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Frédéric Brillion • President, Union of Film Producers

"There's no good or bad side"

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- Producer Frédéric Brillion, president of France's Union of Film Producers, gives his point of view on the new agreement linking Canal+ to the French film industry

Frédéric Brillion  • President, Union of Film Producers

A week after a new agreement was signed in Dijon (at the Rencontres Cinématographiques organised by the ARP) linking Canal+ to the French film industry until the end of 2022, Frédéric Brillion – president of theUnion of Film Producers (Union des Producteurs de Cinéma - UPC), which brings together more than 200 independent producers – gives us his take on the situation.

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Cineuropa: Is the UPC happy with the new agreement signed by Canal+ to finance French (and European) cinema? Is it a relief?
Frédéric Brillion
: It's more about responsibility. We are at the crossroads of an international revolution, what with the collapse of Pay TV and the development of new platforms. The problem we're currently facing is that platforms – some of which are already in existence, with others to soon arrive, and all of them currently American – are not going to fund all of France’s film productions. I therefore think the agreement with Canal+ will help to finance a large number of films, hopefully a similar number to France’s current production volume.

Is the agreement at all difficult for producers? What about the introduction of a €180 million per year ceiling on Canal+'s investments?
No, that's not the most difficult thing. It’s more the fact that we have to move away from turnover investment obligations and towards subscription obligations, which were previously the lowest criterion. A guaranteed minimum pro-rata calculation, in accordance with rates, has also been imposed on subscriber numbers – it’s been about ten years and it’s all a little vague. These two lines in the old agreement resulted in a new calculation principle for Canal+’s obligations, a calculation that resulted in a downward trend in relation to the full guaranteed minimum, but with a rather powerful cushioning effect. In reality, we’ve now lost the turnover criterion and must instead be more open to lower rates. Canal+’s obligations cannot decline in proportion to turnover. This is a means of protection given the decline in Canal+’s rates due to the competition.

French producers have an interest in ensuring that Canal+ is in best possible shape for as long as possible.
We want to ensure that our partners do well, and that we have the most flexibility possible when choosing partners. In order for partners to do well, we need to create a media timeline that protects everyone. We don’t intend to say no to everything. But I think it's an interim agreement, we’re talking maybe four years. We also need to start thinking about the future as much as possible.

Speaking of media timelines, what do you think about the reform, which should bring different film exposure windows forward without any major upheaval from next year onwards?
We were initially in favour of technological neutrality, i.e. opening things up. This will certainly be the case in the future. But open things up to whom? With what obligations? And what about authors' rights? Media timelines are about virtue, and virtue is a financial commitment, but it’s also about respecting authors' rights and ensuring that producers can keep their roles as delegated producers and their film shares. These days, platforms often suggest becoming an executive producer, but that involves a lot of constraints. There's no good or bad side. We are not subscribing to that logic at all, but what Canal+ does, exists. It's an older model given recent decline, but it shouldn’t be quite so fast. We’re also supporting Canal+’s commitment to a generalist model, mixing football and cinema, in particular. We were also reassured by Canal+’s acquisition of the English Premier League, rather than Canal, a distributor that wouldn’t have any film creation obligations.

Between tensions in upstream financing and downstream revenue expectations, affected most notably by the heavy rotation of films in cinemas, is there not a risk of a ‘price scissors crisis’?
This risk exists, and we are working on it by talking to operators. But without being overly smug and optimistic, there are a few things to put into perspective. The number of admissions in France for French films has increased while total attendance has dropped, which increases French production’s market share. The latest figures on physical media, which are not good, are still slightly on the up for French films, whereas they’re decreasing for American films, and you see more or less the same issue with VOD, too. The French are attracted to French culture. We see it at play in the audiovisual sector with French TV series, which are outperforming American TV series. What we can see – and what Canal+ and the operators know – is that if French cinema were to decline, it would be an industrial disaster. We’re therefore going to enter into constructive discussions, as everyone needs each other. We need to regulate things for them to be better, and we will not give up the fight. We also need to assert ourselves as a sector, as a film industry that is special, with films that start their journeys on the big screen, because it's important that our identity is focused on that and is not drowned out by the audiovisual sector. French cinema production still stands at €1.5 billion, which is the same as Canal+’s turnover. We all need to become aware of our rights and duties in the film industry.

And what about your personal projects with Epithète Films and Geko Films?
Epithète will be releasing Les Bonnes Intentions by Gilles Legrand on 21 November and  Exfiltrés by Emmanuel Hamon (read the article here) on 6 March 2019, both distributed by Fox France. Geko Films – managed by Grégoire Debailly and in which we have a majority – is introducing us to new terrain, such as Jean-Bernard Marlin's Scheherazade [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which is one of the year’s best successes, as well as La Dernière Vie de Simon by Leo Karmann, which is soon to be finished.

(Translated from French)

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