French Industry Looking to Seize International Opportunities, Rendez-vous Panelists Say

Changes in local financing coupled with new opportunities in global distribution have pushed the French industry towards a more international outlook, argued panelists at a Tuesday round table presented as part of UniFrance’s Rendez-vous With French Cinema.

“[For certain French producers] ‘international’ used to mean who would take care of their talent when they travelled,” said film exporter Nicolas Brigaud-Robert. “[Only] today, with the way that we finance films having changed, that concern is much more widespread.”

Throughout the export focused talk – which brought together sales agents Brigaud-Robert of Playtime, and Emilie Georges of Memento, producer Bénédicte Couvreur of Lilies Films, and CNC exec Mathieu Fournet – the panelists detailed the ways French actors could seize international opportunities.

Coming off the global success of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Couvreur looked to bank on newfound international attention when preparing her next film with director Céline Sciamma, the recently wrapped “Petite Maman.”

“It was important to have a vision for the film different from what it would have been two or three years ago,” said Couvreur, noting that she raised just under 25% of the film’s €2.5 million ($3 million) budget abroad.

Meanwhile, France’s CNC has sought to reinforce its World Cinema Aid, a fund that supports 40-50 international co-productions a year, as a way to ensure a powerful and institutionally stable presence on the global stage.

“We’re often contacted by major American players looking to connect with talents from all over the world,” Fournet explained. “They know that talent passes through France… We have a real card to play [on the global stage]. We have to play offense, [using] our network and existing relationships.”

“I’m always very happy when I see another country pick a French production to represent them at the Oscars,” Fournet added, pointing out Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s “Gaza Mon Amour” as a particular success story.

“The Nasser brothers arrived in France with refugee status, took part in an artistic residence sponsored by the CNC that allowed them to work here, benefitted from different production support funds [that we’ve put in place] and were able to make an Arab-language film that will represent Palestine at the Oscars.”

At the same time, sales companies, used to dealing with international partners, have had to reconsider their own models as streamers grow in influence.

Brigaud-Robert pointed out the lack of transparency when it comes to viewership numbers and a contraction in the number of possible buyers as two major hurdles to the old ways, but ultimately struck an optimistic tone when appraising the current situation.

“The globalization of broadcasting is also a way for exporters and producers to change the power balance with Los Angeles,” he said. “Today, we’re not only content providers; we’re also an essential element of their strategy. We’re also a solution… and can play a more active role in those professional relationships.”

“This new Hollywood needs us,” he added. “The streamers’ global vision means they need [international] talent.”

Georges furthered that thought. “All of sudden the system recognized the paramount value of visibility,” she said.

“That visibility derives from selections in the most influential festivals, from the international renown that comes from the talent that we—French producers and exporters—have fostered.”

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