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Jean-Paul Salomé • President of UniFrance

Strategies and markets of a moving French cinema industry

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- Jean-Paul Salomé, the President of UniFrance, deciphers the strategy of the agency for the promotion of French cinema abroad

Jean-Paul Salomé • President of UniFrance

Encounter with filmmaker Jean-Paul Salomé, the President of UniFrance, the agency for the promotion of French cinema abroad, a few days before the Rendez-vous of French cinema Paris.

Cineuropa: At the end of your first year at the head of Unifrance, what is your analysis of the perception of French cinema abroad?
Jean-Paul Salomé:
 It is still perceived as one of the rare European cinemas to still have a real dynamic and as the backbone of European cinematographic production. Many European filmmakers indeed continue to make films because they are co-produced by France. French cinematography has known good years and others that were circumstantially less important. Sometimes, quality supersedes quantity and while this year some films didn’t meet the success that was expected, France did win the Palme d’Or in Cannes with Blue is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile
]
. This blend is interesting because no years are ever totally bad. There is also an acknowledgment that popular cinema and comedy has to venture into different territories. 9 Months Stretch [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
Me Myself and Mom [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 and 20 ans d'écart [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 (in a more classical genre) are proof of this. We will see in the upcoming months if this renewal of comedy goes beyond our borders.  

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What are the action to be taken and the most important challenges for Unifrance?

One of my first efforts, with General Director Isabelle Giordano, was to renew contact with exporters who felt a bit misunderstood lately. Then, the exploitation of our films internationally evolves so fast that it is important to ask ourselves questions about the relevance of our actions. Are the funds that we commit going to the right places? Should we help European cinemas and operators to editorialize our films better? Should we sometimes invest more in publicity than in show and delegation actions? We are currently studying these issues. 

The China file is also crucial. We went there in December because it is essential to build working relationships with Chinese authorities, operators and young filmmakers. In cinemas, at some point, they will need diversity, and beyond quotas, we want to show that independent cinema can very well be released in theatres in China. This market is maturing and we think it can absorb around 50 French films per year, maybe not in 1000 theatres, but through more targeted networks.

Africa is also an important topic. As the bases for new operations are starting to be set up with the emergence of multiplexes, VoD platforms, new TV channels and a very Francophone public, we don’t want to let the Americans take control.

Is the Rendez-vous of French Cinema in Paris (from January 10 to 20, 2014) a crucial focus point?

When I arrived, I wondered: what are the operations that work and how can they be better developed? One of them is the Rendez-vous of French cinema in Paris. We must therefore reinforce it. This year, as an experiment, we are bringing to Paris around thirty buyers from the Latin American zone, and also a few Chinese ones. We will also reinforce the French Cinema Festival in Tokyo that we are organizing in June. At the same time, there is a small market of French films that brings together French sellers and Japanese buyers. To enlarge it a bit, we decided to invite a delegation of buyers from all over South East Asia.

What about the 4th edition of MyFrenchFilmFestival, which is taking place online from January 17 to February 17, 2014?

It is all about connecting with a younger audience which is lacking in theatres and festivals. The best way is to connect through the favourite media outlet of this generation: the Internet. MyFrenchFilmFestival is growing this year. There is also a lab side to it: offering films at the same time, with different subtitles, through geo-localization, charging in countries where people are used to paying, and making it free with advertising revenues in places where they aren’t. Each territory has its own economy. But we won’t be able to push too far and it would be good if one day a platform could be created on this model so that the best of European cinema could be made available all over the world.

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(Translated from French)

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