Genre and boldness under discussion
by Fabien Lemercier
- The French film industry is questioning the content of its films in relation to the priorities of funding giant Canal+
A meeting aimed at taking stock of deep-rooted trends at work in the French film industry, the 25th Dijon Film Meetings organised by the ARP (the Association of Authors, Directors and Producers), which was held in Dijon from 22 to 24 October, painted a picture of uncertainty. Indeed, although the French model for funding productions is solid and cinemas are seeing high admission numbers, the crumbling value of traditional distribution channels such as TV and video make the future more uncertain, with alternative sources of funding not yet being able to guarantee the same volume. Moreover, pre-purchases by Canal+, the main driving force behind French film, remain particularly important and the consequences of recent upheavals in the structure of the Group (see news article) have come under the microscope.
In attendance in Dijon, Maxime Saada, the new general director of the company, gave some indications of the intentions of Canal+ within the framework of its agreement with the French film industry, renewed last May for a further five years (see news article). "It concerns me that the line-ups of American studios are showing a strong trend towards superhero films for teenagers. But our subscribers aren’t teenagers, so we have to produce films that are adult, smart and different. And there’s a sort of hang-up about or self-censorship in French film around action films, crime films and adventure films, even though films of these genres don’t necessarily have to follow the American model”. A contribution that was endorsed by Cécile Gaget, the director of international sales at Gaumont, who emphasised that there has been a lack of French genre films for two years, when it is precisely this type of feature film that sells well all over the world. She went on to add that “TV series are very bold when it comes to genre, and work very well, even divisive ones like The Walking Dead." Nonetheless, and the two speakers couldn’t stress this enough, genre pieces have flopped at the box office in France in the past, which explains why there has been a slowing ebb in the offer of these films. What’s more, according to filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, "French debut films are often romantic comedies or ‘buddy films’ as filmmakers like congruity and prefer making films they know will be able to secure funding. Moreover, the Americans have set the bar very high and succeeded in turning actors that are renowned for their roles in genre films into legends”.
This delicate reflection on genre film in France is nothing new, but this time it could take develop in new ways if Canal+ chooses to focus on this sector, which would change the face of national production dramatically, given the influence the distributor has on funding for the industry in general. How the situation develops will no doubt be followed very closely, in a general context in which Vincent Bolloré, who’s really pulling the strings at Canal+ via its parent company Vivendi, has lured in a number of professional film organisations with the promise of investing in their films above and beyond what is required of him by law and bringing them major international success through multiple distribution channels. A promise that clearly went down well, but now needs to be made a reality, with the industry calling for bold films, even though the definition of bold remains very much open to interpretation…
(Translated from French)