French Indie Producers Fight New Labor

Producers claim revised pay, conditions for crew will stifle indie biz

PARIS — France’s indie producers guilds have rallied to try to overturn a new collective labor agreement that will rep the end of backend-style remuneration and flat daily rates for all technicians.

The guilds — AFPF, APC, SPI and UPF — led by such high-profile producers as Anne-Dominique Toussaint (“Service Entrance”), and Alain Terzian, president of the French Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Crafts, claim the pact will lead to heavy job losses and more runaway shoots, and would discourage foreign producers from coming to lense in Gaul.

A petition launched by the producers’ unions Thursday has already been backed by Francois Ozon, Costa Gavras, Regis Wargnier and Remi Bezancon, among other filmmakers.

Under the new agreement, below-the-line crew — from costume and set designers to cinematographers and cameramen — who are often paid a daily flat rate, will now be entitled to higher minimum wages, starting at 2,000 euros ($2,560) a month for films budgeted under $3.2 million, and receive compensation for overtime on an hourly basis.

Furthermore, French or foreign producers who want technicians to work  more than 48 hours a week will need a special dispensation from the labor authorities.

“That agreement would inevitably encourage producers to shoot abroad in countries offering more flexible labor laws,” said one insider.

While French labor unions claim that strictly enforced higher wage rates are long overdue for below-the-line staff, independent producers argue the pact would make crews’ pay the highest and least flexible in Europe. And it would essentially hurt the production of small- or medium-budget pics, leading to the loss of approximately 15,000 to 20,000 jobs, and about 70 productions per years, said Frederic Goldsmith, managing director of the APC.

Pact was initially drafted in January 2012 by labor unions and the API, comprising  Gaumont, UGC, Pathe and MK2, and at first only applied to technicians working on films produced by those four.

But after months of lobbying by labor unions, with the CGT in the vanguard, the labor minister, Michel Sapin, and culture minister, Aurelie Filippetti, announced their decision on March 14 to expand the pact to all French productions starting in July.

Goldsmith said the guilds have drafted an alternative labor agreement, which will be examined on April 11.

“In the current state of play, technicians who are not covered by the collective convention can work below the minimum pay rate on certain films, and are offered back-ends; in many cases, they’re not paid hourly overtime, but are paid a flat daily rate,” explained Eric Altmayer, VP of the APC and co-founder of Mandarin Cinema, one of Gaul’s leading producers, whose credits include Ozon’s “In the House” (pictured). Altmayer is currently developing Bertrand Bonello’s Yves Saint Laurent biopic.

Altmayer added, “A flexible system is key to ensure the diversity of France’s production landscape.”

According to Goldsmith, “This text could lead to a reduction in the number of movies being produced and a concentration of the financing on bigger films. Indeed, the original collective agreement was signed by the four French majors that own theater chains, and account for just 5% of France’s productions.”

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