Rapporto industria: L'Europa e il resto del mondo
CNC e KOFIC organizzano un incontro tra professionisti francesi e coreani
CANNES 2022: Il dibattito si è concentrato su questioni attuali, sfide comuni e opportunità di cooperazione tra i due ecosistemi
Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.
On Thursday 19 May, in the margins of the 75th Cannes Film Festival, which notably shone a light on Korean cinema with no less than 4 such films featuring in the official selection, 2 of which in competition (Decision to Leave by Park Chan-wook and Broker by Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda, which was shot in South Korea), the CNC Chairman Dominique Boutonnat opened a session of round tables organised in league with the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) on the CNC Beach, which will be the film centre’s stylish location on the Croisette for the duration of the festival.
As an introduction to the two round tables unfolding that day, which involved players from the French and South Korean film industries, the CNC president wished, in the presence of his South Korean counterpart KOFIC Chairman Park Ki-yong, "to celebrate the friendship linking France and Korea in film terms", but also that between the two institutions they preside over, both of which work towards "protecting and supporting the industry in their respective countries". He also insisted that "Korea is a major filmmaking country and we can learn a lot from them." After reminding attendees of the vitality, influence and popularity of Korean cinema beyond its own borders - its recent high points including none other than the triumph of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite in Cannes 2019 - Dominique Boutonnat emphasised the many common problems faced by the two countries, which notably revolve around increasing the economic and creative competitiveness of the French and Korean ecosystems, and safeguarding ongoing, independent production at a time when cinemas attendance has dropped and on-demand video platforms are rapidly expanding. For his part, while describing KOFIC (over which he presides) as "the CNC’s equivalent in Korea", Park Ki-yong insisted upon the need to "expand film and talent exchanges between the two countries". He called for heightened cooperation between the two countries, which sounded like an invitation for these exchanges to begin while seated at the round table moderated by Variety journalist Patrick Frater.
It was in this context that the first debate opened, dedicated to the comparison of the two attending countries’ production and broadcasting ecosystems. In respect of the basics of the creative and production process, it’s the author/producer duo who initiate audiovisual projects and carry them forwards in both countries. This first commonality was seconded by Charlotte Vincent, producer at and founder of Aurora Films, who reminded attendees that it’s this very first meeting between authors and producers which precedes the search for adapted funding tailored to the project in question, while Dong-Ha Lee, a South Korean producer at Redpeter Films, pointed out that the same "team work" takes place between authors and producers in Korea, and is key to the country’s production process.
In terms of the differences between the two ecosystems, one first significant contrast is clear: on the French side, Pathé’s Chairman and CEO Ardavan Safaee declared himself impressed by Korea’s capacity "to produce films and series which do brilliantly locally but which are also hugely exportable", reminding the audience that the French system essentially relies on aid and production incentives, which foster the emergence and "ongoing renewal of talent". On the Korean side, Redpeter Films producer Dong-Ha Lee noted that the main difference between the two models revolves around the role played by private investment in production, which is far more significant than in Korea. His compatriot, CJ ENM International Manager Jerry Ko confirmed the major part played by the private sector in funding Korean cinema, and the lesser role played by KOFIC and public aid. SOFICA company Cofinovo’s director Alexis Dantec plumped for a visual metaphor - "The French film funding system is like a Vietnamese soup: every time you pull out a noodle, another one appears" - illustrating the volume and diversity of grants and subsidies available to producers, unlike traditional funding plans in South Korea, where private investment accounts for the larger part of film budgets, which are sometimes rounded off by a comparatively diminutive subsidy.
The mention of this significant difference between the two systems proved an opportunity for panel members to draw attention to another divergence between them. Charlotte Vincent - who produced Return to Seoul [+leggi anche:
intervista: Davy Chou
scheda film] (by Davy Chou), which was presented in this year’s Un Certain Regard selection - specifically pointed out the very particular nature of co-production agreements in South Korea, which aren’t often worth the trouble for French producers. As Cofinova’s Alexis Dantec points out, "for French producers, it’s less advantageous to enter into co-production agreements in Korea than it is to work outside of them". Why? Because it’s impossible to access the international tax credit accorded by KOFIC when you’re committed to a co-production agreement with a Korean firm.
Discussions around the differences between the two models ended with panel members recognising crucial common ground between the French and Korean ecosystems, namely the competition imposed by the rise of on-demand video platforms. The threat posed by the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney + and other streaming services, hangs over the South Korean ecosystem, as Redpeter Films producer Dong-Ha Lee explained, lamenting "the forced cohabitation" between the movie theatre world and platforms. Against a backdrop of tumbling cinema attendance figures in Korea, down by almost 70% since the beginning of the pandemic, the primarily private funding model adopted by Korean cinema is looking fragile: faced with a significant drop in cinema audience numbers, private investors are becoming overcautious or, at the very least, concerned over the profitability of films which they plan to invest in. Above and beyond the justifiable fear of a slowdown in production, the sector is also witnessing an investment flight towards works for platforms, who are probably seeing the opposite trend to cinemas when it comes to audience growth. Faced with this "considerable tension", Dong-Ha Lee’s compatriot Jerry Ko, of CJ ENM, admitted that South Korea doesn’t yet plan to incorporate platforms into the film funding ecosystem, as is now the case in France following the implementation of the AVMS Directive.
It was towards the very same subject of movie theatres and their future that event moderator Patrick Frater directed the participants of the second roundtable, entitled Movie Theatres For Tomorrow’s Audiences.
First and foremost, the panellists acknowledged that there had been a drop in cinema admissions in both countries since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Despite a few significant trompe-l’œil successes, like that of Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy [+leggi anche:
intervista: Céline Sciamma
scheda film] (2011) which was released in Korean cinemas in 2020, a box-office collapse has definitely taken place in Korea, as attendees were reminded by Unifrance CEO Daniela Elstner. This 70% drop in cinema admissions is yet to be remedied, insisted Megabox boss Hong Jeongin: "the situation is only just starting to improve". For his part, the director of Busan’s International Film Festival Huh Moon-yung was delighted with the return to normal festival organisation conditions in 2022 after likewise suffering a significant drop in attendance figures for two years, but he also reminded us of "the positive influence festivals have on cinema admissions".
This fall in admissions in both countries can be blamed on various factors, as cinema operator and President of Cannes’ Compagnie Cinématographique and of Cineum Cannes Philippe Borys-Combret explained, namely the closure of cinemas during the pandemic (or the severely restricted hours introduced in Korea), the fears surrounding the Covid-19 epidemic and the delayed release of American works boasting considerable commercial potential, which were sometimes even redirected towards platforms at the expense of movie theatres.
Accordingly, Orange Studio’s Deputy CEO Pierre Rasamoela noted several substitution effects: in the public’s eyes, cinemas aren’t only competing with on-demand video platforms, they’re also in competition with the leisure sector more generally (restaurants, video games, amusement parks...). This selectiveness on the public’s part leads to the volatility of the latter and, ultimately, results in heightened risk "for our profession as distributors", Rasamoela insisted. In Korea, Contents Panda’s President Jaemin Kim observed real differences in the public’s behaviour depending on the type of film in question: arthouse films are far less capable of drawing in audiences who still seem drawn to blockbusters, moreover.
How do we go about remedying these difficulties? First and foremost, by way of emergency measures. Pierre Rasamoela reminded attendees that in France, cinema operators have benefitted from “huge” state grants ever since they were first closed. One mechanism in particular has proven especially important: the Distributors Support Fund, which was particularly useful in the return-to-business phase and was aimed at encouraging hesitant distributors to offer their films to audiences, despite uncertainty over their sizes of the latter, when we weren’t sure in what capacity they’d be returning to cinemas. In Korea, Megabox Director Hong Jeonjing welcomed the aid offered by KOFIC. Even though Korean cinemas weren’t fully closed during the pandemic, the reduction in their opening hours made things harder for cinema operators. How do we go about covering sizeable operating costs at times of greatly reduced activity? Aid for cinema operators in Korea notably came in the form of discount vouchers distributed directly to cinema goers wishing to attend screenings.
To conclude the event, participants in the afternoon’s second roundtable dared to look further ahead and to consider the future of movie theatres with the very same aim in mind: returning to significant admission levels and staying afloat in the face of the abandonment of cinemas by one section of the public who favour platforms.
The solution is clear for cinema operator Philippe Borys-Combret, who calls for "premium, qualitative cinemas, providing extraordinary comfort", insisting that: "cinemas must modernise themselves and become more technological." Offering ever-increasing levels of comfort and greater services to audiences is how he intends to win the public over. Unifrance CEO Daniela Elstner tempered the optimism of her compatriot, arguing that adding comfort and technological innovation to the cinema experience probably isn’t pivotal for drawing audiences back to cinemas and turning them into loyal customers, though this would make sense for more spectacular films. She preferred to stress the success of monthly subscription offers, which allow audiences to discover works they wouldn’t usually have opted for, in addition to ensuring the public’s regular return to movie theatres. Elstner was also proud of the pioneering role France has played in the successful introduction of such offers, which are still a rare thing elsewhere.
The final word was left to KOFIC Chairman Park Ki-yong who confirmed that the efforts currently being made by the organisation he oversees are aimed at finding long-term solutions to "protect movie theatres and help them get back on their feet and survive".
(Tradotto dal francese)
Ti è piaciuto questo articolo? Iscriviti alla nostra newsletter per ricevere altri articoli direttamente nella tua casella di posta.