The pros and cons of the new world of platforms
- In search of funding and bold creativity, French producers and filmmakers are closing the gap with digital giants, but it’s not always a simple calculation
"We're on a flying trapeze swinging from a TV-based (paid and free) system to a SVoD (subscription video on demand) system, but we don't know if there's a safety net to catch us." The imagery presented by Marie Masmonteil (Honorary President of the SPI - Syndicat des Producteurs Indépendants) does well to summarise the degree of uncertainty surrounding the future of the financing of film productions in France, the subject of a very lively debate in Dijon during the 27th Rencontres Cinématographiques organised by The ARP.
"Today, the bedrock of financing is still free and paid TV, contributing 400 million euros to a total of 1.5 billion euros," continued the producer from Elzevir Films, "but investments from Canal+, which dropped from €170 million in 2012 to €140 million in 2016, were allocated to the same number of pre-purchased films. So the average investment per film is dropping, which is causing problems, especially for films that have a budget of less than four million euros."
This observation inevitably puts French producers in a paradoxical situation, since they obviously can't disown their main television partners, but they are also not insensitive to the idea of digital platforms, especially if they are working in the area of international film production. Saïd Ben Saïd (SBS Productions) believes that "the arrival of players such as Netflix and Amazon in particular is very exciting. We've witnessed a turning point. I understand that people are very concerned about it, but I'm viewing it with great enthusiasm, especially with the presence of Ted Hope (who produced Todd Haynes, Ang Lee, etc.) and Scott Foundas' Amazon Studio. They produce films that differ from the norm, it may be temporary or just advertising on their part, but it is interesting. Netflix is probably more in the business of quantity, and their deal model is multi-regional with a window reserved for SVoD, but besides that, films can be exploited, except for paid TV."
An interest shared by the director Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Mustang [+see also:
interview: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
film profile], Kings [+see also:
film profile]), president of the 2017 edition of the Rencontres Cinématographiques,for who"these great players turn up with room for enormous creative freedom" and who preached in favour of French cinema being open to international players and the relaxation of approval constraints related to the casting and nationality of performers."
A certain attractiveness of platforms for French producers and filmmakers that includes their traditional French partners without ignoring the dangers as summarised by David Kessler (Director of Orange Studio and Orange Content): "The platforms have created a model that partially addresses the question of content circulation and the fact that the market is more strained because television is buying less. The prices are decent, the films are offered worldwide and bold creativity is certainly not lacking. It is interesting for the producers to have them as representatives in addition to the people they are talking to, and sometimes there’s growth. But these developments create problems for regulatory systems like ours, built in a closed ecosystem with a specific media timeline. This system is at breaking point. And I don’t personally believe that the platforms will be keen to enter into a system as complex as ours in terms of regulation. This is a real cause for concern because they don’t operate according to our rules which weakens our rules as a result. Regulation is only going to take place on a European scale with compromises and it is necessary to reflect on the developments that need to be made for these compromises."
(Translated from French)
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