French court breaks off WB’s ‘Engagement’

Pic ineligible for Gallic coin

PARIS — A French appeals court has upheld the verdict disqualifying helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Warner Bros.-backed “A Very Long Engagement” from Gallic funding.

The court agreed with a November ruling that the pic’s producer, 2003 Prods. — owned by employees of Warner Bros. France — is, for all practical purposes, controlled by the Hollywood major.

That makes it ineligible for Gallic coin under regulations that exclude non-European production companies.

In a statement Wednesday, France’s Assn. of Independent Producers (API), which reps the Gallic majors and mini-major MK2, hailed the ruling. “The verdict ends a pseudo-legal uncertainty,” the org said. “It proves the coherence and the good functioning of the current system and it fully justifies demands that have been made for a study into an eventual change in the rules.”

But the affair doesn’t end there.

Spurred on by the Jeunet case, Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres surprised the Gallic film biz earlier this year by announcing that regs would be reformed to allow American and other non-Euro production entities to tap the funds.

The minister charged France’s powerful film council (the Centre National de la Cinematographie) with drawing up regs that would ensure non-Europeans did not divert French coin away from locally produced, French-lingo fare.

But the API and the Society of Independent Producers, which reps smaller indie producers, said they would not assist in drafting the regs unless an independent study was carried out on the impact of the proposed change.

In Cannes last month, Donnedieu de Vabres said he expected most industryites to cooperate ahead of a mid-June deadline for the CNC’s recommendations.

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