Magazine article Screen International

French Culture Minister Calls Meeting over Maraval-Gate Storm

Magazine article Screen International

French Culture Minister Calls Meeting over Maraval-Gate Storm

Article excerpt

Wild Bunch's Vincent Maraval says thrust of Le Monde editorial distorted by "sensationalist" headline.

Wild Bunch co-chief Vincent Maraval says he is staying out of the debate prompted by his Le Monde editorial, calling for a rethink of the French film financing system, until it returns to the "substance" of what he wrote.

The Paris-based producer and sales chief told Screen the recent controversy, dubbed Maraval-gate by the local media, had been caused by the 'untruthful and sensationalist' headline -- "French actors are paid too much!" -- written by Le Monde above his editorial.

"This has prompted a poujadist and corporatist response, when the aim was to highlight the fact that a very good film financing system which is the envy of the world has gone adrift. When the debate returns to the substance of what I wrote, I will express myself," he said, referring to 1950s French populist politician Pierre Poujade.

Maraval's 1,700-word editorial published in Le Monde on December 28 - lamenting spiralling star salaries and production costs and the resulting number of unprofitable French films - has unleashed a heated debate on France's film financing system which shows no sign of abating some 12 days on.

Government orders "assize"

French Culture and Communications Minister Aurélie Filippetti announced on Monday she had ordered the National Cinema Centre (CNC) to organise an "assize" on the matter on January 23.

"It will allow everyone around the table to explain just how precious the system is," she said in an interview with Canal Plus' popular news and talk show Le Grand Journal on Monday evening. Maraval told Screen he is not planning to attend.

Based on a 10.7% levy on cinema tickets, the proceeds of which the CNC manages; broadcaster obligations and also regional funds, national and regional tax incentives and Sofica tax shelters, France's film financing mechanisms are among the most comprehensive in the world.

Maraval said that the TV obligations - stipulating free-to-air channels plough 2.4% of revenue into French films and pay-TV channels, 9.0% - were responsible in particular for the inflation in costs.

System under pressure

Many local cinema professionals have said Maraval's comments are unhelpful at a time when the system, with a 60-year history, is under pressure on a number of fronts.

This year, the ruling Socialist Party is siphoning off $200m ([euro]150m) of the CNC's funds and has also slashed the budget of state broadcaster France Televisions by $111m ([euro]85m), or 3.4%, as part of a national debt-cutting plan. Parliament also recently passed a 3% VAT hike to 10% on cinema tickets scheduled to take effect in 2014.

Beyond its borders, France is also embroiled in protracted negotiations with the European Commission over a CNC levy on telecommunication players diffusing audiovisual and film content via their networks.

"With the current left wing which isn't at all favourable towards French cinema, this editorial could have an extremely counter-productive impact," commented producer Marie Masmonteil of Elzévir Films, who is also the president of Bloc, an umbrella body acting as a liaison between all the country's film guilds and unions.

Florence Gastaud, managing director of the Association of Authors, Directors and Producers (L'ARP), wrote in a blog that she supported the gist of Maraval's editorial but added: "These are dangerous times. …

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