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FUNDING France

Shadowboxing for Canal + in Dijon

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- Manuel Alduy, the group’s head of cinema, defended himself at the Film Meetings on the ultra-sensitive issue of alleged funding over-concentration

Shadowboxing for Canal + in Dijon

He was supposed to debate with two important independent producers, but instead he ended up alone on stage at the 22nd Film Meetings organised in Dijon by the Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers (ARP). Manuel Alduy (photo), head of cinema at Canal+, held a discussion with the ARP’s delegate general and one of its vice-presidents (Florence Gastaud and filmmaker Jean-Paul Salomé - read the related interview), who both wore Anonymous masks for the occasion. It just goes to show how much caution is exercised when there’s a discussion about possible malfunctions in Canal +’s film pre-acquisitions, with the latter suspected of favouring a certain form of funding over-concentration.

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According to Manuel Alduy, the accusation is unfounded.

"The new element is that there is an enormous amount of projects as well as newcomer producers and directors compared to quite a stable amount of pre-acquisitions. We receive more expensive and semi-expensive projects, because there is stronger competition for ambitious films and some distributors want to have more event films. The pressure on the more fragile films among the more expensive is therefore stronger. For several years, we have privileged increasing pre-acquisition amounts whatever the size of the films. A part of the profession tells us that it would be better to increase the number of pre-acquisitions, but this would have an impact on the average level of pre-acquisitions. It is easier to say yes than to say no, but one must not impoverish."

The head of cinema at Canal +, who stressed that "producers used to producing on a big budget find it hard to do so for less", also pointed out the creation of an inflationary bubble on about 30 projects of possible interest to TF1 and M6. He also reminded his audience that not all films can withstand the shock of prime-time and that pre-acquisitions for night-time broadcasts would not help anyone.

"Each year, Canal + needs about 12 event films. Some are not expensive, but most are very expensive. But we have no alternative as -- we should not bury our heads in the sand -- we need these bills to compete with the American film sector."

As for the specific issue of medium-budget films and a certain type of cinema whose projects might be less well accepted at Canal + according to the representatives of independent producer associations present in Dijon, Alduy firmly rejected the argument based on the number of pre-acquisitions (stable according to budget categories) and stressed that medium-budget films are also the most fragile when it comes to other sources of funding.

He nevertheless repeated a few essential truths. “The box office history of groups or independent distributors can be a very favourable factor in the appraisal of a project put forward by a producer.” And “producer-television channel relations are necessarily different for producers with three projects a year and for those with one every two years, as they will be for producers to take the risk of releasing their films in cinemas."

The topic of possible funding over-concentration was therefore not fully assessed. As the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire, but Canal +’s strategy is also to be considered as a driving force in funding the French film sector. The mere fact of having made the debate public will surely make its different players think about it.

(Translated from French)

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