Isabelle Giordano • Managing director, UniFrance
“We absolutely have to adapt to the way the market is evolving”
by Fabien Lemercier
- We chatted to Isabelle Giordano, the managing director of UniFrance, in the run-up to the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris (18-22 January)
Isabelle Giordano, who has served as managing director of UniFrance since 2013, is in charge of the various activities undertaken by the agency for the promotion of French cinema abroad, which is today presided over by Serge Toubiana.
Cineuropa: To what extent is the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris (18-22 January) important for the success of French films abroad?
Isabelle Giordano: After Cannes, it’s the biggest market where people can buy French films, so it’s an absolutely unmissable business rendezvous for distributors and sales agents alike. The figures speak for themselves: it is attended by close to 500 distributors, around 100 journalists from the foreign press and 125 artists over a period of three days, and it’s also the biggest press junket for French film after Cannes.
What are the current trends in terms of the circulation of French films abroad?
The 2017 figures are rather encouraging. One solid trend is the stability of French-language films: just because a film is in French, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to sell, and we’re not obliged to make movies in English just to sell titles overseas. And then there are certain genres that are immensely successful, such as animation, which really is the future of French film, as well as arthouse films and comedies.
And what about trends in terms of territories?
We are slightly concerned about the fall in attendance levels for French films in the UK and Quebec. But the good news always comes from Europe: German viewers have a healthy appetite for French movies, as do the Italians, even though it’s not a given for each release. There’s also been a good recovery in the Spanish market. As for the rest of the world, on the surface China is still a kind of El Dorado, where releases are extremely complex. But we have to engage in a constant dialogue and keep maintaining our actions, even if they are derailed sometimes, be it by censorship or by the quotas.
What are the main assets of and limits on French film in terms of its worldwide circulation?
It is essential to really analyse the films that have been somewhat disappointing, and to understand the reasons why viewers in certain countries no longer go to see French movies, whereas they used to like doing so 15 years ago. We are sometimes picked up on the lack of clarity of two or three very solid auteurs, and we are always referred back to François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, as if today’s filmmakers perhaps didn’t have the same reputation as those of yesteryear. But we do have a huge asset, and that’s diversity: we are the top country in terms of circulating so many films all over the world – films that are so different from each other. We are also the number-one international co-producer. And we have something that the others don’t: we are plucky in our way of making films. When we are capable of making a movie like Raw [+see also:
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film profile], or of having talents as diverse as Luc Besson and Olivier Assayas, we should be able to go really far.
What’s your stance on VoD platforms and the digital world?
Of course, the movie theatre is the top priority, but we absolutely have to adapt to new customs and the way the market is evolving, and be flexible accordingly. On one hand, if possible, we have to demand more information from those platforms that tell us nothing at all about the way they circulate French films. On the other hand, we have to seize all kinds of opportunities to place French cinema centre stage on the platforms. Today, promotion makes waves well beyond the theatre and is multiplied tenfold by the social networking sites. UniFrance will be prioritising this digital construction site in 2018, in order to generate a desire for French films.
How do you see the future of the myriad French international sales agents?
We have to help exporters during this period of transformation. It’s true that they are worried and that they feel like they are in a profession that is either changing completely or is totally disappearing. Perhaps this will come about if they decide to no longer sell solely traditional films. Why not series, too? No line of questioning must be left unasked. Above all, for us it’s a way of realising that we have to be even better at adapting to the demands of the market. In the USA, the market for subtitled films is shrinking dramatically, so we should perhaps produce something else, sell something else, behave differently. The Americans also decided to anchor part of their production to the Chinese market. That makes me wonder... UniFrance’s goal is to be a monitoring tool for all of the international markets and to pass on information to industry professionals. It is up to us to decide if we really want to maintain an industry of rigid prototypes or forge an industry that would perhaps be better at meeting the expectations of international viewers.
(Translated from French)
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