PARIS – France has always displayed a keen interest in both the technological and artistic aspects of cinema and counts amongst its cinematic triumphs the fact that the Louis Lumiere brothers invented the Cinematograph film camera, using it in 1895.
Historically, France has created many renowned equipment manufacturers, many with wares on display during the Micro-Salon (Feb. 6-7), organized by the French Cinematographer’s Association, the AFC, within the framework of the Paris Images Trade Show.
However, the sector also suffers from certain weaknesses, as evidenced by the fact that France no longer manufactures top film cameras.
In terms of state support, French equipment manufacturers also receive far less support than other segments of Gaul’s audiovisual chain – in part as a result of E.U. regulations, but also partly due to a lack of lobbying power.
In March 2014, France’s leading equipment manufacturers launched a new umbrella trade organization, AFFECT – the Association of French Cinematographic Equipment Manufacturers, whose founding members are Aaton-Digital, K5600-Lighting, Thales Angénieux and Transvideo.
Variety spoke to AFFECT’s prexy, Jacques Delacoux, who set up Transvideo in 1985 and acquired Aaton Digital in 2011.
Delacoux is a highly respected figure in the French film industry. He received a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award in 2009 for the Transvideo-video assist monitors for the motion picture industry and has also received CINEC awards, for both Transvideo and Aaton Digital.
“When I first entered the business, there was a plethora of equipment manufacturers in France, but many have disappeared. I think this was partly due to a lack of co-operation between French companies,” he suggests.
Delacoux is full of praise for the AFC Micro-Salon which is held in the FEMIS national film school in Montmartre and is a showcase for equipment manufacturers from France and the rest of the world. “It’s a very special event. I don’t think anything else exists like it in the world. It’s very attractive for people coming from abroad”
Unlike much of the French film industry, which is primarily concentrated around the Paris-Ile de France region (notwithstanding other poles in regions such as Grand Lyon), the French technical industries are highly dispersed geographically – for example, Delacoux’s companies are located at two opposite ends of France – Aaton has been based in Grenoble for 40 years and Transvideo is based in Normandy.
“In France we don’t have a geographical concentration of equipment manufacturers, as you find in places such as L.A, London or Munich,” explains Delacoux. “It’s always been very difficult to establish cooperation between French companies. I’ve always had excellent contacts throughout the world’s film industry, including good contacts in the U.K, Japan and Germany. But in France we’re more reticent to combine forces.”
In a globalized film industry, there is evident need for associations such as AFFECT, particularly given that its member companies earn over 90% of their revenues outside France.
“I’ve always had the feeling that the film industry should be a co-operative industry,” suggests Delacoux. “It’s eco-system depends on all parties.”
Activities organized by AFFECT include the creation of umbrella stands in key equipment trade shows, such as Broadcast India in Mumbai and Camerimage in Poland.The association also organizes educational activities with France’s top film schools, such the FEMIS and Louis Lumiere schools, and took a delegation of 20 students to Camerimage.
But the association’s main goal is to lobby the French government. “We need to make the French government realise that it’s a real industry, with hundreds of employees and a high level of creative and technological innovation,” states Delacoux.
One of the key areas of concern is export duties, where Delacoux considers that the French Ministry of Trade should be more forceful. He cites the example of American, British and German diplomacy in the field of foreign trade and export duties, which he believes has been much more effective than French efforts.
“Germany is very good at building export teams and remaining vigilant on export duties. Other countries don’t always respect the established rules. In some territories we face very high import duties, close to 50%, in relation to European products. If we look at China, India and Asia in general, for example, it’s a huge market for filmmaking but we face major problems in terms of penetration of our products.”
Delacoux concluded by stating that he would like to see greater cooperation at the European level: “We need to build long-term stability. We have a strong film equipment manufacturing industry in Europe. But we currently consider each country separately. As a whole we represent a huge industry, with blurred boundaries between film, TV, and computer electronics. We’re bigger than the pharmaceutical industry, and we need more concerted efforts to defend our interests.”