COVID-19 : Les mesures en faveur du secteur audiovisuel et cinématographique
Sébastien Lachaussée & Elisa Martin-Winkel

Sébastien Lachaussée & Elisa Martin-Winkel

COVID-19 : French measures sustaining audiovisual and film industry

Cultural sector, and in particular audiovisual and film production, has been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Difficulties arose and concerned development as well as production and exploitation of the works and both authors, technicians, producers, distributors and theatre operators.

Aids have been developed and implemented in France, and we propose to resume some of them hereunder, without being exhaustive as the responses have been numerous.

Measures in favor of distribution and exhibition

In order to compensate for the closure of theatres, an emergency law dated March 23, 2020, authorized the president of the French National Center for Cinema (CNC) to modify the media chronology for pictures that were still exhibited in cinematographic theatres on March 14, 2020.

Thus, rather than waiting four months after their theatrical release, such picture can be immediately broadcast on video on demand or on DVD, upon prior approval of the CNC.

Immediately after the announcement of the lockdown, CNC also organized the suspension of payment by movie theaters of the tax on audio-visual (tax on movie theatres tickets – TSA) for March and April 2020.

The National Federation of French Cinemas announced later the cancellation of such tax. Indeed, theatres operators, who had to bear additional costs notably due to sanitary measures, will benefit from the final cancellation of the TSA which had been suspended for February and March for a total amount of € 17.5 millions.

In order to support distributors and theatres operators, CNC established in April an advance payment of financial aids to « Cinéma d’arts et d’essai » (16.5 million euros) and selective aid to distribution (5.5 million euro) followed in May by the payment of financial aid to theaters with « difficult programming » (1.7 million euros).

In addition, the envelope for selective distribution aid has been increased by € 500,000, and shall be allocated to distributors who release foreign pictures.

Above all, on July 15, 2020, CNC implemented measures to encourage the release of new pictures in theaters. Accordingly, the rates of the support generated by the exploitation of cinematographic work for the benefit of producers and distributors will be increased temporarily, from June 22 to September 1, 2020 as follows:

  • French film distributors will benefit from an increase in their automatic support of 50 to 200%
  • French film producers will benefit from in their automatic support of 20 to 50%

Measures in favor of cinematographic and audiovisual production

As of June 1, 2020, CNC set up a compensation fund against the risk of COVID-19 up to € 50 million to allow the resumption of filming.

The fund is open to all French or French majority productions for shootings on French territories, as long as they are works eligible for CNC support.

This aid is capped at 20% of the insured capital and € 1.2 million. It can cover up to 5 weeks of production interruption after application of a deductible sum payable by the producer (15% of the additional cost.) The remuneration of the employees will be compensated at the level of the minima of the collective agreement.

In addition, the fund was reinforced as of June 23, 2020 thanks to the work of a pool of mutual insurers. Shootings can therefore access to a higher level of guarantee, up to a limit of 1.8 million euros and 30% of the estimate. This new fund makes it possible to double the compensation capacity by increasing it to 100 million euros.

French government also announced the establishment of a tax credit « which will support media investments in audiovisual programming and creation in 2020« . This should facilitate for producers to obtain funding from broadcasters.

French regions are also implementing measures in favor of audiovisual productions.

Thus, in Provence and Cote d’azur, the regional strategic plan for cinema and audiovisual and for the period 2020-2022 was established during the confinement on April 10.

The budget is increased by 30% allowing an efficient recovery. In addition, 2.16 M of reinforced aid was immediately activated and distributed between the different production structures (cinema, documentary, web creations etc.). A recovery plan of 32 million euros was also announced in the Auvergne-Rhône in favor of cultural industries.

The Occitanie region set up exceptional support mechanisms for businesses in the territory and in particular suspended all repayments of advances already granted, for a period of six months from April 1, 2020.

With regard to shootings, many restrictive measures were implemented at local and national level. Thus, health rules have been established in a guide to cinema and audiovisual and which must be followed during all steps of production. These include minimizing the workforce, organizing physical distancing and disinfecting tools and work surfaces.

A written commitment from the producers on this point is generally mandatory.

At the local level, we can note that from the beginning of July, the City of Paris announced to end the main restrictions on filming and notably removed the threshold of 50 people on the set.

Employment of the sums of the « Compte de soutien » for production, distribution and exhibition (account in support of the audiovisual and cinematographic industry)

CNC elects to support all professionals in the audiovisual and film industry by organizing the possibility for any business benefiting from an automatic support account with the CNC (producers, distributors, exhibitors, video editors, exporters) to mobilize in advance 30% of the sums pertaining to such account independently of the development of new project but to meet their cash flow needs directly related to the consequences of the COVID 19 epidemic, subject that none of the general measures allow them to overcome such needs.

Supports for French companies and contractors

First, any company whose cash flow is impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic can apply for a State guaranteed loan, regardless of its size and status, until December 31, 2020.

In principle, such loan may represent up to 3 months of turnover and the guarantee amounts to 70% of the loan amount or 90% for very small businesses.

In addition, a solidarity fund of up to 7 billion euros, specific for VSEs and independent professionals, including authors, was created in view of the difficulties arisen due to their forced closure or reduction their activity up to at least 50%.

This support is up to 1500 euros per month and may be accompanied by deferral of rents, water, electricity or gas bills. The regions can pay an additional aid of up to 5,000 euros.

Some regions also support businesses by suspending rents. This was the case, for example, in Occitanie with rent exemptions for businesses hosted in regional incubators.

With regard to cultural industries and in particular audiovisual production, IFCIC (credit institution in France for the financing of cultural industries) also announced that it would provide banks with guarantees, up to 70%, for all types of loans granted in the context of the epidemic and would extend systematically guarantee loans to banks at their request and in order to promote their reorganization.

Solidarité Cinéma

This private fund organizes the collection and allocation of donations to various professionals of the film and audiovisual production sector that may not necessarily benefit from the general state mechanisms.

Thus, according to Marc Missonnier, producer, this fund is not intended “for producers, distributors, authors or intermittents, but for service providers, very small businesses or self-employed entrepreneurs who are in the blind spot of existing support« . Among the targeted activities: conveyance, security, catering, creation of credits and trailers, press agent, poster artists, etc.

Aid is between 2,000 and 15,000 €. All funds received from donors will be paid over a short period (6 months maximum). A first round session of request ended on July 10, and the next will end on September 12

Supports for technicians and authors

Numerous supports for technicians and authors have been organized. We can in particular mention the SACD funds or the partnership between AUDIENS and Netflix.

The SACD (collecting society) created two specific aids for the current crisis.
The Audiovisual, Cinema, Animation and Web Emergency Fund allows authors of audiovisual works, not entitled to the national solidarity fund or to a partial unemployment measure greater than or equal to € 1,500, to obtain support from the SACD, if they prove a loss of net income as author of at least 50% in March and / or April 2020.
The subsidy is capped at1500 euros while those who suffered a loss of income of less than 1500 euros receive a subsidy equal to the amount of such loss.
The SACD has also set up a Covid Solidarity Fund for people who have no fixed income and can justify the cancellation of performances for a show declared to the SACD or of a writing contract.

AUDIENS, French social protection group for cultural sector and Netflix also announced the creation of an emergency support fund for audiovisual and film artists and technician as they are directly affected by the interruption of productions due to the coronavirus crisis. This aid is available to artists and technicians under certain conditions and takes the form of a lump sum of € 500, non-taxable and non-refundable. It may be increased to € 900 for professionals whose resources do not exceed € 15,000.

The French  » intermittence regime » has also been the subject of various measures.

The period from March 1 to the end of the confinement of the French population has been neutralized for the calculation of the reference period to benefit from the unemployment insurance and social rights for « intermittent” workers (such as performers and technicians), in order to not penalize the workers who cannot work and acquire any rights during the coronavirus epidemic.

In addition, an extension of their rights has been organized so that people at the end of their unemployment benefits during the epidemic or after the epidemic (on certain conditions) can continue to be compensated.

To a lesser extent, AFDAS (French professional training center for intermittents and artists) wished to support intermittent employees and facilitate the access to training by canceling the waiting period, extending the deadlines for the admissibility and considering that the period elapsed since March 17 2020 was a period of activity for people who had to prove a period of 2 years of activity to benefit from a training session.

Thus, support measures are numerous, encompass almost all legal and natural persons involved in the cinematographic and audiovisual sector and give hope for a resumption of activity under the most favorable conditions in view of the context.

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