Dijon delves into global strategies and local tactics
by Fabien Lemercier
- At the Film Meeting, there was a change in direction on the cards and a wealth of issues to discuss regarding the complex French media timeline and film pre-financing model
"You don’t save a system by freezing it." This proactive political message, hinging on the power of possibility and the refusal to accept inevitability, while at the same time avoiding being passive or naïve, was expounded in person by Françoise Nyssen, French Minister of Culture, to French film professionals gathered in Dijon for the 27th Film Meetings organised by the ARP (Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers). By giving the various players in the sector six months (and a mediator) to overhaul the media timeline, the authorities have proven their belief in the urgent need to integrate ultra-powerful digital platforms (Netflix and Amazon, among others) into the French film industry’s pre-financing system.
"The boundary between linear and non-linear services doesn’t make much sense any more, and it will make less and less sense as time goes on," added Frédérique Bredin, president of the CNC. "But we need to be fair about it, by imposing funding, investment and exhibition obligations." This objective will be made easier from next year onwards because the new version of the Audiovisual Media Services (SMA) directive, which will force platforms to provide a minimum of 30% of European works (the definition of which will nevertheless need to be clearly outlined, as will who will monitor it), will be transposed into French national law, and because of the so-called Netflix and YouTube taxes (see the news) that will go towards funding creation.
However, while this may be good news, it is far from sufficient to allay concerns. Indeed, as highlighted by researcher Thomas Paris, "Some very diverse films can be found on the same distribution channels, which risks stifling some of them. And the strategies are very different when you compare the economy of film production, which is based on projects, and that of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, which is founded on the profitability of huge investments in infrastructure, with the content serving as a means to an end." It is a situation that makes it just as tempting to withdraw as it does to display strong will.
While the regulation of the digital heavyweights clearly has to take place on the European level, the varied world of French cinema must also demonstrate its ability to adapt. The premise behind the negotiations on the media timeline overhaul seems to be making progress in this regard, with many players sharing the desire to bring the opening of the SVoD (subscription video on demand) window, which is currently 36 months after the theatrical release, into line with that of pay TV (currently set at ten months after the theatrical release, but which is also likely to be brought forward) if the platforms make the same commitments to invest in French cinema. Nonetheless, the various players in the French film industry are using guerrilla tactics in accordance with their own specific interests (for example, the lifting of the ban on cinema advertising on television that Altice/SFR, which currently only invests €10 million per year in French movies, is hoping for, whereas Canal+ pre-purchases 107 features and injects €140 million over the same period of time; or exhibitors’ outright refusal to experiment with geolocalisation for those films whose theatrical run might be floundering). This rather gives the impression of a fight to the death around a broken perfume bottle as its scent still lingers, and of a French film funding model whose current level of complexity will, in the long term, find it extremely hard to withstand the steamroller of modernity if each player insists on defending its turf without taking a more general overview of the situation.
(Translated from French)
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