Country Focus: France
258 feature films produced in 2014
by Fabien Lemercier
- Slightly fewer films with a lot less money: this is the pithy conclusion that can be drawn from the assessment of French film production in 2014 unveiled by the CNC.
258 films were approved last year (as against 270 in 2013 and 279 – a record number – in 2012), including 203 films of French initiative (FIFs – six fewer than in 2013) and 55 minority co-productions (-6). While the number of 100% French movies stayed more or less stable (152 last year as against 154 in 2013 and 150 in 2012), the downward trend continued for international co-productions, with 106 features in 2014 (116 in 2013 and 129 in 2012) that were produced with at least one foreign country.
For the third year in a row, there was a drop in investment, but this time it was a very significant decrease. Following a fall of 3.4% in 2012 and 7.2% in 2013, investment actually tumbled by 20.2% last year, to €994.13 million. Upon closer inspection, we find that the FIFs received €799.18 million (-21.7%) in 2014 and the films of foreign initiative got €194.95 million (-13.6 %). It is worth pointing out that the average budget of a FIF now stands at €3.94 million, which contrasts dramatically with the 2013 figure (€4.88 million).
This sharp fall in investment has had a particularly significant impact on big-budget features, as 17 FIFs exceeded a budget of €10 million in 2014, as against 19 in 2013 and 33 in 2012. This situation is explained by a growing scarcity of the films with the highest budgets, with only three movies exceeding €15 million last year (12 the year before, and between nine and 18 every year over the past decade). On the other hand, the number of features within the €2-4 million budget bracket is clearly on the rise, with 61 movies (as against 47 in 2013).
The reduction in investment that apparently sped up during the second half of 2014 (read the news) can be explained by a number of factors: a strained economic environment in the country, a less favourable landscape for television channels (the main sources of film funding), the consequences of the new collective film agreement that has driven up production costs, heightened caution on the part of distributors with their MG (minimum guarantee) commitments, the self-regulation of the sector following certain excesses in terms of overinflated artistic fees and overfunded productions, and so on. It now remains to be seen whether French production (which is by no means lacking in assets and benefits from a very robust safety net that guarantees a substantial amount of funding) will be able to go on producing so many films with such drastically diminished resources. This is a question that should begin to receive an answer once the result of this year’s renegotiation of the agreements with Canal+ (the number-one financier for French cinema) is made public.