Dominique Boutonnat

Source: Eric Bonté/CNC

Dominique Boutonnat

A consortium of seven French film industry associations has issued a joint statement condemning a uniform 5.29% cut to film subsidies administered by the National Cinema Centre (CNC) in 2020.

The CNC’s board of directors made the decision in early December to cut nearly all its film subsidies to help balance its books for the coming year. The cuts are expected to result in a saving of some $16.6m (€15m).

Subsidies aimed at co-productions will not be cut, “for diplomatic reasons”, according to a source. Regional cinema funding has also remained intact. Other funding programmes aimed at the audiovisual and digital creative sectors have also not been touched.

“This is the first time this has ever happened in the history of the CNC,” said the guilds

The signatory bodies - comprising the producers guild Le SPI, independent distribution associations ACID and SDI, arthouse cinema bodies AFCAE, GNCR and SCARE and directors guild La SRF - mainly represent the most independent and arthouse end of the French cinema scene. 

Their biggest source of disgruntlement is that the cut has been applied in a uniform manner across all film subsidies, whether they are automatic or selective.

They said the CNC had ignored their request to safeguard selective subsidies, which tend to support less commercially viable projects, over the automotive subsidies, which are connected to a film’s performance at the box office.

“The selective subsidies are a real political and cultural lever for the CNC, as well as a precious tool to counteract market forces,” the statement said. ”We regret this decision which weakens the independent sector and the policies that have proved their worth up until now.”

It is not the first time the CNC’s expected budget has been cut. In 2011 and 2012, different governments siphoned off $22.2m (€20m) and $166.7m (€150m) respectively as part of a drive to reduce the country’s public debt.

It is the first time, however, that film subsidies have been singled out for cuts internally. It is not clear why the body, which has an annual pot of some $778m (€700m), needs to balance its books. The French box office, which generates a large chunk of its income, is expected to be higher this year. Another source said he believed it was due to a technical adjustment. 

It is the first major change to the CNC’s operations since producer Dominique Boutonnat was controversially appointed its president in July by French president Emmanuel Macron, in the face of widespread film industry protests.

”The CNC has announced that there will be another consultation in 2020 to reappraise all its cinema support. We hope this will be an opportunity to maintain and develop a strategy which is ambitious and favourable to cinema in France,” said the guilds.