Florence Gastaud • Managing director of ARP
by Fabien Lemercier
- Florence Gastaud, managing director of ARP, dissects the current and future issues generating debate within the French film industry
We met up with Florence Gastaud, managing director of the Civil Society of Authors-Directors-Producers (ARP), one of the most influential professional organisations in French cinema, a few days before the 25th Dijon Film Meetings (22-24 October 2015), presided this year by Jacques Audiard.
Cineuropa: French film pre-financing relies upon the strength of TV channels that are currently undergoing fundamental changes. Is this worrying?
Florence Gastaud: We've got some new representatives from some big audiovisual companies joining the conversation: Vincent Bolloré from Canal+, Delphine Ernotte from France Télévisions, and in a few months there will be a replacement for Nonce Paolini at TF1. We're already waiting to find out what visions and policies about cinema these new directors have, but we're also highly invested in using this time to show them that cinema can be a part of the new development of their channels. Of course, there are questions of economics. At the moment, any budget cuts are going to be marginal, but we need to see some sort of growth in the coming five years. We think we can indeed be a little worried, as funding obligations are built on the turnover of certain channels.
What are the growth areas for the future?
At the moment, there isn't really an emerging market in media that could help any of the others. Instead, it is a good time for us to think about the types of rights we're giving to the TV channels. At the moment, the link with cinema is a percentage of the turnover that entitles the TV channels to broadcast a film. But now the big audiovisual companies have become larger groups with several channels. Shouldn't we, therefore, place the obligations on the groups and not on the channels? If we dealt with these groups and gave them more freedom when it came to broadcasting movies across all of their channels, then we could ensure a certain level of financing for some digital TV channels that don't have a large enough turnover to fund movies. The strength of these groups is one of our biggest interests, and we hope that some have the capacity to become big players in European media. Our obligations mustn't weaken them, but must instead become part of their dynamic. So if we give them more freedom to broadcast our movies, we can become an attractive financing option for them again.
According to certain distributors, video on demand (VoD) won't be very profitable.
Over the past few years, we've spoken a lot about financing. And while it's true that it's worrying and poses many questions, we have stopped associating the exhibition of films with financing. We seem to have forgotten that we need to screen movies in the first place. The rarer cinema becomes as a genre, the less value it has. When the media chronology was first organised, it was the opposite: the scarcity of the work made you wait and anticipate, and therein lay its value. Nowadays, with the internet, there's no need to wait as long anymore, and our works’ scarcity is harming them. We must, instead, show movies more frequently, whenever and wherever we're able. We completely understand distributors that think that VoD isn't going to make them any money, but in saying that, we really only see television series on VoD and the entire cinematic genre is being ousted because of how infrequently we screen our works. We think that we need to re-exhibit them more frequently. The VoD market is still developing, and I fear it will never reach the same levels as DVD. So we shouldn't count on it economically speaking but, rather, as a means of exposure for our works. Of course, one doesn't necessarily mean the other will follow; we must, therefore, work together with the channels on this because the televisual window needs to be reinvented. TV still has enormous controlling power: a good score is 5 million viewers, and then, if there are 500,000 clicks as well... Maybe we need to think about giving the channels VoD rights, to change how we exhibit films, and to focus more deeply on their content.
There seem to be a lot more copies of some movies than of others for the releasers in theaters, which raises some questions.
We’re constantly being told that there are too many movies, but mathematically speaking, there should be enough screens for the number of films. There has been a strong increase in the planned releases for a certain category of film. They're not really blockbusters, but flourishing arthouse films instead. We get the impression that distributors are saying to themselves, "It's showing for 15 days, so I’ll throw everything at it for 15 days." Marketing is the same, which all means that the publishing costs skyrocket. As you can see, this is decimating admission levels and harming films, and we’re dealing with it too hastily. Without getting into too much detail, we think that we need to rely on our programming commitments involving distributors and theatres, but it’s going to be different everywhere – for example, somewhere ultra-concentrated and highly competitive like Paris is going to be completely different to somewhere starved of cinema. If we share out better the copies of the films, it should allow us to work more deeply on the movies. This is one of the most difficult sectors to initiate change in due to ingrained habits and traditions in programming, but it seems as though we're reaching the end of an era and that there's a real problem releasing films. People gradually seem to be realising this, and I think that the industry will slowly become reinvigorated.
(Translated from French)