AFI Chair Alan Finney attended the 2011 Cannes Film Festival (11 – 22 May) as a producer and member of the Australian film contingent. As an industry insider since the 1960s, as a filmmaker, distributor and exhibitor, Finney has been to Cannes many times before. This year Alan sent back snapshots, impressions and memories. In this third and final report, he reflects on the state of the international market and on how other territories, particularly the French, manage their business. He checks in with Philippe Mora, makes some observations on piracy, and recommends a couple of fascinating new documentaries.
It’s pretty obvious that there’s a feeling out on the streets of Cannes that this has been a strong market (as opposed to a Festival which I’ll leave others to judge).
Plenty of films, together with enthusiastic buyers in a highly competitive mode, and newly emerging markets in Russia and Latin America have resulted in a litany of good deals, a somewhat surprising result given the recent softness of international theatrical performance and declining DVD performance.
Also, of course, China is discussed as one of the growing and increasingly valuable markets. Importation and censorship controls are being addressed and whilst China is not alone in imposing limits on non-domestic films, its quota regime is among the world’s tightest.
The shared opinion seems to be that the rules are changing, though one producer expressed the opinion that a US sale is just as important as it was in the past, because if a film fails in the US it will impact negatively on its business in the rest of the world.
Of course it wouldn’t be the film industry without someone casting doubt on the upbeat mood with the Hollywood Reporter commenting : “While some are hailing this year as a return to the pre-crisis glory days – ‘extraordinary’, ‘huge’ and ‘best-ever’ were the most used adjectives amongst sales heavyweights – there remains the big question of whether Cannes’ hot pre-sale titles, when delivered, can deliver at the box office.”
A Glance at the French Case
Learning how other territories manage their business is always interesting and attending a forum on film and television, I learnt that in 2010, French television contributed 400 million Euros to the French Film Industry. I hope I didn’t hear that incorrectly!
The last time I checked, the French system for financing films seemed unique in Europe:
- French theatres must show French films for a minimum number of weeks each year;
- Major TV channels must allocate 3.2% of their turnover to cinema as co-producer (including at least 2.5% to French films);
- They must broadcast a minimum of 50% of French films and Canal Plus, a very popular pay channel must devote 20% of its turnover to buy the rights of films (12% European minimum including 9% French minimum);
- On each cinema ticket, an 11% tax is allocated to the “Fonds de Soutien’, which is open to foreign films provided they are co-produced with a French producer.
At a producers’ breakfast meeting, one speaker told of some buyers making offers based on the Internet Movie Database (IMD) ratings…. a rather strange way to make commercial projections I would have thought.
I also had a great catch-up with an old friend Philippe Mora who is in Cannes getting buyers excited about his next film Dali, a 3D biopic which will star Alan Cumming as the surrealist artist, and Judy Davis as his wife Gala. This I want to see! You can read more about this fascinating project over at Indiewire.
Piracy is also a topic that pops up frequently in conversations and over recent years AFACT (Australian Federation against Copyright Theft) has had a hard fight against Internet Service Providers and hopefully recent news will encourage them to keep up the fight.
The US entertainment industry has thrown its weight behind proposed legislation that would give law enforcement officials and others new authority to move against internet sites that traffic in copyright material without permission. The Bill was introduced Thursday into the US Senate and is called the Protect IP Act, for intellectual property, and it will take aim at foreign-owned sites that trade in pirated material by allowing US authorities to seek court orders directing domestic internet service providers, search engines and others to stop doing business with them.
Alan’s Documentary Picks
Documentary films were also a big topic this year at Cannes. According to a very interesting article in movieScope Magazine, “we live in a golden age of documentary. Worldwide, more docs are being made by more people about more subjects than ever before. The Internet has democratised distribution and marketing.”
Whilst I am leaving movie reviews to others, there are two films I recommend you look out for, two docos that are very different, but both intriguing.
First, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. It was well worth standing in line for over an hour along with hundreds of Roger Corman fans to see this movie! I not only remember Corman’s films from late 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s,but also ushered at some of them in Melbourne, and then was later involved in marketing others in the early days of Roadshow Distributors.
For those unfamliar with Roger Corman’s unique career, he began in 1949 with a job at 20th Century Fox and worked his way up to become a story analyst but after he received no credit for notes he made on a screenplay he abandoned the Studio path and started “no Budget” films. His first film was Monster from the Ocean Floor in 1953 which led to a lengthy relationship with American International Pictures (AIP), where he produced and directed films for years. His films were always profitable so he accessed larger budgets and in the ’60s he developed a long string of Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. He made the first biker movie (Wild Angels) and the first “drug” movie (The Trip). Then there was The Intruder, a movie about integration in the South, but unable to find a financier willing to touch the subject, it was self-funded and self-produced. Corman later left AIP to form his own company, New World Pictures, which not only produced Corman signature entertainment but also distributed renowned foreign films in the US, helping to introduce American audiences to Kurosawa, Truffaut, Bergman, and Fellini. Corman then sold New World and formed Concorde-New Horizon which is still in business today.
Corman’s World contains interviews with some big Hollywood names, including Martin Scorsese, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Peter Bogdanovich and Ron Howard. Roger and his wife Julie attended the screening and introduced the film as did Peter Fonda. The response from the crowd was enormous.
The second documentary I’d like to highlight, is Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, which follows the former Tonight Show host on a two-month, 32-city comedy-and-music variety-show tour (“Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television”) shortly after his split with NBC in 2010. His staff are key characters in the film such as Andy Richter, Jeff Ross and his ever-understanding assistant, Sona Movsesian and we catch up with stars such as Jim Carrey, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The back-stage encounters with his team are funny and fascinating. Conan is obviously a complex and complicated person – but that’s what being a comic is all about.
Finally, back to the AFI….
Its also been good to chat with the Australians attending the Festival about the role of the AFI and the exciting challenges we face in making it relevant to all sectors of our very broad industry. Overall the filmmakers see value in the AFI as a body that can do more than just present awards once a year, and thankfully they seem willing to work with us in becoming an energetic and relevant organisation. The years ahead are going to hard work but it will be worth it.
Stay tuned for further developments.