Audiovisual production overseas is growing
President of the Union of audiovisual production in French Polynesia (SPAPF), Christine Tisseau-Giraudel coordinated the overseas film production convention. The representatives of trade unions and associations of the six territories, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guyana, Réunion, French Polynesia and New Caledonia came to Tahiti last December for this first convention. Accompanied by a committee of experts, the professionals were able to take stock and write a report upon the sector’s future. Interview of Christine Tisseau-Giraudel.
FIFO: What is the state of the audiovisual sector in the Overseas regions?
Today, there are 1000 technicians in all the Outremers territories and 90 production companies. These sectors were created between 2001 and 2005. They are young and nascent, but they have succeeded in developing in spite of an inauspicious environment. In French Polynesia, there are few broadcasters: the 1ère, TNTV, and sometimes some small TV stations. But, let us recall that fifteen years ago these channels did not exist. The existing broadcasters were not accustomed to working with us, because we were not there. Things have evolved, but some have kept their habits. When the FIFO was created, there were zero documentaries from French Polynesia. The Country started to look into ways of developing a local audiovisual support fund. Thanks to this, we were able to develop and today we produce more than 30 documentaries per year, with 120 technicians compared to only five just fifteen years ago. Because of its status, French Polynesia, like New Caledonia, did not have access to certain help. The Country signed in 2013 a convention with the CNC, the National Film and Animated Image Center, which made it possible to develop productions, with support funding of 35 million per year. On the strength of these advances, the industry is structured, and the professionals have become even more professional.
FIFO: How can documentaries and fiction develop in the Overseas region?
Today, the 30 documentaries produced each year are broadcast locally but also nationally and internationally. In ten years, we have succeeded in developing a very beautiful documentary sector. Parallel to this, we wish to develop the fiction sector. We will not oppose the two genres, but if we only have documentaries, we will not be able to develop the other sectors. At the local level, we are pushing fiction, which really started to emerge last year. And besides, we saw that the proportion of Polynesian technicians was more important than Metropolitans. Which never happened in the past. We had a changeover. The Country announced at the opening ceremony that it would help us in this sector. This is important because without political will, producers can’t do anything. The convention for Overseas production served precisely this purpose. Today, our Members of Parliament and Senators have come together to speak with one voice.
FIFO: What is the level of local production?
Today, we have very good technicians who have learned through experience. They are driven, for working on a film shoot goes beyond a job. In mainland France or elsewhere, technicians have structured jobs. Here, we wear several hats. The state of mind is different, we are more versatile, we have a team spirit, we know how to adapt. It is a force, and it creates an ambiance that is important when making a movie. Admittedly, and because it is a nascent industry, we do not have all the positions. So, we’re obliged to bring in external people to fill these positions. There is an exchange, an accompaniment, but we must continue to develop. The convention helped to raise questions: Where do we stand? What do we know? What do we need? What do the European producers think when they come here? For example, we must develop writing because if our authors can write for local channels, will it be the same case for international ones? We need training. With Europe, we are reflecting on how they could accompany us in specific and long-term actions for authors and producers, and how we could improve ourselves.
FIFO: What is the present situation with investments made by the broadcasters?
The private and public television channels have investment obligations in Metropolitan France and in the Overseas regions. France Télévisions has an obligation of 420 million euros per year in independent production, of which 0,16% is invested in Overseas. Today, it is time to shuffle the cards. France Télévisions promotes creation in Metropolitan France, but less in the Overseas regions. We are somewhat invisible; people think that there are no producers or technicians in the Overseas regions. Today, the 1ère channels do not have a budget, but could France Télévisions distribute a part of the total envelope to France O and to the 1ère channels? It is necessary to redistribute the money, we are in a real textbook case of Equality, and everyone must be on the same level. We just have to let people know that we exist and that professionals already trust us. It is important to know that production and broadcasting companies have come here to shoot with local technicians and actors, and have decided to return, therefore that means that we are not so bad!
FIFO: What are the projects to try to overcome these shortcomings?
The Convention texts were rewritten at the Elysée, Ministry of Culture, French National Assembly, broadcasting stations and certain big groups. The initial feedback was to say that we were speaking with the same voice; we were in a logic of moving forward together. A charter between producers and broadcasters is underway. The information comes back to me, and we work on it. But, it is necessary for example that the broadcasters have a long-term vision over several years, enabling producers to reflect and to present their projects. In this way, setting up a program between broadcasters and producers. Because today, when one is a producer in the Overseas region, one works on a case-by-case basis. We are not in the norms, and we would like to operate normally. We also wish to reinstate in French Polynesia, as is the case in Martinique, a Reception Office of Filming, under the responsibility of Film France, which would ensure the credibility of a destination. This Reception Office would welcome national and international production companies. It must be institutional because it is the Country’s image that is at stake. It would not be logical that a private company assumes this responsibility. Today, the political will exists to create this office, and we also have the right person, who is familiar with the industry and the institutions, and already has the experience of this Reception Office. Therefore, we are ready…
FIFO: Is it important to present the final Convention texts upon Overseas cinematographic production at the FIFO?
Of course. This is the place. Because, as of the first year, the FIFO crystallized the audiovisual sector. Before, during, afterwards, we speak about the audiovisual industry and of the sector as a whole. The FIFO was a triggering element in the field. Besides, important announcements are made during the FIFO, which is a springboard for us.