Jay D. Roth
DGA National Executive Director
The History of the FACF
As the lawyer representing both the DGA and the WGAW and a negotiator of the agreement, I remember well the sense of purpose that gave birthto the FACF.
On June 29, 1995, Jean-Loup Tournier, the president of Sacem, Brian Walton, the executive director of the WGAW and Glenn Gumpel, the national executive director of the DGA, put their names on a memorandum of understanding creating the FACF. The birth of the FACF was not an easy one—it came into existence as the result of a very divisive battle— and a subsequent determination not to let that conflict define the relationship between our two countries.
Two big events were integral to the decision to create the FACF.
The first, in 1989-1990, was the successful conclusion of a foreign levies agreement in France; it was accomplished after years of resistance by the American producers who had claimed all of the authors’ share. That new agreement gave American writers and directors, authors under French copyright law, a portion of the fees collected on blank tape (today on digital equipment)for the private copying of their films and television programs in France. Since that agreement went into effect, the American portion of foreign levies are distributed from France to the DGA and WGAW, who in turn distribute them to American directors and writers.
The second big event was the 1993GATT/TRIPS negotiations in Geneva.
At those very difficult negotiations, there was an open clash between the American and European governments over the cultural exception, quotas, subsidies, and exemptions from the national treatment provisions of the Berne Convention.
There was a sense, on both sides of the Atlantic, that differences, rather than similarities, had dominated the debate and created a wedge between us. But, as months passed, some of us in the U.S. and France who, as party to GATT/TRIPS, saw the conflict first-hand, felt something had to be done.
At the heart of the discussions we began with each other was our belief that while cultures have nationality, artists and their art should not—art is to be shared regardless of nationality. Our goal became to improve and expand the communication and the cultural exchange between creators and our industries in France and the U.S.; we wanted to turn the dispute we had witnessed into something better and enduring. The FACF became our answer.
Sacem embraced this idea of encouraging cultural exchange and understanding, and we all decided to fund FACF cultural activities through a portion of the levies that came from American audiovisual collections. A board was designated and the founders, Sacem, the DGA, and WGAW determined that the MPAA should also become a board member.
The first meeting took place in Paris in the fall of 1995 and the attendees included Sacem (Jean-Loup Tournier, Claude Gaillard and Olivier Bernard), the DGA (Gil Cates, Norman Jewiso and Jay Roth), the WGAW(Frank Pierson, Peter Lefcourt and Brain Walton), and the MPAA (Jack Valenti and Robert Hadl).
From the outset, we were very clear that the FACF was not an abstract concept. The board was tasked with designing the activities of the Fund with the express purpose of involving and bringing together leading American writers, directors, and producers with French writers, directors, and producers in a wide variety of filmmaking projects and activities in each country. By way of example, one of the major GATT issues was the difficulty of obtaining French film distribution in the U.S.
Our response to that problem became the idea of a film festival in Los Angeles, that would not only showcase French films, but also would aid in their distribution. The Fund’s festival of French films, COLCOA, became that reality. If you had asked me or I think any of us, in 1995, where we thought the FACF would be 20 years later, I do not think we could have fully envisioned what we have achieved. COLCOA is held at the DGA so over the years I have watched it grow to become the largest festival of French films in the world outside of France. Last April, 22,500people attended the weeklong Festival to see 68 films and for the first time, 7 French TV series. A record number of 70 French writers, directors, actors and organizations that represent them came to Los Angeles; 54%of the films that have been shown at COLCOA in the last 20 years have subsequently been picked up for distribution and seen in American theaters.
Recognizing that an important part of our mission is protecting our past for future filmmakers, the FACF has provided over € 1.7 million ($1.8 million) to film preservation with funds going to the Cinémathèque Française and The Film Foundation for the restoration of 26 classic films that have been widely shown across the globe.
Over the past 20 years the Fund has created a number of programs that have not only stood the test of time, but have improved, and become more valuable with age. Those are the more visible measures of our success.
But, it is equally as important to note a less visible achievement—the enduring relationships the Fund has created.
The experience of the camaraderie and shared commitment between the American writers, directors, and those representing Sacem is now embedded in the work we do moving forward.
Looking both back and forward, I think the need for the Fund is as relevant as ever. Films and art in general, are being challenged in the digital age.
And I still believe that the great success of the FACF has come from the belief we started with: that we have a unique bond in our shared passion for film and television and respect for those who create it, and that our greatest strength comes when we reach across continents to join our forces.
Jay D. Roth
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