Séamas McSwiney sidesteps the glamour and takes a look at the business of film at Cannes.
Does CinEsperanto rule multicultural Cannes?
Let’s face it, to paraphrase Cannes programmer Thierry Frémaux at this year’s Cannes press launch, English has become the Esperanto that idealists dreamed of when inventing a unique universal language.
He went on to say that more films are proposed to Cannes each year in English but most are excluded as they portray stories taking place in cultural communities for which English is not the natural language.
He was responding to a question from an Italian journalist who observed that two of the three Italian films in Competition were in English, Paolo Sorrentino (whose The Great Beauty recently took best foreign language Oscar) is there with Youth, starring Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine, and Matteo Garrone (director of previous Cannes prize-winner Gomorrah) brings an adaptation of fantastic Neapolitan classics in Tale of Tales.
However, added new Cannes president Pierre Lescure, it is the coherence of the artistic project that matters, not the economic considerations.
Nevertheless, though only three of this year’s directors are native English speakers, more than half of the 19 films in competition are in English.
Buying or Selling?: The Business of Culture.
But the shimmering gala screenings of the competition is only the most visible tip of the Cannes iceberg. Beneath the surface, Cannes is very much an industry event. Most of the screenings for the vast bulk of the films are for sales purposes. In 2014, “For the first time in history, attendance at the Marché du Film reached 11,806 registered participants, including 1 927 buyers, for 5,036 companies.” (See overall stats at http://www.marchedufilm.com/en/chiffres).
The International Village hosts pavilions and stands from more than a hundred national industries, many of them also programming industry events and receptions for international networking and promotional purposes.
On the economic front you also have events organised by the EU’s Creative Europe and the Council of Europe’s European Audiovisual Observatory distribute its most recent statistics relating the health of European Cinema.
This year’s stats look good with European market share rising to a record high 33.6%. In Ireland too the trend is very much on the up with local box office share exceeding 7% after a disappointing 1% in 2013. Frank and Calvary have a lot to do with this development. A Fistful of Euros: The Future of Film Financing in Europe is the theme of this year’s Observatory workshop in Cannes.
Cannes new president Pierre Lescure is no stranger to the business of film. Though now credited as being a journalist and businessman he was a founder and for almost 20 years head of Canal Plus, the French TV channel that has, because of its charter obligations, invested in most French French films made since 1984. At about 200 French films a year that is a lot of cinema funding these days and they do it profitably.
France is also the biggest co-producer in Europe and has the greatest local market share at around 40%. Many films in Cannes also have strong French business connections either through funding or sales and distribution. Most national industries prize and profit from their co-production agreements with France. They are often ceremoniously signed in Cannes, the last one being Croatia, which signed one soon after becoming the 28th country to join the EU in 2014.
In 2015 along the Croisette it will again be sun, champagne and… business as usual.
Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris.
The 68th Cannes Festival runs 13 – 24 May 2015