General director of the CNC, David Kessler, came to Annecy to meet animation creators and professionals. Following is an interview Julien Dubois did with him for LE QUOTIDIEN regarding the financial state of French animation producers.
Animation is going through a crisis that is affecting its sources of finance. What do you think of this situation, and how can the CNC support the sector at this difficult time?
David Kessler: Within French production, animation is the area that is most open to foreign markets. This is clearly a considerable asset, even if, at the moment, the sector is in fact more exposed (more so than fiction and documentaries), to the crisis which has hit the audio-visual industry in a number of countries. Reading the statistics we have just published concerning the production of animation programs, we notice that, in 2002, a visible decrease in the volume of production. Figures from the beginning of 2003 dont give the impression that things are going to improve. As far as were concerned, we cant compensate for a weakness in foreign markets. However, our aid measures for production and creation act as shock absorbers for market trends. Thanks to this, France isnt suffering as much as other countries from this unfavorable economic situation.
For several months you have been working with industry professionals on the reform of the support fund. What is the aim of this reform and how will the new measures affect animation?
D.K.: Along with the European commission, we are determined not to disrupt the foundation of our support system before 2004 or 2005, at which time the commission intends to look into the subject. Were not talking about a reform, but more a series of adjustments aiming to improve the way in which the support fund works. Through the development of specialized and local TV channels, the number of subsidized hours is increasing faster than financial resources. This threatens the balance on which the fund rests. To solve this problem, we could decrease the level of aid given to each project, but such a measure would cause problems. We are therefore looking to adapt the way in which the system works so that it can more effectively deal with creative and financial conditions for the programs. The Ministry of Culture has put Antoine Schwartz in charge of the matter, who has to draw up a report by the end of the month. Our proposals will rest on this report.
The animated feature film is going through a very important development. Do you think, as certain producers predict, that it would be a good idea to create a fund specifically for the animation industry?
D.K.: We can only congratulate this renewal of the animation industry and we arent opposed to the idea. The idea can be discussed even though we think that it could be dangerous. A fund such as this means a limited budget. Once this budget has been spent, certain films would be left out and not financed. In the current situation, all films have a chance, even if animated feature films are in competition with cinema production as a whole. For our part, we think that without creating a specific fund, we can support the development of these films by making those in charge of existing funds more aware of the importance of the animation industry. We can also try harder to determine the amount of aid to take into account for the financial difficulties of these productions.
This article was first published on June 5, 2003 in LE QUOTIDIEN #4, a publication of the International Animated Film Centre. For more information on this and other events at Annecy, go to www.annecy.org.