Cannes places focus on financiers who support French production
- CANNES 2021: The members of the CNC panel on "Access to Finance for Audiovisual Creators" take stock of the current situation
Film funding in France didn’t completely dry up in 2020, mainly thanks to the joint mobilisation of the CNC and the IFCIC alongside specialist banks and BPIFrance. These organisations are also introducing new subsidies for sector companies, as confirmed by the panellists assembled in the CNC’s pavilion on 13 July.
Opening the debate, CNC Financial and Legal Director Maxime Boutron confirmed that funding for cinema works had withstood the pandemic: in addition to exceptional public subsidies (900 million euros from the French government and 402 million euros from the CNC), the system of loans and guarantees which has been in place for decades has also operated at full capacity. According to the IFCIC’s managing director Karim Mouttalib, "during the first wave of Covid, once film shoots had ground to a halt, we received a huge number of requests for emergency loans and arranged credit. But these requests reduced tenfold in the autumn, Ultimately, France saw a sharp rise in production, from 10 to 20%, compared to 2019. And now, in 2021, we’re once again ahead of 2020."
Natixis Coficiné’s Managing Director Isabelle Terrel was pleased that the corporate support policy has helped to avoid film set closures. "But the worry now relates to the drop in funding from encrypted channels and the market. 2021 looks set to be a difficult year for distributors, who are now releasing films within a complicated context, having paid for minimum guarantees whose prices were calculated on the basis of a two-year-old market price."
The deputy managing director of PanEuropéenne and of the SOFICA company Indéfilms Camille Gentet confirmed this rise in the number of projects launched in 2021, whilst warning attendees of the drop in investments from TV channels, and in estimates: "At PanEuropéenne, Canal+’s contribution has fallen from 25% to 10% in less than 5 years. What’s more, investors are either focusing on low budget projects made with high levels of public aid, or on big budget works. There’s nothing in-between. Luckily, the French funding system has always supported us, including very recently, when we grew to acquire an animation outfit and to move into TV series production." She concluded by asking for improved security and transparency over rises in revenues for works so as to enable companies to seek out private investors for gap financing.
The public investment bank BPIFrance was represented by Nicolas Parpex. "The response of the public and private funding ecosystem in France has proved effective. Over 600 million euros in loans guaranteed by the State were mobilised for TV and cinema in 2020." He spoke of BPIFrance’s considerable financial tool kit, which is first and foremost an accelerant for SMEs with a turnover of less than 10 million euros, which offers support by way of financial consulting, followed by a training course and entry into a network. The IFCIC, meanwhile, is developing its services in the field of equity loans, a new option opening up access to additional funding: "It has a very clear leveraging effect”, stresses Karim Mouttalib: “in 2020, our 150 million euros in equity loans generated 300 million in external loans."
Founded by Pascal Breton seven years ago, Federation has been supported throughout its development by way of several such funding mechanisms. This group (boasting 130 people in 7 countries) produced the series The Bureau for Canal+ and Marseille for Netflix. According to one of its directors Cosette Liebgott, "when our company was created in 2014, this type of corporate aid didn’t yet exist. We had to raise funds by way of traditional, private partners who weren’t familiar with the audiovisual industry. But when it came to accelerating our company’s growth, the BPI was a major investor and a unifier of other partners, who found they were able to rely on its expertise; it played a determining role for us." Federation also benefited from an equity loan put forward by the IFCIC: "which was a real opportunity in the fast-growing series market: streaming platforms’ investments in series are doubling every two years."
At the beginning of the year, BPIFrance also launched "Touch Plan", which offers loans and guarantees, as well as equity assistance. The public bank is rolling out new loans in aid of creative innovation for producers with differentiating editorial lines. Ten companies are currently benefiting from the initiative, including Tandem in distribution, Echo Studio who produce and distribute high-impact films, the international sales agent Playtime, and documentary specialists Gédéon, to the tune of roughly 15 million euros.
The case of Federation illustrates the rude health currently enjoyed by series in the face of a weakened film industry, as Camille Gentet highlights: "Without a doubt, investors are showing greater caution when it comes to films, despite the fact that our creative and production capacity works for all formats. Small is beautiful: independent companies know how to produce qualitatively." Isabelle Turrel couldn’t agree more: "In France, groups must co-exist with small, independent firms to whom the former can turn to for talent. The diverse nature of our new funding tools is suitable for the audiovisual industry, but less so for more artisanal film producers. Decisions over support measures are also political: our subsidies should benefit small production companies and the field of distribution, which is a very risky business at present."
(Translated from French)
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