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Florence Gastaud • Delegate general of ARP

In-depth look at film financing issues

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Florence Gastaud • Delegate general of ARP

A few days ahead of the 20th Film Meetings organised by the ARP (Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers), to be held from October 21-23 in Dijon, Cineuropa met with delegate general Florence Gastaud.

Cineuropa: What is your analysis of the current film financing situation in France?
Florence Gastaud: Traditional financing sources have been somewhat weakened, while the new ones, mainly VOD platforms, don’t have a strong participatory dynamic. They invade screens, which is a good thing for the circulation of films. But in exchange, they should, like the other television services, help finance film creation. A European directive strongly encouraged them to do this and a French implementation decree is in preparation.

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We’re extremely disappointed about the negative opinion that the CSA (French Audiovisual Council) has recently delivered on this draft decree, which it considers too constraining for the platforms. It’s shocking because we’re stabilising current financing with Canal+ and the traditional TV networks, but the newcomers who compete with them head-on must have the same obligations, or at least be given a sense of contribution from the start. Some people’s argument is that we must let the platforms take off because they have no economic model. But we can implement very low obligations at first, a symbolic contribution, because it’s not when these platforms have become giants that we’ll be able to impose anything on them.

The 2010 Meetings will debate the issue of exclusive rights. How do you envisage their future and that of France’s current distribution windows?
Exclusive rights will continue because it is still the best way to create value for a film and everyone benefits. Are the current distribution windows the best solution? There are surely other things we can come up with. In very specific cases and more fragile economic situations, when a film is released on a print-run of less than 80 for example, can’t we imagine simultaneous releases in comparison with current distribution windows? Releasing a subscription VOD four years after the theatrical release is a bit of a shame for example. The current distribution windows are re-discussed every six months and experimentations are conceivable.

More films are produced in France, but average investment is falling. What do you think about this?
We’re vigilant about this point because investment is falling in all areas. Many directors belonging to ARP make films in difficult conditions which restrict their creativity. On the other hand, investment is a bit more focused on films in the estimated budget bracket of €4-7m and less on big-budget films. We get the impression that the huge gap between low and big-budget films is gradually dwindling.

To safeguard diversity, we regularly meet with the managers of acquisition departments at TV networks. For example, TF1 concentrated its investment a great deal this year, dropping from 21 to 14 films for the same total amount. And we’d like to get a clearer understanding of the issue of the advertising ban on France Télévisions: film financing is guaranteed for a certain period, but it remains a Damocles sword hanging over us and we’re hoping for some speedy announcements.

Presided by Radu Mihaileanu and with members including Stephen Frears, the ARP was recently joined by Christian Mungiu (at the same time as Mathieu Amalric and Thomas Langmann). What are your expectations with regard to Europe?
We’re open to writers-directors-producers from all countries. As for Europe, we’re very disappointed that EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou can’t come to the Dijon Film Meetings. In a broader sense, we are in favour of 5.5% VAT for cultural goods, because they are part of European identity.

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