Michel Hazanavicius Decries Proposed Budget Cuts for French Film

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Director Michel Hazanavicius

In an open letter to president Francois Hollande, the Oscar winner defends the industry.

PARIS – Outspoken Oscar-winning director Michel Hazanavicius has penned an angry open letter to president Francois Hollande decrying proposed new budget cuts and what could be their "terrible effects" on the French film industry.

The Artist director was speaking out in his role as the president of the Civil Society of Authors, Directors and Producers (l’ARP) in what has been described as a "rant" by media here, in which he called out the president for €100 million or more in proposed new cuts to the National Cinema Center (CNC), which are expected to be passed as part of a larger finance bill in the fall.

In the three-page letter, he also takes on proposed changes to international tax credits and Amazon’s entrance to France, which has caused controversy as it aims to undercut local bookstores and video sellers with discounts and free shipping.

"We have just learned with amazement that the budget for culture is again declining ... and would include a drastic reduction to the budget of the [CNC]," he writes, saying the cuts proposed in a recent report would "systematically contradict" Hollande's promises to protect the arts after last year’s deep cuts to the CNC. Those were thought to be one-time cuts to address France’s financial crisis, but it's looking likely they will be repeated as the government seeks more savings.

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In the letter he defends the CNC’s mission, as not only protecting the heavily-subsidized production of film here, but as creating jobs in the audiovisual sector. "The CNC is envied by many countries that could not establish this powerfully effective organization," which funds filmmakers and keeps France's vibrant cinema system alive. 

He says if the latest proposed budget cuts go through, it will "greatly weaken" the film industry, adding that any proposed changes to the tax credit system would drive productions – and possibly creatives – out of France. "This runs the risk of sending qualified personnel (including animation), which are highly appreciated and in demand by foreign productions (including the U.S.) abroad."

"If a film relocates, or cannot get made, it's between 100 and 200 skilled jobs that are lost," he adds.

On Amazon, he writes: "The exceptional tax goodwill it enjoys allows it to evade taxes. Yet the jobs it generates are precarious in nature and do not offset those lost by the changing patterns of distribution."

Hazanavicius has been an outspoken supporter of the heavily subsidized film industry here, publishing an essay in national newspaper Le Monde on the eve of the Cannes Film Festival in May supporting the French financing system and urging preservation of the "cultural exception."

He took the fight to the European Commission in Brussels in June as they set the parameters for U.S.-E.U. trade talks, presenting E.C. president Jose Manuel Barroso with a 7,000 signature-strong petition and later saying he was "arrogant" in a radio interview.

Hazanavicius’ position was ultimately successful as creative works protected by the cultural exception were taken off the table in the upcoming trade talks in June.

Recalling what was just weeks ago largely seen as a French victory, Hazanavicius calls on Hollande to continue to fight for film. "We have a hard time understanding why, after brilliantly saving the cultural exception, you would let our industry be destroyed."

He concludes: "You saved the rules of the game, do not let your teammates make you lose the game."