Film and Television Policies in English-speaking Countries: Abstracts and Concluding Remarks
FILM POLICY ISSUES
Daniel PELTZMAN (Université de Franche-Comté)
The film and television tax credit and its impact on the California motion picture industry
En 2009, l’Etat de Californie votait le California Film and Television Tax Credit Program ou Crédit d’impôt californien sur la production cinématographique et télévisuelle. Ce programme étalé sur une période de cinq ans permet à la Californie de rejoindre les quarantaines d’Etats qui offrent le même avantage aux industries concernées.
Le but de ce programme reste bien sûr évident. Il s’agit avant tout de diminuer le nombre de délocalisations à l’étranger mais également aux Etats-Unis. En effet et depuis plusieurs années, un certain nombre de productions hollywoodiennes ont eu lieu en dehors de la Californie. Les effets de ces délocalisations se sont lourdement fait sentir au sein des différentes catégories professionnelles. Ainsi, les pertes d’emploi et de revenus pour l’Etat de Californie semblent justifier l’intervention de l’appareil législatif. Pour certains, l’avenir même de l’industrie, traditionnellement basée à Hollywood, était en jeu.
Cette étude se propose, d’une part, d’évaluer les retombées du programme californien sur l’industrie locale et ses membres et d’autre part, de comparer la situation californienne avec un certain nombre d’Etats. Il sera alors d’avancer une série de questions. Peut-on parler d’effets positifs pour Hollywood ? Quel peut-être l’avenir de ce programme ? Quelle est la situation dans d’autres Etats qui ont mis en place le même type de mesures fiscales ? Hollywood demeure-t-il le premier centre de production cinématographique et télévisuel du pays ? Enfin, quelles sont les réactions syndicales face au programme californien ?
Sian BARBER (Queen’s University, Belfast)
Power and responsibility: The British Board of Film Classification, the Video Recordings Act and government control over the film industry
In 1984 the British Board of Film Classification were granted statutory powers for the first time. The Video Recordings Act ruled that all videos released within the UK had to carry a BBFC certificate. Prior to the VRA, the BBFC had possessed no statutory authority to censor film but rather operated around a loosely agreed responsibility to classify films for exhibition within Britain. Significantly, as a self-funding organisation and one without statutory powers, this ensured that the BBFC operated outside direct government control.
Usually seen as a governmental response to the ‘video nasty’ outrage of the early 1980s, the VRA meant that official BBFC decisions now impacted heavily upon production, distribution and exhibition and fundamentally altered the BBFC’s relationship with the broader film industry. As well as altering the balance of power within the industry, this power shift also led to a restructuring of the Board, a significant increase in the number of BBFC examiners and new approaches to submitted material. Within this paper, material from the recently catalogued James Ferman papers, examples from the BBFC written archive and recorded Parliamentary debates will be used to examine how and why the government decided to legislate on this specific part of the film industry and the impact this had upon the BBFC’s policy for film and video.
Frédéric GIMELLO (Université d’Avignon)
The meaning of ‘quality’ in feature film policy selective aid scheme: A French/UK cross-cultural perspective
If works analyzing the meaning of the concept of quality in common public policies are frequent, academic papers regarding quality and approaches to its assessment in film policies are atypical and relatively recent (Levaratto 2000; Ginsburgh 2003; Blomkamp 2011). Europe has a long tradition of state support for the film industry but with national and cultural differences regarding what kind of movies could benefit from the selective aid schemes. Although practices vary between countries (i/e The National Lottery financing cinema subsidies in UK Vs tax on admissions allocating advances on receipts in France), the European film-making model privileges generally creativity over commercial success (Herold 2010) and puts the bulk of state efforts on production rather than on distribution or film exhibition. This ‘authorship business model’ aiming to promote creativity is based on a consensus about the question of the feature quality recognized to be supported by state selective subsidies. This consensus is shared both by experts and film policy-makers. Experts Committees are the places where movies quality evaluation criteria are (re-)built and discussed. It is a fact Film policies are usually presented as fixed systems and are often studied synchronically. But a diachronically approach in a Foucault’s perspective investigating the origins and the transformation of the concept of Quality in Film Policy allows to appreciate and characterize these cultural differences in the national traditions of state support for the arts. Furthermore, Film historiography generally considers film policies majors steps (creation of funds, censorship affairs…) as simple consequences of major improvements of the film art worldwide or, sometimes, as positive assets helping it (i/e the connection between the creation of the French selective aid scheme in 1959 and the emergence of New wave French cinema). So, this paper will compare two national cases (France and UK) with the aim to enlighten how quality has been for years the main argument to justify existence and efficiently of selective aid scheme in the both countries. We also explore the meaning of this term in some historical key-contexts of film and television industry.
CASE STUDY 1: AUTRALIA
Julia HAMMETT-JAMART (Wollongong University; former Manager of Governance, Screen Australia)
Trading(-)in National Cinema: The case for re-thinking Australian film policy
In 2006 the Australian Government undertook a broad-ranging review of film funding support, resulting in sweeping changes to the national film policy landscape. The structures that had been put in place in the 1970s to kick-start the local production sector were dismantled and replaced with new ones.
These changes were greeted with enthusiasm by the languishing local production sector. Local films’ share of national box office had hovered beneath 10% throughout the 90s and, in spite of increasing public investment, by 2004 had descended to a record low of 1.3%. There was thus a level of consensus that policy reforms were required and these were pushed through parliament with bi-partisan support.
Roughly five years on, the Government has begun to evaluate these reforms. Last year, Screen Australia’s internal review of the Producer Offset found that the new mechanism had raised production budgets, increased producers’ equity share and improved producers’ negotiating position (Screen Australia 2012). This year, in its fifth year of operation, Screen Australia has published a number of reports suggesting the growing popularity of Australian content and promoting the agency’s contribution to formulating Australian national identity (Screen Australia 2013).
According to these accounts it would seem that the 2006 reforms were effective. The local production sector is apparently flourishing and ‘whole of Government’ objectives for Australian film policy are apparently being achieved. However, a closer look reveals that the problems that have plagued Australian film policy from the outset persist. The reported ‘success’ of the industry – increased production levels and box office share - can be attributed to the injection of significant public investment into a small number of large budget (often US-initiated) productions which have been included in official calculations of box office share e.g. Australia (Luhrmann 2008),The Great Gatsby (Luhrmann 2013). In reality, the local production sector remains characterised by a multitude of SPV’s - production companies established as ‘special purpose vehicles’ for the production of one film only, which cannot be considered to constitute a sustainable industry. Moreover, the policy issues that are being hotly debated by the Australian film industry at present are precisely those that preoccupied the local production sector in the late 80s: what should be funded (defining ‘significant Australian content’); why (commercial versus cultural remit of policy); and how (protection of the local versus expansion and international collaboration).
Why is it that recent policy reforms have failed to address the fundamental challenges facing the local production sector; why are the same debates about film policy resurfacing; why is it that none of this is mentioned in recent agency reviews and reports; what is at the root of the Australian film policy problem; and how might the Australian experience resonate with other national film policy contexts?
This paper draws upon my professional experience as a senior executive at the Australian Film Commission and Screen Australia, and upon my doctoral research into policy implementation on French-Australian official coproductions 1986-2006. It explores the chronic issues that have plagued Australian film policy since the 1980s, reflects upon the factors that have hampered effective policy reform, and proposes a manner of ‘rethinking’ the national film policy problem.
CASE STUDY 2: THE UNITED KINGDOM
Roger SHANNON (Edge Hill University; former head of production for the BFI)
Film Forever? The British Film Institute and the unraveling of the UK Film Council
The paper will touch on film policy questions, UK government agenda for the creative industries and the nations and regions debate, drawing on a commentary about the brusque demise in 2011 of the UK Film Council and the re booting of the British Film Institute - Film Forever/ BFI Plan 2012/2017 - as the film industry's lead strategic body for both cultural and commercial interests.
In the UK the last two years have witnessed a seismic change in the public infrastructure for the film industry in the regions. A detailed support system nurtured and built over the previous three decades has been dismantled and replaced by a centralising framework - involving the BFI and the newly established Creative England - that's thus far uncertain and not yet fully in place.
The paper will discuss the implications of these changes for the north west region in the UK - a region which includes such cities as Liverpool and Manchester and their respective prolific creative economies of film, television and music. And a region of the UK which pioneered in the 1980's the country's first Film Office and in the 1994 the first regional feature film investment fund at MIDA, the Moving Image Development Agency, which channelled, enterprisingly, European Regional Development Fund monies into new north west based film talent such as screen writer Frank Cottrell Boyce, producer Sol Pappadopolous, and director Michael Winterbottom amongst many others.
Michael FRANKLIN (University of St Andrews)
Investing in digital innovation, marketing and distribution: A public funder’s new role in film market construction
Digital disruption: new consumption patterns and the impact of piracy have had a significant influence on government intervention in the UK film industry. Decreased revenues from DVD have weakened the terms of trade applying to production companies – already a financially marginal sector. Audience engagement and exploitation of diversified revenue streams based on dis-intermediated distribution strategies have been conceived as responses to the economic threats of disruption. Both strategies are digitally enabled and rely on recent innovations in social media, VOD, and trans-media creative content.
I present a rich case study analysis of the investment practices of Scottish Screen / Creative Scotland, the national public agencies funding film in Scotland 2010-2012. I chart the key changes in funding guidelines and the shift in focus of investment towards digitally enabled initiatives. The paper uncovers the key changes in funding patterns from a strictly segmented approach across the Film Value Chain, which separated production from marketing, to a more integrated system reflecting the nature of digital media.
By examining the materials, networks, agencies and processes at work in key examples of film support during this period, I present an account of the new role of the public funder in market construction. This conception foregrounds the increasingly important role of Digital Engagement Metrics (DEMs) e.g. Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers etc., as contractual deliverables in funded projects. I argue for the public funder’s lead role in market organisation via the legitimisation of DEMs as evaluative, calculative tools. These dynamic and material market elements do important work in enrolling private company partners such as Sales Agents into innovative projects. I consider whether the investment funds are performative in nature, taking an active role shaping the market they intend to support – making it in a particular image as applicants seek to conform to set guidelines. In this way the paper offers a new insight into government support of production and distribution in a digitally disrupted environment.
Fabiola ALVAREZ (University of St Andrews)
The role of the Scottish National Screen Agency: Justifications of worth
2010 marked the end of an independent film agency in Scotland, Scottish Screen, following its merger with the Scottish Arts Council. As such, it seemed an appropriate time to analyse the perceived role and relevance of this non departmental public body charged with promoting the screen sector in Scotland. Conceived under the UK Conservative government, the agency began operations at the same time that the 1997 Labour victory brought a new, more independent political status to Scotland, and saw the industrial imperatives underpinning its establishment be heavily challenged by actors championing a more culture-based approach to screen production, a situation that often led to disagreements over administrative procedures and resource allocation. By combining the logics perspective’s focus on the power of institutional forces to affect organisational practices (Thornton and Ocasio 1999; Thornton, 2004) and the orders of worth’s emphasis on processes and the pragmatics of justification (Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006), this study examines how decisions were made and justified at Scottish Screen during its 13-year life span.
The study’s contribution is twofold: on the theoretical level, since, to my knowledge, the critical matrix proposed by Boltanski and Thévenot has not been applied to a public film-funding body before, this research will put the matrix to the test in this particular setting, thus respecting the uniqueness of a particular organisational configuration while enriching the general framework. Also, from the broader standpoint of institutional theory, the extent to which compromises prevail over rupture when clashes arise in organisational contexts might throw light on questions raised by scholars about the scope of institutionalisation (e.g.,Townley, forthcoming) and help define more clearly the often nebulous boundaries between organisational practices as conventions (norms) and institutionalised organisational practices (practices reflecting deeply internalised myths).
As for its contribution to organisational practice, the study informs hiring policy by highlighting the capacity of organisational actors to resist statements of function and highlights the importance of hiring personnel whose views about what is important (or worthy) are in line with the organisation’s remit and goals.
Nolwenn MINGANT (Université Paris 3 - Sorbonne Nouvelle)
Today, the presentations have shown the wide range of ways governments intervene in the film industry, from quotas and censorship to many forms of direct and indirect subsidies. It appears however that one sector is particularly the focus of government attention: production. But the presentations have done more than simply describe the different schemes used by governments: common issues have resonated in interventions on countries and areas as diverse as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Scotland. ‘‘Film policy’’ might sound at first as a cold topic to concentrate on, but it is actually a domain fraught with tensions. Today we heard stories of outraged public opinion, of reforms making it to the front page; we heard strongly emotional terms such as ‘‘being ridiculed’’ or ‘‘embarrassed,’’ alongside war-like metaphors, such as professionals being ‘‘up in arms.’’ This showed film policy is a strongly polemical topic, played less in the field of legislation than in the field of rhetoric. Countries use different discourses to speak about cinema, from the French defence of cultural diversity to the Australian focus on national identity. They create arbitrary criteria to measure intangible elements such as “quality” or “cultural content.” Political parties also adopt different approaches, such as the interventionism of the Blair government contrasting with the laissez-faire attitude of the Conservatives. Interestingly, as the Australian case study showed, the very same policy can be presented in different terms depending on which political parties are in government. The individuals working in the regulating bodies are themselves ambiguous in their position, sometimes publicly supporting certain principles and actually applying others. The prominence of rhetoric in the film policy debate was also made clear by the development of Digital Metrics (with Youtube “likes” for example), which, although still experimental, have imposed themselves, thus acting in a performative way. In this rhetorical battlefield, three definitions of cinema co-exist. Cinema is about a) creativity, b) (national) culture, c) economics. The definition of cinema hovers between these three poles, being constantly renegotiated, notably at times of crises with the appearance of new technologies, from the videocassette to the digital. This is in turn reflected in the constant reorganization of government agencies. Film bodies are created, closed and re-created; they tend to overlap, each applying their own criteria. This creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and increased tensions. Today, we were thus presented with a paradoxical situation: public policies are unanimously recognized as necessary for national film industries to exist, especially in the face of the Hollywood behemoth; however the actual modes of intervention remain the object of heated debate. The reason why film policies are so controversial is that one is dealing here with an issue of power and how it is shared between the different players. How to find the right balance of power between centralized and regional decision-making? Between government bodies and independent agencies? Between Hollywood (California) and “Hollywood East” (Massachusetts)? Coproductions are a case in point. Whereas creative coproductions have naturally existed since the beginning of cinema, official coproductions have added a layer of intervention. When a State can impose the choice of an artist or a technician because of his/her nationality, is it not in fact creating an obstacle to creative freedom? This first CinEcoSA conference on film policies has thus brought to the fore the importance of exploring how power politics is played in the film world. In 2014, CinEcoSA proposes to go beyond the English-language sphere and compare the conclusions of this first day by inviting scholars and professionals to debate on the vision and application of film policy in countries around the world.