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The CNC: A Complete Support System

Iain Harvey traveled to Cannes to experience the yearly hubbub of MIPCOM and MIPCOM Jr., a major stop on the global television sales circuit.

rivoalloncnc01a.gif The Festival National du Film d'Animation d'Auch 1999 was subsidized by the CNC. This poster was designed by Lorenzo Mattotti. rivoalloncnc01.jpg The Grand Prix winner at Le Festival D'Auch `99, La bouche cousue by Jean-Luc Greco and Catherine Buffat, was made at Folimage with assistance from the CNC. © and courtesy of Folimage.

The National Center of Cinematography, or CNC, was created in France in 1946. Situated under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, its prime objectives are the economic support, promotion and distribution of films and audiovisual presentations, as well as the primary and continuing education of its professionals. [Editor's Note: It is interesting to note that some of the funding for the CNC comes directly from theater ticket sales. People attending the cinema, automatically contribute to the continuation of the long standing French cinematic tradition.] Along with live-action fiction and documentary, animation receives various benefits distributed according to the nature of the program: film, television or multimedia. Funding is distributed by the CNC in two ways: either by a juried, or selective, process where a committee decides, or by "automatic aid," which means that all companies and individuals meeting CNC's criteria and regulations are eligible.

For film projects, the Cultural Action Services and Selected Aid Services share certain sums allotted specially to feature-length and short films. As far as the features go, there are two types of support: development loans, which must be later repaid, to invest in the various phases of writing, optioning rights for adaptation, research and documentation, and storyboards; and production grants, which can be attained either before or after production begins, and are leveraged against future profits. As for short films (films less than one hour in length) pre-production grants take the form of financial contributions given after two review committees have evaluated a production file submitted by the filmmakers. These production proposals are first submitted to a reading committee consisting of five animation professionals (directors, producers, teachers, critics, etc.), then they are mixed in with scripts for live-action and documentary projects to appear before a bigger panel which includes professionals and representatives from television networks. There is also a bonus for quality films that already have a distribution agreement and an authorization for production.

In 1998, projects by Manuel Otero (The Mystery of Fertile Valley) and Jacques-Remy Girerd (The Prophecy of the Frogs) benefited from economic support for the development of feature-length films. The film The Triplets of Belleville by Sylvain Chomet received a promise of an advance, while six short animations received selective funding, and two others were tapped for quality. Funding is limited to 60 different short films of all kinds each year.

Jacques-Remy Girerd's The Prophecy of the Frogs, another film that is being made at Folimage with CNC assistance. © and courtesy of Folimage.

In order to encourage production, the heads of the Cultural and Territorial Affairs department have also contributed their support to two projects which have by now proven their viability. The Center for First Works (CPO) is thus managed jointly by the CNC and the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, via CFT Gobelins' School of the Image. They welcome projects from young artists who want to use animation techniques to make short films. Once the preliminary estimate of the cost of the project is accepted, the production is supervised by someone from the school, who serves as the director of production, as well as technical advisor.

The Artist in Residence program, organized by the Folimage animation studio located in Valence, aims at European filmmakers. Each year it allows two people to be welcomed under the best conditions (living expenses and a salary) for a residency of six months maximum, in order to direct a personal project. While French animators have been excluded from this program up until now, that provision will expire after the year 2000.

The newly opened College of La Poudriere, like the studio, enjoys some financing from CPO, while other measures are being studied to support writing and multimedia.

The Little Screen For series, grants for television productions of all sorts are managed by the Support Accounts for the Audiovisual Industry (COSIP). Created in 1986, it is fed by a tax imposed on subscriptions and advertising income from private broadcast channels, and from the tax paid by every television owner which supports the public channels. COSIP's capital funds are divided in three ways: automatic financial aid, advances on automatic aid, and selective financial aid. Automatic aid concerns producers who already have more than five hours of their productions distributed on French television. The amount of funding they receive depends on the length of their current production and the cost per minute of the project. The financial aid may be used for completing their current project, or for preparing a new project, which must be done within two years.

Advances on automatic financial aid apply to producers who do not already benefit from grants -- during a first production, for example. Such advances must be repaid up to 50%.

Juried grants for a production less than five hours, a television special or a short series are given by a committee of ten members selected from professionals, television representatives and concerned authorities. Such grants are consequently reserved for new enterprises or those with a small volume of production. But at the same time, the production cannot be controlled by a company which has already received a grant, or a television station.

In addition, the internal commission of CNC also grants funds to pilots, in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $30,000.

In order to encourage co-productions, the French government, which made an audiovisual co-production agreement with Canada in 1983, added an animation clause to it in 1985. This supplemental mini-treaty establishes $600,000 each year of supplementary grants in the form of advances that must be paid back. In 1998, the sum was divided between 23 projects. The Funding Service for Program Industries also keeps close tabs on changing needs in education. They collaborate with social and institutional organizations, colleges and specialized educational centers, as well as with corporations who must offer funding for continuing education and training to their employees. Animation, compositing, layout and storyboarding are the four areas with the highest priority needs. The amount they invest annually is often in the neighborhood of $350,000.

Digital Investments Multimedia and video works also have their own specific program, which supports producers, editors, technicians and employees so that they can focus on adapting to the evolving technology of images and sound, and their support system. Experimental productions, and research and development projects under this heading receive very special attention. For experimental productions, a juried subsidy is awarded to innovative techniques developed by companies with the intention of producing film or audio-visual works. These subsidies are based solely on the expenses relating to the use and development of new techniques, and are limited to 20% of the overall production costs. Monkey Castle, a feature by Jean-Francois Laguionie, the Heavy Metal Productions and Duboi company's series F.A.E.L. and Rolie Polie Olie, as well as the pilot for Little Big Chief, produced by Magic World Mystery, have been the most recent recipients of this funding. In the area of research, a call for projects was recently launched, under the name PRIAMM (Project for Research and Innovation in the Audiovisual and Multimedia). Based on joint initiatives from the CNC and the Secretary of State for Industry, it brings together the business world with that of laboratories and research centers. This new procedure is principally centered on tools and production processes. An advisory committee composed of professionals, researchers and administrators is responsible for determining which areas of research are most pressing, while a committee composed exclusively of government representatives (for reasons of confidentiality) must judge the projects.

rivoalloncnc03.gifrivoalloncnc05.gif F.A.E.L.L., a Duboi series created by Lyonel Kouro and subsidized by the CNC. © Kouro-Duboi-Canal+. Courtesy of Canal+. Rolie Polie Olie, another Duboi series subsidized by the CNC. © Nelvana Communications, In Trust. Courtesy of Disney.

Animation and computer generated imagery occupy a major place in these deliberations, with certain specific directions underlined, such as the integration of 2D and 3D, tools for management of production, tools for assisting with pre-production, motion capture, modeling, simulation of bodies, rendering, and the synchronization of voices.

The Importance of Distribution To complement all of these different activities, the CNC remains very attentive to the distribution of films. First of all, distributors have different options for financial aid. One is given to the distribution company to support the release of a series of films in the form of an advance, which can be repaid later, for a minimum of four films a year, and another for basic expenses, a subsidy. Yet another is given for individual films, in the form of a loan for the cost of promotion and publishing, or the costs of making film prints. Monkey Castle and Kirikou and the Sorceress, the two most recent French feature-length animations, received benefits from several of these sources. There is also a whole range of special incentives for non-mainstream films which have historical importance, as well as for programs intended for children. Other provisions also cover projects that are distributed on video, as well as those that contribute to the export of films through the venues of trade fairs or international festivals. In these areas, the CNC is partnering with numerous other organizations such as Unifrance Films, TVFI, The French Association of Animated Film and the Annecy Festival.

Through the combined efforts of these various offices, some $40,000,000 a year is devoted to the entire range of French animation. This contribution is indispensable, for without it, French Animation would never be able to show its qualities and its dynamism on the international level.

For further information, please contact:AudioVisual Manager:Support Services for Program IndustriesAnimation Services: 33-01-44-34-34-20Film Manager:Financial Aid Services: 33-01-44-34-38-08

Translated from French by Dr. William Moritz.

Originally a screenwriter, Valerie Rivoallon has worked in journalism since 1988. On the editorial staff of BREF, a magazine devoted to the short film, she has specialized in animation since 1993. She has also organized programs for several festivals, and works on the radio. Her monthly animation program is called Bulles de rêve.