Torun in Poland welcomed us for this new edition of Camerimage from the 9th to 16th November.
A return to the origins since it was in the hometown of Copernicus that was born the International Festival of Cinematography in 1992. Festival whose ultimate trophies are frogs in reference to a local tale which is not without reminding the flute player and the rats.
The city is filled with paintings and sculptures of frogs in stone, bronze and other materials.
However, the one that makes me think more about our industry is the one that is placed in a container of cold water slowly heated until the amphibian succumbs in resigned bliss. The same frog that had escaped before when it was plunged into barely warm water. This well-known parable highlights the fact that we accept many things when they come gradually.
It can be implied that it is the routine which generates this (non) reaction but the fire does not start on its own under the pot. In our case, it is production companies which raise the temperature. They are also the frogs of the bigger fish which does the same with them (the networks, the streaming platforms, the client and the agency for Commercials…).
This is life, can we hastily conclude with fate … And after all, it does not seem that bad considering the grandeur of film festivals and the excessive amount of trade shows. In fact, we live in the comfort of the illusion because we still have a chance to work and make a living … but under which conditions!
Even the “industry” of make believe must be able to face the truth: We are on the edge of the cliff. And if the pushing doesn’t stop, we will all pay a dear price. Whether it be technicians (who complain about lack of work and low wages), rental companies which, by selling off their services, can’t afford to purchase with a real investment policy or manufacturers which, for the most part, are trying to survive in a world where major multinational companies get most of the market thanks to massive marketing.
Is it normal that a production dictates the DP which cameras or lenses he should use? Is it normal to find rental equipment which is more than 20 years old?
We are a few degrees away from destruction, having already gone beyond reasonable and unacceptable for a long time.
So when are we going to wake up?
When are we going to jump out of the pan? We are supposed to do it because basically it’s just an experience. It has never been the goal of the one who warms the water to kill the Frog but to see at which temperature (how much discount) the amphibian will propel itself out of the danger zone (stop the negotiation). As the latter dies before the end of the experiment, it is necessary for the laboratory worker to respect minimums. It is the same for the production companies: The technical costs (people and equipment) on budgets have lost realistic amounts for a long time already. The point here is not to demonize producers and production managers: their job is to obtain the maximum while spending the minimum and it is clear that despite the reduction in rental and labor costs, more and more films are produced and many should not even exist because they are just bad and help creating this dream of a land of plenty.
On the other hand, it is the duty of the rental companies and whoever respects our business to hold some grounds and explain how bad the situation is. In a more or less distant future, small and medium size manufacturers will disappear and with them the opportunity to choose several types of innovative and original products. We will live an Apple formatting (this is already happening) where the tools will dictate the aesthetics of a soft and outrageously colorful image (this is already happening too).
Price war weakens all companies which are struggling to provide quality services. Wage cuts cause the desertion of skilled technicians and deprive the community of their expertise.
So, do we jump from the pan to interact with productions and rental companies, technicians and manufacturers? Can we gather around some associations of Producers and technicians to sit at a table? I would sit at this table with great interest.
I wish you a good Christmas vacation and a happy New Year.
Marc Galerne, K5600