Dtwo little songs are once again being heard in French cinema: that of the surplus of films and the call for the convocation of the Estates General.
Does Movies Plenty Night? This recurring question requires agreement on the yardstick by which to estimate possible overproduction. That of the number of works finding their audience or matching their budget is misleading, because it neglects the fact that abundance is a necessity for any system which intends to promote creativity, diversity or renewal and which believes in the free competition of talents. A “rationalised” approach is possible: a form of civil service creation, granting individuals or companies exclusive rights to produce works.
There is no third way, because the utopia of a world in which anyone who would like to live from their art can do so comes up against the limitation of resources. In front of it, the two small musics evoked consist in asking respectively the increase of these resources and a restriction of the number of their beneficiaries: the first solution only postpones the problem, the second leads to an undecidable question: who should stop producing films? Both are not totally rid of the “civil servant model”.
The risk of fatigue
To address these questions calmly, we must remember that if the public authorities inject little public money into the cinema, they act like Robin Hood, taking money from television channels, American films and video on demand (SVOD) to give it back to creation, in a system whose general virtue no longer needs to be proven. Then, it is essential to get away from a Manichean vision of cultural policy which would oppose mercantile approaches to those of cultural exception, a concept endowed with all the virtues, but one could not be more vague and therefore a pretext for all conservatism and to the defenses of situational rents. French cinema will easily find itself around issues such as vitality, creativity, renewal and diversity, to which it is healthy to add that the creation of any work must be accompanied by a major effort to find its audience, whatever its size. It is not a mercantile vision to understand that culture involves the work of promoting works, even more so when they want to be avant-garde.
This leads to highlighting a more relevant yardstick for evaluating overproduction, that of the capacities of a system to take into account the works produced. If the abundance is structural, it becomes pernicious when it is repulsive for the public, who no longer know how to find their way around and end up turning away from it; or when it can no longer be presented, for example when booksellers no longer have time to read new releases or when cinemas no longer have the space to program new films. Producing works that will not meet their audience is the law of the genre. Producing them that will have no possibility of doing so opens up a vicious circle. Because this overabundance results in an acceleration of their circulation, more favorable to immediately familiar works than to those which need time and accompaniment to find their public, and likely to eventually lead to weariness in the face of the absence of renewal.
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