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Jochen Greve • Screenwriter

“The interest in Europe lies in its diversity, and cinema is no exception”


- Cineuropa met up with German screenwriter and patron of the SAA Jochen Greve to speak about culture in times of crisis and the importance of authors’ rights

Jochen Greve  • Screenwriter

The new study presented in Brussels on 2 December is categorical: culture and creativity will save the EU from the financial crisis. Christophe Depreter, president of GESAC, got the ball rolling during the press conference by stating that it has now been proven that the cultural and creative sectors had generated five times more jobs than the telecommunications sector in Europe. Meanwhile, Jean-Noël Tronc, CEO of SACEM, declared that this sector was the future of Europe. According to him, the industry not only allows for growth and the creation of jobs, but also provides an opportunity for the continent to take its place on the international stage and to use soft power. However, he added that the culture and creative sectors are particularly vulnerable, hence the need for stricter regulation. Henrique Mota, CEO of the publishing house Principia Editoria and vice-president of the Federation of European Publishers, spoke of the European publishing industry as a world leader and of the need to protect authors’ rights in order to prevent their decline. He concluded by stating that authors’ rights were the guarantors of cultural diversity. Finally, Jochen Greve, German screenwriter and patron of the SAA, emphasised the key role of this sector in Europe but also the fragility of those who fill it, namely artists. He insisted on the implementation of a good system of copyright protection. Cineuropa took the opportunity to talk to Greve about culture in times of crisis and the importance of copyright.

Cineuropa: The new study conducted by EY highlights a thriving European cultural industry, despite the economic climate. Have households therefore not reduced their cultural budget, despite the crisis?
Jochen Greve:
The 1920s also experienced a very serious economic crisis. Yet at that time, we already saw that Hollywood and the French and German film industries were flourishing. The reason may be that people need to enjoy themselves even more when times are tough. To me, creativity is the oil of the 21st century. Today, we no longer need coal, steel or petrol – today, we need new ideas and creativity.

Some governments have taken draconian measures to deal with the crisis, and the cultural industry is one of the most highly affected. What will the effects of these budget cuts be for countries such as Spain or Italy in the long term?
It is the imagination of artists that keeps the creative industry going. And yet, they have trouble making a living from their art. The problem is that we risk deterring young people from engaging in these professions, which could lead to the gradual disappearance of creativity. I found out that in Italy, 20% of screenwriters cannot make a living from their profession! And the same goes for Spain, a country which nevertheless has a long cinematic tradition. In my country, Germany, the situation is not as dramatic, but there is still much questioning of copyright. Today, artists are just as powerful from a creative point of view as they are weak from an economic point of view.

Do you think the internet is a boon or a threat to artists?
When I started in this business, I was hoping to reach the maximum number of people possible. I thought: the more people, the better. If you want to do that, the internet is a great distribution tool! But we must not forget that artists should be paid for their art. The problem is that every artist is completely on his or her own, like a small business consisting of just one person. Good copyright systems and collecting societies (a system that works very well in France and Germany) should therefore be put in place to help them and ensure their incomes.

Are the European cultural and creative sectors competitive compared with their US equivalents?
It is undeniable that Hollywood produces good films. But today, American productions are all uniform. They shoot movies that appeal to everyone and show the public what it wants to see. But Europeans also want to go and see European films at the cinema, to discover their own culture in them. The interest in Europe lies in its diversity, and cinema is no exception. Each country has its own cinematic tradition: the Scandinavians like psychological dramas, the French have this boulevard cinema tradition and they like romantic films, the English make very funny films, and the Germans rather intellectual films. In Germany, for example, we also have a very particular sense of humour (for better or for worse) that does not export well. For us, cinema must be a constructive art and not just entertainment. I think this is a very good example of the cultural diversity of the European Union. It would be a real shame if all that disappeared, hence the need to protect artists.

(Translated from French)


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