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Belgium

Jeanne Brunfaut • Director, Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre

"Co-productions can add value artistically, as well as financially"

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- A conversation about the 17th French-Speaking Co-Production Meetings, and what co-production means for the different countries taking part in the event

Jeanne Brunfaut  • Director, Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre

Cineuropa met with Jeanne Brunfaut, the director of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre, who looked back on the 17th French-Speaking Co-Production Meetings which were held in Brussels between the 10th and 12th of November, and organised in partnership with France’s CNC, SODEC, Telefilm Canada, Film Fund Luxembourg and the Swiss Federal Office for Culture.

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Cineuropa: How would you sum up the French-Speaking Co-Production Meetings in a few words?
Jeanne Brunfaut:
They were originally organised as part of the Quebecer Critics’ Week in Paris. When that event came to an end, we and our French-speaking partners decided to keep the initiative alive by agreeing to take turns hosting the event.

The idea is to organise meetings based around concrete projects, so that co-productions are concluded as far in advance as possible. We realised that co-productions concluded towards the end of the road are naturally more opportunistic, and far less interesting for us. The earlier you go about it, the bigger the co-producing countries’ involvement is likely to be, both artistically (screenplay, etc.) and in terms of production, especially when it comes to the financial set-up.

What were the numbers for the event’s 17th edition?
We are genuinely delighted to have welcomed close to 280 delegates. We selected 22 projects from among the 100 projects we received. We felt a real sense of anticipation among professionals, a desire to meet back up again, to get back to sharing their experience.

What do co-productions mean for the various French-speaking territories represented at these Meetings?
Belgium has a long history of co-production, although we have recently encouraged certain productions to seek out wholly Belgian sources for finance, both to avoid the exhaustion that comes with seeking out foreign partners, but also because, sometimes, certain projects are just as feasible with solely Belgian funds. But, whether in Belgium or in other countries, co-production can clearly enhance a project, not just on a financial level but also artistically.

What are the greatest challenges faced by French-speaking producers today, both in terms of threats and opportunities?
Right now, I think the issues mostly revolve around distribution. Releasing a film in cinemas is becoming incredibly difficult, there’s a real bottle-neck effect, and staying in cinemas for longer than two weeks is quite a feat for some films. And we don’t really have an answer for it; we can’t impose film quotas or specific programming times in cinemas. As for production, the challenge is always the same: getting our heads around the various ticket offices’ different rules (vis-à-vis types of expenditure, schedules). As for opportunities, I’d say we mostly need to stop thinking Netflix is going to co-produce anything and everything…

On that point, do the different funds talk to one another about new production and broadcasting formats?
In terms of formats, the new co-production agreements do take series into account, for example, which makes a real difference; TV is now covered, and it works. As for our relationship with streaming platforms, it’s somewhat complicated. We’re thinking about how we can work with them without providing funding in their place. The risk is that we end up using public money to fund private works which neither we nor our producers would have any rights over. Clearly, the idea is to work alongside platforms, not against them; we’re in talks with them and, all in all, it’s not going too badly, although the matter of investment obligations does differ from one country to the next.

You opted for the transversal theme of diversity for these Meetings. Could you tell us a little bit about this decision?
It’s clearly a matter of concern for all funds. We’ve been reflecting on the matter for a few years now, with each of our end of year statements. It’s been three years since a professor from the Catholic University of Louvain (Sarah Sépulchre) analysed the diversity of the Belgian films released that year, on our behalf, firstly in terms of men/women and then in terms of diversity, pure and simple. These figures helped us to realise that we weren’t where we needed to be. We make great films which notably tour the various festivals, but which aren’t necessarily representative of Belgian society. And which struggle to connect with audiences who don’t recognise themselves within them. It’s not about making films which tick all the diversity boxes, but about putting out a selection of films which are sufficiently diverse to connect with wider audiences. We’ve implemented a Diversity Plan at the Film Centre; we’ll see in five years’ time how and if things have changed. We concluded that this was definitely a subject which would affect all French-speaking producers, and all territories, the basic observation being that it’s difficult to make films which are representative of diversity if the people making them don’t hail from diverse quarters themselves. For this reason, we decided to take action on the situation upstream, in schools, and downstream, on TV…

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(Translated from French)

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