Club des 13 fights for French film gains

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PARIS -- French film industry professionals have joined forces to criticize the Gallic film sector and propose a series of new measures to nurse their national cinema back to health in a document to be delivered to French cultural minister Christine Albanel on Thursday.

After her jarring speech at last year's Cesar awards ceremony highlighted the growing disparity between the production of low-budget art house fare -- films with budgets under 4 million euros ($5.9 million) -- and more costly commercial productions, director Pascale Ferran has gathered influential industry figures to form the "Club des 13" (Club of 13).

The group includes directors Claude Miller, Jacques Audiard and Ferran; production banners Why Not, Archipel 35, Rectangle Prods. and Agat Films; distributor Pyramide; international sales agent Films Distribution; and screenwriter Cecile Vargaftig.

Despite efforts by state funding organization the CNC to ameliorate production of what Ferran last year referred to as "middle movies" -- 30 films were made in the mid-budget category in 2007, up from just 19 in 2006 -- the Club des 13 has outlined a detailed report both criticizing the current state funding system and offering ways to change it in order to benefit films in the "middle" category.

The report, titled "Le milieu n'est plus un pont, mais une faille" (The middle is no longer a bridge but a fault line), harshly denounces a decrease in the quality of films produced due to the monopoly of the country's TV networks over pre-sales and preproduction funding and a shift in power from film producers to broadcasters.

Taking a page from Hollywood's book, the Club des 13 is adamantly supporting an increase in earnings for screenwriters by requesting that 7.5% of CNC funds be reserved for writing.

On the distribution end, the report calls for a 25% funding bonus for distributors who buy a French film produced without TV co-production and seeks a 50/50 split between distributors and producers during the film's first three weeks in theaters.

The Club des 13 wants to create an "independent distributor" label so that selective government aid and pay TV group Canal Plus' contributions will be spent only on films with such a label.

The report also calls for an automatic support fund for exportation and the creation of a "success bonus" for directors based on the numbers of international territories to which a film is sold.

A total of 108 directors, industry execs and talent have pledged their support to the report which, in addition to being submitted to the government for consideration, will be published by Gallic editor Stock in mid-April and available for purchase by the general public for the price of a movie ticket.
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