Les États généraux du film documentaire 2011 Scam Day

Scam Day

Back to the wall.

For more than eighteen years, the Scam (French Society of Multimedia Authors) has made it its duty to aid authors to turn their projects into reality, giving them the means to prolong their desires. The seed fund "Brouillon d'un rêve" has participated in the production of more than seven hundred documentaries. And what for the Scam has always been the source of pride has become today an absolute necessity in the context of an audiovisual world where entertainment rules supreme and the singu- larity of an author's point of view has become extremely suspect.
This is the message that emerges from a large scale enquiry carried out by the Scam involving more than two thousand authors and questioning them on their profes- sion and their relations with producers and broadcasters (États des lieux du documentaire). And rather than write the traditional editorial, I have decided to transcribe here some fragments of what authors have said, testifying better than through any other method to the violence which we suffer.
Sentences transmitted without imposing any format or censorship, without comment and in total freedom.

"Filming people is the most powerful way to meet them. I have lived the best moments of my life making films {…} But I no longer manage to make a living from my profession."

"You still do fascinating things, but like a pirate, on the sly and with your back to the wall."

"I can't make a film a year as my projects are often refused. I lost my rights to unemployment two years ago. It's a nightmare. You'll do anything to survive. I've done housecleaning, cooking, I've rented a room of my apartment, and now above all I translate for a living."

"I'm coming to the end of my unemployment insurance. I haven't worked enough. And I have no signed project. This is the first time in fifteen years. I have projects under preparation, but if this continues for another two months, the situation will become critical."

"At the moment, I cannot live from my work for the first time in my life. I've lost my rights to unemployment."

"On a film, in relation to the time I spend, I am paid less than all the other technicians."

"The budgets are so inadequate that we wonder how to manage to make films and pay the rent. More than scandalous, the situation is untenable."

"The time of writing and preparation is never paid, pay scales are close to minimum wage, sometimes below, I work without a break but for peanuts. We can no longer accept being paid so badly."

"We still have dreams. Many give up after two or three films. Those who continue are stubborn, tough- skinned..."

"The quality of documentaries is only maintained thanks to the abnegation, determination and passion of the directors."

"By concentrating exclusively on entertainment, television has moved away from its primary role: challenging, educating, relaying the civic role of creation, allowing authors and their different sensibilities to express themselves."

"Our work as artists is to propose an original point of view on the world surrounding us... Before we could disturb, be impertinent, now, they ask us to smooth out the edges and I find that very difficult."

"What I see is that the commissioning editors think they know everything, they have a solution, a recipe, say how to edit a sequence, how long a shot should last. What do they know? Their only real experience is that of spectator, and even then."

"Trying to explore different, new, singular forms is considered a scandalously elitist gesture."

"In any film, including documentary, you should always try to go as far as possible in the implicit before moving to the explicit."

"Quality documentary is not an entertainment. Its func- tion is to open eyes, to reveal, to make aware. {…} For those in charge today, televiewers have become clients, like those of the Post Office or France Telecom."

"Maintaining creation, being a witness to the world, that is a social function. Television must remain a show-case for that."

"Nobody is interested in finding new talent, encouraging originality, supporting audacious ideas, clearing fresh fields. It's a cliché to say this, but extremely violent to live."

"The investment of producers on a documentary project is extremely small. They don't look for money, they send the project to a few of their habitual partners: if there's a response so much the better, if not they move on to something else and fast. The author is thanked, whose contribution was nonetheless previously solicited, without being paid obviously."

This year during the Scam day, you can discover four documentaries with singular points of view, directed "back to the wall" by impassioned, obstinate and determined authors: Un étrange équipage by Boris Nicot; Les Roses noires by Hélène Milano; Old Grifter by Delphine Hallis; Gagarinland by Vladimir Kozlov.
At the end of the day, you will also be able to see the montage made by Jean Brard from the seven hundred documentaries aided by the Scam in the framework of its "Brouillon d'un rêve" seed fund and relevantly entitled Le Rêve et la Nécessité. The film is a subjective journey through excerpts from twenty-nine films which tell us, each in their own way – sometimes with a poignant or powerful and sometimes funny sensibility – how much the world would be meaningless without the perspective of documentary to view it.

Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, president of the Scam

Guests : Debates in the presence of the filmmakers.