"Are our strategic cultural assets sufficiently defended?"
Industry Report: Market Trends
Lucie Girre • General delegate, ARP
The general delegate of the association discusses bipolarisation, extra-European capital and artificial intelligence, hot topics in the French cinema industry
We talked with Lucie Girre, the new General Delegate of the very influential ARP (French Civil Society of Authors-Directors-Producers), on the occasion of the 33rd edition of the Film Meetings (at Touquet-Paris-Plage from 8 to 10 November).
Cineuropa: What is your view of the growing bipolarisation between production and cinema attendance in France ?
Lucie Girre: Some people talk of a weakness of the French model because a certain number of films sell very few tickets, but I think that, on the contrary, our model is rather strong. It proved to be resilient when we emerged from the health crisis with very encouraging numbers, in terms of both attendance and production. However, in the detail, there are signs we must pay attention to, especially the failures in cinema of certain films that independent distributors expected to make better results. There is a potential disengagement from audiences and we must investigate its nature and the reasons behind it, and identify whether this tendency is structural or short-term, because we know that this would have an impact on the diversity of creation which is at the heart of our concerns and goals. The growing fragility of independent distributors has an effect on the production of mid-budget films in particular, with an important risk for the professionals working in the area that concerns these films. It is in that sense that we’re seeing a kind of bipolarisation, because it’s not necessarily that we’re seeing more big films and small films, rather there are fewer mid-budget films. Some people immediately jump from this to the question of whether there are too many films or not, but in our opinion, it’s more a matter of analysing whether films are justly produced or not, whether they get the money they need or not. One idea, for example, would be to better support independent distributors, in order to raise the MGs (Minimum Guarantee) on mid-budget films, and to think about this within the framework of the general review of the CNC’s support funds.
What about the difficult topic that is the extra-European investments into French production companies?
At a European level, MEDIA support is quite explicitly aimed at Europeans as final beneficiaries. We want to make sure that in France, the final beneficiaries of the CNC’s production support funds are European, and not extra-European. Today, the CNC’s support funds rely on a Commercial Code which states that the control of a company is not defined by capital, but rather by governance. This poses a risk for our strategic cultural assets and for intellectual property. For the ARP, public funds must aim towards the consolidation of European cultural assets. With companies that are majority-owned by extra-European capital (often by investment funds), are our strategic cultural assets sufficiently defended? This currently concerns less the film industry than the audiovisual, but it’s an existing tendency (no need to cite the companies concerned, they will recognise themselves) and once that door is opened… In fact, the ARP, the SRF (French Directors’ Association), the SPI (Independent Producers Syndicate) and the UPC (Union of Cinema Producers) have filed a dispute in Administrative Court about an authorisation issued by the CNC to a company that’s a subsidiary of a structure owned by extra-European capital. We are not at all against the idea of attracting investors in order to strengthen French and European production and we believe in the appeal of our sector, but not at the expense of our independence and sovereignty, which are at risk when we become dependent on extra-European capital.
Another hot topic set to be discussed at the Film Meetings: Artificial Intelligence (AI).
If generative artificial intelligence isn’t controlled, it is clearly a threat. Just as appeal and sovereignty are often pitted against one another (while we believe they can actually work together), some people reject the idea of regulating AI entirely, in the name of innovation and in order not to undermine competitiveness. But it is the role of regulation to find a balance, and the difficulty lies in knowing where to put the limits. The discussions currently underway in Brussels about AI must aim for this balance. Europe was built on values that are its strength today and the supervision of social networks via the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) must be the example to follow. These spaces we once believed, with a kind of fatalism, to be uncontrollable, we are now at least trying to supervise them, to regulate them, and that hasn’t caused these social networks to leave our market. Regarding AI, the strike in Hollywood has shown that we can arrive at a regulation that brings together producers, broadcasters and screenwriters, which reduces the risks in the short term. It remains to be seen how this will work and how everyone will apply the rules, but I think that in Europe, we can have the same approach: AI could be a tool for screenwriters, but it needs to remain a tool.
(Translated from French)
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