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Producers ask for end to frontier spirit

General concensus: quotas don't work

At Variety‘s final Cannes Conference on Thursday, producers gathered to offer some common complaints, a few solutions and some startling opinions.

Warming to the theme of opportunity in crisis, the French Humbert Balsan (“Divine Intervention”) called for “frontiers to be abolished. If you don’t shoot in French, you get no subsidy. This is a big mistake. It’s absurd. The U.S. and Europe must build a community. France must become more open.”

He was backed by Edouard Weil (“Demonlover”): “France is capable and waiting for foreign directors. We can find solutions not found elsewhere.”

With general agreement that quotas do not work, there were a few solutions offered.

Scott Macaulay (“Long Way Home”) said one solution is “finding and developing new talent,” while the Film Council’s Paul Trijbits mused about “the need to regain the domestic audience. We’re losing sight of everything except blockbusters.”

Latter cited Film Council’s various initiatives and U.S. distribs taking local partners in Denmark, local films now enjoying a 30% share.

Harry Gittes (“About Schmidt”) castigated “conglomeration. It’s almost impossible to figure out what they (studios) want. Now you have to tell them how you’re going to make money and protect them from downside risk.”

Balsan disagreed. The local problem is “too much up-front money. Producers have to relearn to take risks.”

Trijbits said, “There’s never been as much money around for independents but it’s all become incredibly complicated. Producers have to be good at developing, tax financing, co-production financing, etc. etc. It’s so complicated the films could suffer.”

Lew Rywin (“The Pianist”) stated, “The government has turned away, broadcasters aren’t financing; the boom is over.”

Moderator and Variety executive editor Steve Gaydos threw the session open to the audience early.

Asked what qualities were needed to do the job, Gittes cited “being able to deal with rejection, excellent taste in literature, people skills and making the commitment very, very early.” It also helps, he added to laughter, “to have a movie star for a best friend or become a hairdresser.”

“Remember,” said Rywin, “successful films are made by people, not departments.”

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