In an echo of the issues forcing US writers to strike, French film organisations the ARP (the guild for writers-directors-producers) and directors’ guild the SRF, behind Directors’ Fortnight, have written an open letter lashing out at copyright infringements and contemporary commercial cinema practices that they say pose a threat to auteur film.
The letter began: “We, filmmakers, work at the crossroads of ’an art and also an industry’”, in a reference to André Malraux.
They went on to condemn practices that “contravene the core principles of copyright and creative freedom,” citing “script rewriting, imposed artistic collaborations and castings, film editing by broadcasters, and prescribed choices of soundtracks, with the effect of turning directors into executors rather than creators”.
The guilds called such “commercial” changes “a form of censorship detrimental to any creative process” that “make the writer invisible.”
In the final versions of scripts, titles of films, final versions of the film’s editing, opening and closing re-edits all must be agreed on by filmmakers and producers, said the guilds, and the name of the writer-director must appear not only in the film’s credits, but on any promotional material and broadcasting channels. They continued saying the filmmaker had the right to request sanctions and legal repercussions if there is “any infringement of these points from the script writing to the final editing”.
The open letter was signed by 500 industry figures from France and across the globe including Jacques Audiard, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Costa-Gavras, Claire Denis, Bertrand Bonello and Christophe Honoré and Claude Lelouch, plus filmmakers with titles at this year’s festival including Thomas Cailley, Stéphanie di Giusto and Katell Quillévéré.
A spokesperson for the ARP said the statement isn’t a direct attack on any specific group, but is meant as an allyship with their contemporaries across the US in the ongoing WGA strike and “taking advantage of Cannes’ global platform to give a voice to these concerns”.
The ARP and SRF said they will continue the conversation in Cannes during a round-table discussion on Friday (May 19) in partnership with L’Institut Français and Unifrance.