Mathieu Fournet • Head of European and International Affairs, CNC
"Cannes is the place where everyone in the film world goes"
- CANNES 2019: Having taken up the reins as director of the CNC’s European and international affairs, Mathieu Fournet sat with us to discuss this year’s very busy edition of the Cannes Film Festival
After a career spent overseas, notably in the US as an audiovisual attaché, Mathieu Fournet took up the role of Director of European and International Affairs at the CNC on 1 April this year. He chatted with Cineuropa about this very busy 2019 edition of the Cannes Film Festival.
Cineuropa: What were your priorities for your first Cannes Film Festival as director of the CNC’s European and international affairs?
Mathieu Fournet: Cannes is the place where everyone in the film world goes: it’s the ideal time to meet all our bilateral and multilateral partners. This year, in the CNC pavilion, we organised Cinéfondation pitches, a round table on the Aide aux cinémas du monde fund, but also co-production workshops for Francophone professionals, but also for French-Palestinians. The pavilion also hosted a lunch to celebrate 70 years of Unifrance, and the third French-Indian forum, as India is a country with a great filmmaking tradition. For us, Cannes is all about institutional meetings and professional gatherings.
What is your initial assessment of the impact of the decision to raise the ceiling on international tax credit?
This measure which was introduced by Frédérique Bredin has proven very beneficial in terms of attracting foreign productions and encouraging them to film here. Only this Tuesday, the chairman of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), Charles Rivkin, opened a round table at our pavilion, reminding us of the competitiveness of French international tax credit (C2I) in the eyes of big studios and American platforms, and praising our high calibre technicians and the great quality of our landscapes. French tax credit is competitive and, as such, it is meeting its objectives: the number of international film shoots in France has increased from 22 projects in 2015 to 51 projects in 2018; that equates to 274 million euros spent in France. Even if we’re very proactive vis-à-vis the other big countries, namely India, three quarters of the productions which come to France to film are American. The next Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch, for example, was filmed entirely in Angoulême, with Octavia Peissel producing on the French side.
Where are you at with the new support fund for exporters, which was put in place in 2017?
We’re working on establishing a review of this new support system which was introduced by Frédérique Bredin within the framework of the 2017 Export Plan. It was implemented on an experimental basis for three years, so we will provide a statistical review before the end of 2019. We need to know whether this support fund has allowed certain sales agents to position themselves on films with higher, or further upstream, guaranteed minimums; whether it has improved their ability to sell films abroad, etc. We’re working hand in hand on this with the French Film Export Association (ADEF).
You lived in the US for a long time (notably as an audiovisual attaché). How do you explain the drop in admissions for French films exported in 2018 and the difficulties they’re currently experiencing in the US?
In terms of the export of French films in general, yes, 2018 was a year without any huge English-language films. But admissions in terms of French-language films remain stable. Yes, the American market is difficult, especially when it comes to movie theatres where the space devoted to subtitled foreign films is becoming increasingly harder to defend, outside of the bubble of New York. The CNC, Unifrance and the cultural services arm of the French Embassy in the US organises huge numbers of turnkey programmes, artist and director tours, drawing on the relationships that been built up over the years with American universities and the film departments of the big museums. French film remains the leading form of foreign cinema in the US and accounts for between 0.8 and 1.5% of box-office takings in the US each year. We have to be creative in our offers, look to reach out to new audiences, roll out Spanish subtitling; because French cinema has to be more than a chic point of reference in Manhattan.
Once again, streaming platforms have been very visible in Cannes this year. Are they set to play an increasingly significant role in the funding of French creations?
We’re having many conversations, primarily with Germany, Canada and Quebec, on the virtuous approach we should take towards integrating online platforms into national systems for funding creative works. In Quebec, for example, a 9.75% tax was introduced on Netflix subscriptions on a provincial level. And the European directive envisages the introduction of a broadcasting quota whereby 30% of programmes offered by these platforms must be of European origin. This is just as important as their contribution towards film creations. The work put in by international sales agents is starting to bear fruit: French auteur films have been showcased in the US by Netflix; works such as Timbuktu [+see also:
film profile], Stranger By The Lake [+see also:
interview: Alain Guiraudie
film profile], Blue is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile], or the series Call My Agent, which are drawing in impressive audience numbers. In any case, many countries from all over the world are following the lead of the Europeans, and notably the French, when faced with the meteoric rise of online platforms.
(Translated from French)
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