– The French film industry weathered the storm of the pandemic, managing to maintain around 80% of its normal production level last year, despite funding and co-productions taking a hit
From Africa With Love by Nicolas Bedos, which cost €18.35 million, the biggest budget for an approved French film in 2020
Despite the seriously hefty impact of the first wave of the health crisis, the French film industry still managed to demonstrate its strong resilience, which is borne out by the overview of French film production in 2020 published by the CNC.
With 239 features approved, 190 of which were films of French initiative (FIFs – 62 fewer than in 2019) and 49 of which were minority productions (50 fewer), it’s true that French cinematic production fell by 20.6% in 2020 compared to the previous year, but nevertheless, the result is still fairly remarkable (owing a great deal to the different exceptional support mechanisms put in place by the French authorities) in conditions that saw film shoots in France halted altogether for an entire quarter and the resumption of activities made all the more complicated by the health-and-safety recommendations for shoots in the country and constraints on how international co-productions normally function. The number of foreign shooting days for FIFs therefore plunged by 47.4%, to 677 days.
In total, 88 French international co-productions were approved in 2020 (as against 116 the previous year) with 39 foreign countries: 39 majority French ones (16 fewer than the previous year) and 49 minority French ones (12 fewer than in 2019). Investments in this domain were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, dropping to €276.04 million (or 45.8% less than in 2019): €122.79 million from French sources and €153.25 million from foreign ones.
Last year, the main foreign partners for French cinema were Belgium (19 FIFs and nine minority titles), Germany (nine FIFs and five minority), Italy (three FIFs and seven minority), Spain (two FIFs and five minority) and Switzerland (six FIFs). Also of note were six French minority productions with Greece.
On the funding side, investments fell to €783.9 million (down 29.8% on 2019’s figure), €643.67 million of which were injected into FIFs. The upshot of this is that the average budget of FIFs continues its decline and now stands at €3.39 million (the lowest level for over 25 years; compare this, for example, with the figure of €5.47 million from ten years ago).
The division of budgets gives us an informative snapshot, as only the FIFs with a budget of between €4 million and €5 million are up on the previous year (19 in 2020, as against nine in 2019). The number of FIFs with a budget higher than €15 million and between €7 million and €10 million stayed the same as in 2019 (six and 13, respectively). On the other hand, the FIFs in the €10-15 million, €5-7 million and €1-2 million brackets decreased drastically (from 17 to seven for the former, from 34 to 18 for the second group, and from 35 to 17 for the latter), whereas the under €1 million (from 74 to 69) and €2-4 million brackets fell to a lesser extent. This overarching picture seems to indicate that the investments are bunching together on very specific tiers for each category of film and that the intermediate strata of each level are somewhat neglected.
The analysis of the funding sources for the FIFs highlights a clear drop of 31% (to €80.09 million) in the investments stemming from mandates (distribution in cinemas, video releases and international sales) that now finance 12% of the budgets of the films, as against 8% for public funding (automatic and selective support from the CNC, regional backing). Producers are covering 38.1% of the budgets themselves, and the investments of TV channels fell by 23.4% last year, to €201.55 million (but still represent 31.3% of the budgets). The rest of the funding of FIFs is covered by the Soficas (4.4%) and foreign contributions (5.9%).
Investments from TV channels in 2020 were split across 127 films (119 FIFs and eight minority ones), representing the lowest level since 1996. The place of that historical lynchpin of French film financing, Canal+, has diminished even further with its investments decreasing by 27.9% to €76.64 million (for 86 films, 78 of which were FIFs, as against a total of 120 in 2019) whereas its pre-purchases still stood at €178.73 million in 2015. As for the other pay TV channels, OCS chipped in €23.4 million in investments (for 24 features, 23 of which were FIFs) and the figure for Ciné+ was €12.96 million (for 94 films, 88 of which were FIFs).
The funding from free-to-view channels also shrank by 23.8% for a total of €92.69 million and 91 films funded (including 86 FIFs), with TF1 (€17.30 million across eight films), France 2 (€33.06 million across 30 titles), France 3 (€17.61 million across 24 films), M6 (€10.9 million across six films) and Arte France (€7.29 million across 19 features). For their part, TNT’s recently established free-to-view channels invested €6.53 million in 27 pre-purchased films, which breaks down into 11 films for C8, ten for TMC and six for W9.
(Translated from French)