isn’t a huge number! But there needs to be an overall reflection on the cost of films. Some obviously involve unavoidable costs - those with special effects, period dramas, those needing a spectacular actor, etc. But it’s up to individual producers to choose the right strategy. Secondly, the new audiovisual law will encourage professional organisations to set about negotiating with service providers, that is, TV channels and online platforms. The negotiation process with platforms, and with Netflix in particular, will be a complicated one. Firstly, they’re not used to negotiating and, until now, they’ve never had to do so with professional film organisations. Furthermore, the new audiovisual law stipulates that funding obligations in favour of audiovisual and film production will be determined according to the ways in which subscribers use each platform. That’s a real cause for concern for all film organisations, because with regard to Netflix, for example, this usage would primarily be accounted for by series. We believe that this will result in minimal funding and pre-financing for films. So, it looks like another battle is on the horizon in order for us to achieve what we’ve always managed to achieve in France: incorporate new players into the funding of films.
If we’re being optimistic about it, we can hope that, out of all the platforms, some will be more interested than others in film, such as Warner or even Amazon, and that our overall level of funding for French film will remain at its current level, thanks to these platforms making up for the fall in investments from certain TV channels. And this is the aim of the French Minister for Culture and the public authorities. If this doesn’t turn out to be the case, there will, at least, be more possibilities for producing French series for platforms. And this could result in some sort of flow between the two mediums, allowing film talent to demonstrate their range, as Rebecca Zlotowski and Jacques Audiard are currently proving by making series for television in-between films for the big screen.
At Elzévir, we’ve always produced just as regularly for television as we have for the cinema. The former provides us with a level of security which then allows us to "play around" and produce improbable films, and it’s often these which work well for us, such as Party Girl [+see also:
interview: Marie Amachoukeli, Claire B…
film profile]. So, I’m rather optimistic.
What’s the situation at Elzévir Films?
Our series À l’intérieur (6x52mn) has been broadcast on France 2. In terms of films, we currently have Émilie Carpentier’s L’Horizon in post-production (read our article). We’re also producing a lot of films revolving around young people at the moment, notably those coming from underprivileged suburbs who are far more diverse and eager to look to the future than we can sometimes express. Also in post-production are the documentaries Bigger Than Us by Claire Vasseur and La Valeur de la terre by Geoffrey Couanon. Lastly, there’s our co-production with Morocco, Mica, by Ismaël Ferroukhi (article).
(Translated from French)
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