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"A competition that gives everyone a boost"

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François Sauvagnargues • General Delegate of the FIPA

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- Interview with François Sauvagnargues, the general delegate of the FIPA, the 30th edition of which will take place from 24 to 29 January in Biarritz

François Sauvagnargues • General Delegate of the FIPA

Director of Drama at Arte France from 2003 to 2011, since 2012 François Sauvagnargues has been the General Delegate of the International Festival of Audiovisual Programs (FIPA), the 30th edition of which will take place from 24 to 29 January in Biarritz (see article).

Cineuropa: How will this year’s anniversary edition of the festival unfold?
François Sauvagnargues: Our aim is always to keep the festival moving forwards. We wanted to put the emphasis on having an extremely dense and rich programme, rather than holding commemorations. The selection includes 130 programmes from 103 countries, and between the industry side of things and the Smart FIPA, there are practically 50 meetings being organised for professionals, both to decipher trends in television and trends in innovation. The role of the FIPA is to act as a sort of point of reference and a window on what is happening in the world in each category, as we typically show programmes of all genres and the links that can exist, for example between fiction and documentary film. Every year, we also endeavour to put together line-ups of distributors to see how things interconnect: the issue of digital content, of platforms and evolutions in programming content. This year, we will notably look at the way in which audiovisual stakeholders, producers, creators and distributors must equip themselves with innovative strategies in the digital revolution, particularly in the field of education, which affects us directly as we run a campus as part of the festival. We will also have the usual pitches of documentaries, series and dramas in the part of the festival dedicated to professionals. And this year for the first time we will also have pitches of books earmarked for audiovisual adaptations.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

How is European production of audiovisual content doing at the moment?
In Europe, in terms of creation, production is huge. In ten years, drama has come on in leaps and bounds, both in terms of the number of works being made and the quality, and public along with commercial television broadcasters are making some interesting films. At the moment there’s a sort of competition that gives everyone a boost, with of course the arrival of significant platforms and resources being channelled most notably into television series. With documentary, we’re also seeing incredible levels of creativity, with an impressive number of films being made all over the world, even though these aren’t necessarily works being produced for and by TV broadcasters, as there are a lot of other outlets such as festivals, theatres, the Internet, and new modes of consumption with platforms dedicated to documentary. In this field, although some channels have a lot more relevant and original content than others, most notably state-run channels, European production is overall doing well. Moreover, this year we are proposing a carte blanche, paying tribute to two important documentary film festivals: Hot Docs and RIDM. And we have also tried to look at Eastern Europe, in particular with a tribute to Hanka Kastelicova, the Executive Producer of Documentaries at HBO Europe, who has produced some remarkable films.Overall, what’s striking is to see that while there are funding issues, there are a huge number of quality programmes out there on the market. As for the eternal question of the richness of cinema and television as a poor relative, if we look at television series, we can see that for some years now television has been holding its own against cinema, in terms of quality, narrative interest, characters, etc.

Where does FIPA sit in relation to other festivals?
There’s a very competitive atmosphere among festivals on a regular basis. Our line is to say that we’re unspecialised, and showcase a variety of genres from across the board. It’s our trademark and there’s almost no other festival in Europe that does the same thing. And as the FIPA takes place at the beginning of the year, the calendar works in our favour somewhat. Then, there’s obviously the issue of access to films, as like all self-respecting festivals, we demand exclusivity. We have to fight and know how to adapt. With documentary, the fight is more complicated as certain powerful and attractive specialised festivals have extremely bountiful programmes, like the IDFA. Technology also transforms the issue of exclusivity as a lot of films and series are now available immediately, in real time through platforms, and are accessible by the general public. Finally, there is also new competition from film festivals that have a tendency, with the exception of Cannes and Berlin, to focus on television series and put together their own competitions for them. But we’re carving out our own path; we’ve been going for 30 years and we’ll still be around for some time to come yet.

(Translated from French)

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