opinion column uk

French Cinema Faces serious Issues

French Film Industry in Crisis

The “Journal Du Dimanche” recently published a consternating article entitled ' La vraie facture du Cinema Francais - The real cost of French Cinema'. This article highlights the massive problems with the subvention system including cast fees, distribution deals, the frigidity of TV investment and the lack of public interest.

The main problem with French cinema is the lack of a multi-streamed industry and a nationalist vision of our own culture.

Unlike the UK and the US film industries encompassing Independent, 'Medium Weight' and Mainstream, the French cinema is simply put 'mono stream' at the exception of a handful of films crossing the borders mostly produced by the two major production companies in our country – Europa Corp and Canal +.

We are all independent fimmakers here and the notion of film industry is not even applicable – unfortunately. There is no turnover, there is no gross revenue, there is no market beyond our borders, and there are no specific targets. We are film artisans running our own little shops comparing our limited results with the grosses of foreign Mega Malls. Thankfully, some entrepreneurs dared to think differently and fought for the quality of our products abroad - Europa Corp and Canal +.

The only fact the the CNC (main financial body – equivalent of the BFI) imposed the French language as part of its requirement for subvention, compromises the movie to get any distribution deal at birth. This is a ridiculous restriction and a cultural misconception. As a French person, does the only fact to speak English make me “Less French”? Don’t I embody my value and culture when I am abroad? Am I not the cultural ambassador of my country when I am chosen to act in a film? I do. I am – and even humbly participate in the echo of this undefinable 'French Touch' or this 'Je ne sais quoi' that cover us with the glitter and style of another age . So why would this be different for a film?

We are still living under the heritage of the Napoleon’s Imperialism as far as our culture is concerned… We try beyond measure to keep our culture inside our borders, to protect it, and to fight against any kind of pluralism with an assumed nationalism – “Ca c’est Francais!”. This over protection and lack of support to the cultural mix isolates our country today – having for critical effect pushed creative minds, artists, actors and directors to leave this country as it cannot answer their ambitions – reaching a worldwide audience… We want to make it big too (yes, we do!).

International co-production in the film industry is not synonymous with cultural compromise.

Living in London, the most metropolitan city in the world, I can appreciate the benefit of a hybrid culture in constant evolution… The culture of a country is not only its historical heritage, no. The culture of a country is also made of all the people living in this territory, participating with their own references, backgrounds, beliefs, languages, and origins mixed with expression and influence. If you try to control this flow, it will – as water does – flow out of the borders you’ve created. Culture and creativity cannot be constrained. Then why, why would you stay in a country that cannot answer your ambition, or your vision? The love of our roots, is it not good enough?

Taken 2 Produced by Europa Corp.

As the CNC prepares its 2013 report, let’s take a minute to remember that a year ago, 'Taken 2' (produced by EuropaCorp / Grive Productions / Canal+ / M6 Films / Ciné+ and directed by French director Oliver Megaton) was produced with $45M. It grossed $374M (Worldwide) via 20th Century Fox. This French film had no export issues as it was shot in English and was supported by an international cast. In spite of the language of this film, 'Taken 2' has the complete eligibility to be part of our cultural patrimony, and to be recognised as one of our biggest financial successes. We will all admit a certain pride in regard of this accomplishment I am sure.

Thanks to 'Taken 2', more 'films d’auteur' have been produced in the following year, as for every ticket sold in the country the CNC allows a certain percentage of their sales to support the making of other films..a positive snowball effect for the whole industry and the right balance between mainstream and indie production.

In the view of those elements, it’s probably the time to start thinking about manufacturing quality products that sell well on the international market, so we can afford to produce our own, so local cinema won't keep the fear of an impending financial disaster…

More Taken please!

film industry network members