The 13th annual Rencontres Cinematographiques de Beaune in France was a generally upbeat affair, but also one that marked the departure of lobbyist, Pascal Rogard.
The Rencontres, which is organised by France's association of writers, directors and producers (ARP) was founded by Rogard (who remains as managing director of ARP until the end of 2003) and serves as a platform for cultural debates facing the French and European industries.
Beginning on Friday, two discussions took place, one on the European Union's expansion to include eight new member states from the east. Addressing film production levels in these new countries, where 85% of the films released are US, France and the EU were called upon to come up with ways to help these new entrants to maintain cultural diversity.
In the afternoon, a debate about the DVD industry ended with ARP's membership proposing several new laws. Among them, a pricing policy for DVDs similar to the one in place for books, a system of profit split as already exists between exhibitors and distributors and a 'ticketing' system so that each rental would be considered a ticket purchase which would be taxed and thus create another revenue stream.
ARP also suggested that the DVD sector be further taxed in order to provide additional funds for the film industry. To many this seemed greedy given that a new tax was implemented last July and that monies coming from the DVD tax in 2002 increased dramatically from Euros 18m to over Euros 40m so far in 2003 alone.
Other subjects included the imminent arrival of digital cinema and a discussion regarding the future handling of cultural diversity and cultural exception at the European level. EU culture commissioner Viviane Reding was in town for the talk along with culture minister Aillagon, but despite the political influence on the podium, the discussion was more like an opportunity for France and the EU to pat themselves on the back for ongoing legislation that protects their cultural goods.
Saying she believed that the advancement of European cinema could benefit from stricter school curricula, Reding asserted, "To watch an American film doesn't take any effort. You can just sit there. But to see a European film takes more cultivation."
Even the diplomatic Aillagon noted that this was a great time to negotiate with the US since they are in a weakened position when it comes to piracy. Because piracy mostly affects the majors, Aillagon said, "We have to find a way to profit from the current situation of Americans being in the position of need."
Beyond that nothing new came out of this debate aside from raising awareness that Reding, who had been vilified in Beaune years ago, but is now considered a friend, will be stepping down by next November when a new set of commissioners takes over.