The French industry is reacting strongly following this week’s departure of CNC President Frédérique Bredin, who has headed up the country’s lead film organization since 2013. Getting out in front of what they claim would be a conflict of interest, more than 70 filmmakers have publicly condemned the selection of one potential replacement in particular — before an appointment, or nomination, has even been made official.
Prominent directors including Jacques Audiard, Nicole Garcia and Michel Hazanavicius on Thursday penned an open letter throwing down the gauntlet over the speculated selection of producer Dominique Boutonnat to succeed Bredin. In the letter, which is now also a Change.org petition, the group accused French President Emmanuel Macron of “having apparently rejected all other nominations for his benefit.” Boutonnat was a significant donor to Macron’s 2016 presidential campaign, local media has reported.
Boutonnat this year also authored a government-commissioned report on propping up the film business via private investment. This did not sit well with champions of France’s cinematic diversity.
The linchpin to France’s generous financing system, the tax-backed CNC’s main function is to oversee and administer funding for local production, but its future in that area has recently come under threat, making its next president of high stakes importance to the industry.
Along with the Boutonnat report, another, presented by members of Macron’s La République en Marche party, suggested overhauls at the CNC including a capping of the budget and the removal of its oversight.
Bredin was opposed to such reforms and although she had been expected to continue in her post for at least some time past the expiry of her mandate this weekend, she called it quits on Wednesday night. The CNC thus finds itself without a leader for the first time in its history.
If Boutonnat were to be handed the reins, it would mark a break with tradition which has typically seen high-ranking civil servants in the post. Not all are opposed to the idea. One industry exec told me today they were reserving judgement until he’s in the job, while writers/directors/producers org l’ARP in June agreed with some of the observations in his report.
But yesterday, the opposing filmmakers wrote in part:
“Today we condemn the patronage that underlies the possible appointment of Dominique Boutonnat to the presidency of the CNC just as much as the conflicts of interest that it would surely generate, or judging from the text of his report, the policy at the service of the sector’s most powerful that it would implicate. For these reasons, we formally oppose this appointment.”
Boutonnat is co-founder and President of CinéAxe, a limited company that allows private entities to invest in production in return for a tax break. It’s part of the SOFICA system in France which has seen lower returns in recent years. He has also been a co-producer or associate producer of such successful titles as Arnacœur, Polisse and Intouchables.
The Boutonnat report was met with consternation by factions of the industry when it was originally delivered in Cannes. ARP agreed with the notion of the damage of an inflationary trend in the number of films produced in France even as funding declines, as well as a need to redefine the CNC’s missions and governance.
However, ARP called moving towards private investment and away from a pre-financing model a “serious step backwards that we cannot tolerate.” France’s current system, the body said, “has allowed France to be the only real film competitor to the United States. Without this key principle, cultural diversity is clearly under threat.”
Further difficult for ARP to swallow was a potential blurring of the lines between support for film and television works. If the funding were thrown into one pot, something the Boutonnat report suggestesd, ARP said it “would mean the extinction of independent French, European and world cinema.”
Another group of industry organizations, including 800 professionals, last week penned an op-ed under the heading: “France: The only country in the world that thinks it has too much auteur cinema.” The sarcastic title was followed by an argument that France’s problem is not overproduction, but in “the effects of concentration… Between 2010 and 2017, the total number of films released in France increased by 20%. Over the same period, films released on more than 500 copies increased by 28%. Among them, French films released on more than 500 copies increased by 90%. Overexploitation and overexposure of some films, this is where the drift of recent years is. This is where it is urgent to reform.”
A July 17 meeting of the Council of Ministers is expected to address the CNC situation.