Pierre Drouot • Director of VAF
"Finding a balance between supervision and independence"
by Annika Pham
The accomplished Flemish producer Pierre Drouot (Totò the Hero, Taxandria) was appointed director of the Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF) (Flemish Audiovisual Fund) six months ago. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the former founding member of the MEDIA Programme EAVE and SCALE initiatives talked to Cineuropa about his restructuring of the VAF.
Cineuropa: You were appointed director of the Audiovisual Fund last November. Which projects have you worked on most since then?
Pierre Drouot: We first did some restructuring within the VAF itself in order to reorganise our system of support around three major vertical axes: research and training, creation and promotion. These three vertical axes are intersected by four horizontal axes, one per category: fiction, documentary, animation and experimental media art, with one person responsible for each category.
More specifically, what changes did you make?
With regard to the system of selection, in the past, three anonymous readers who didn’t know each other read the projects, presented their recommendations in writing separately and afterwards met with the management of the VAF.
We then put in place a more transparent system with the Commissions, one per category, each made up of six members. These members – elected for a renewable contract of two years – were selected by us, half of them were selected from the lists proposed by different sectors of the profession (producers, directors, scriptwriters). Each sector thus has a complete and diversified representation, and decisions are taken by a larger panel, as no member of the VAF has the right to vote.
This selection system – similar to that used in the Communauté Française de Belgique – consists of meetings between ‘reporters’, who meet before and after a decision is made to discuss the reports and related matters. This new selection system came into force in May. There are five Commissions: 1) first features and shorts, 2) all other features, 3) documentaries, 4) animated films and 5) media arts.
My predecessor had to leave his post, because of the apparently fraught relations between him and the Ministry. One of our first duties was to re-establish dialogue with our supervisory Ministry. The VAF is an Asbl* (*non-profit organisation), which is funded 100% by the Ministry of Culture, but we operate independently.
The aim is to find a balance between supervision and independence. It was necessary to renew our links with the Cabinet, TV channels, and put in place a system of consultation with the profession.
How much is your production funding budget?
We have around €7m for fiction, €1m for documentaries, €1m for animation and €500,000 for media arts films. The VAF is the only fund in Europe that requires obligatory investment by broadcasters: a large share of our budget (€2.5m) has to be allocated to projects created by TV stations. In 2005, the commercial broadcaster VTM wanted to use the funds to make a fiction feature and asked us to produce – under the generic title of "Faits Divers" (News items) – seven low-budget feature length films (€375,000 each, including €187,500 from the VAF). Four of the seven films from the "Faits Divers" series were granted additional support of €220,000 on average, in order to have a ‘theatrical’ career, and three of these films have already been released in theatres: Long Weekend by Hans Herbots, Love Belongs to Everyone by Hilde van Mieghem and Hell in Tangier by Frank van Mechelen. The fourth film The Only One by Geoffrey Enthoven will be released on June 14.
The VAF grants scriptwriting, development and production support to six or seven films per year. Our total budget is €12m, which includes operating costs and our training budget.
What is your market share in Flanders?
The market share of our films in Flanders is between 6 and 7%. Flemish films are successful among filmgoers. For example, Gilles by Jan Verheyen garnered more than 220,000 admissions, while Intruder and Hell in Tangier by Frank Van Mechelen each clocked up 180,000 admissions.
What do you think of the Think Tank founded by Henning Camre of the Danish Film Institute (DFI) ?
Denmark with its population of 6m, budget and the way the DFI works, is a little like our reference model. The fact that Henning Camre, one of the main actors behind the ‘Danish success’, decides to invite all the actors in the European industry to a meeting in order to readdress basic issues concerning funding systems in Europe is a very courageous and essential initiative, I think.
I hope that in Flanders we can, in years to come, also create means of financing similar to the DFI, which will allow us to act with force on two fronts at the same time: finance films that could increase our market share in Flanders and allow a larger and more distinct variety of audiovisual authors to make films more often and gain international recognition.
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