France's National Cinema Centre (CNC) has made a proposal to the government to allow US majors the right to access France's coveted "compte de soutien".

The compte is a revolving account set up at the CNC into which a percentage of box-office, video and television sales is placed in order to benefit future production.

The proposal follows months of controversy after Jean-Pierre Jeunet announced that his follow up project to Ameile, A Very Long Engagement, would be produced by a newly created French subsidiary of Warner Bros.

After months of debate, it was finally decided that the Warner-based company, 2003 Productions, is indeed a French company as it is majority owned and controlled by the French. Jeunet's film was given a CNC stamp of approval and 2003 Productions were able to create a compte de soutien.

However, some groups - the Association of Independent Producers and the Independent Producers' Union - are opposed to the finding and are understood to have lodged an official complaint about it to the CNC

The CNC is now attempting to establish criteria which could help to avoid such complications in the future.

However, stringent conditions are being proposed as a way to filter the system. "At least three conditions must be met in order for a non-European company to access the compte de soutien," the CNC writes.

A film must be shot in the French language and must have at least 76 points on the scale of 100 set up by the CNC. The CNC awards points to a film based on its "Frenchness", including the nationality of crew and cast as well as locations and other variables.

The proposal has met with favourable opinions from the film exporters' union and the association of authors directors and producers (ARP). The independent producers' union and the association of independent producers are, however, in opposition.

Michel Gomez, president of ARP told "We are very open and we consider that we should be able to find a clear means of regulation with simple terms that shouldn't have a destabilising effect on the system."

Gomez said that American companies which distribute French films in France are eligible for distribution aid and believes they should be able to access production funds if they are producing French films as well. "I would prefer a well framed transparency rather than the current fuzziness," he says.

For the moment the dossier rests with culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon who will make a decision on the proposals although no timetable has yet been established.