Frédérique Bredin, the long-running head of the French National Cinema Center (CNC) abruptly resigned on July 10th after President Emmanuel Macron’s government failed to confirm her reappointment for her third three-year term following the end of her mandate on July 14th.
Her resignation comes as an opposition to a government reform that would significantly curtail the CNC’s budget and restrict its autonomy. “I am profoundly hostile to capping our budget because it would break our model,” said Bredin.
The CNC has been the financial cornerstone of the French film industry since 1946 by distributing subsidies for the production, distribution and marketing of audiovisual content. It rests on the ideological principle that any entity profiting from the diffusion of cinema content must contribute financially- proportionately to its revenues – to the creation of these cinematic works. The CNC’s annual budget of around 813 million euros comes from a historic 10.7% levy on cinema ticket sales since 1947, a 5.6% tax on free-to-air broadcasters since 1986 and a 2% revenue contribution for digital platforms added last year.
Around 90% of French films benefit from CNC funding through a variety of automatic grants and funding programs. French films are among the strongest local content in the world topping 40% of the box office regularly and the CNC is seen by its supporters as the custodian of this “French cultural exception”. It also powers European co-productions and world cinema through its Aide aux Cinémas du Monde.
Last June, the government proposed overhauling the system. The decision came after two reports – the Boutonnat report proposing reforming the financing of the film industry, and the Magne report criticising the CNC’s efficiency and urging a cap on its budget – were reviewed by Parliamentarians. The overhaul would include a cap on the body’s budget, redirecting monies exceeding a certain threshold to the state’s treasury, a contribution to TV production rather than just films and greater control by the Finance Ministry. This comes in a critical moment for the film industry as a bill on the audiovisual sector, expected to be introduced later this summer, is raising new questions about its funding, copyright and the place of digital media.
800 film professionals opposed the reform with an open letter entitled “France: the only country in the world to believe it has too much arthouse cinema”.
“French films account for 40% [of the box office] and it’s rising,” the letter read. “This market share is exceptional and is directly linked to the richness of the offer. Suppressing these so-called “excessive” films would put this market share, which is the envy of Europe, in danger. The collective health [of the film industry] is at stake.”
“We would also like to highlight that a film – whether it works or not – participates in the industrial economy of the country. French cinema plays an economic role, generating €5.8bn ($6.3bn) in added value.”
The letter added that the French film industry employs 127, 395 people and contributes to 5.8 billion euros to the French economy.
The exhibition industry also benefits from CNC funding with a wide range of funding programs including selective aides for smaller and medium-sized exhibitors and support for exhibitors with a “difficult” programming to withstand competition. Under Bredin, the CNC recently launched the “Digital Tour de France”, a program educating exhibitors on digitalization.
Leading the entity since 2013, Bredin spanned five Culture Ministers before her resignation. During her mandate, she supported gender equality and diversity in cinema. In her long battle to make streaming platforms more accountable, she backed a European directive on audiovisual media voted by Brussels in April 2018. The directive instaured a 30% quota for European content in the catalogue of VOD platforms and imposed upon them a contribution to finance local content in the countries where they operate. Bredin was also behind the first funding program for online content creators, established by the CNC in October 2017.
A successor to Bredin has yet to be named by the French President, leaving the position vacant for the first time in the body’s 73-year long history. Dominique Boutonnat, a producer and the author of the first report, is strongly considered for the position. His nomination however, is widely contested. 70 prominent filmmakers, including Michel Hazanavicius and Jacques Audiard, have denounced his close ties with President Macron as well as his policy proposal for a private funding of the film industry.