(Montreal) The public fond of films and shows from Quebec was spoiled for choice during a bountiful fall, but this beautiful showcase conceals a reality made up of a lack of financing and a dilution of content Quebecers in the offering of foreign platforms.

The word “degrowth” is uttered by several actors in the television and cinema sector, who see it as a risk for the transmission and vitality of Quebec’s French-speaking culture.

The drop is of the order of 30% in projects accepted in 2023 compared to the previous year, indicates the president and CEO of the Association québécoise de la production media (AQPM), Hélène Messier.

And if this decline is partly explained by congestion on screens in 2023 resulting from the resumption of post-pandemic activity, the situation is far from being circumstantial, say several speakers. These highlight funding that is stagnating in several respects and a significant gap in budgets for French-speaking productions in Quebec compared to productions in the rest of the country.

There is a “real funding issue in the system,” according to the president and CEO of the Quebec Cinema and Television Bureau (BCTQ), Christine Maestracci.

Some amounts of aid during the pandemic were not renewed and costs continued to explode amid high inflation.

For a film produced before the pandemic and a similar film produced now, costs have increased by 30 to 40%, indicates the president and CEO of the Association québécoise de la production media (AQPM), Hélène Messier.

Hundreds of artisans raised a “red flag” for the future of Quebec cinema at the beginning of December, even as they highlighted that five local films had exceeded a million dollars in theatrical receipts in 2023: Le temps d’ one summer, Katak the brave beluga, Testament, My mother’s men and Simple as Sylvain. Since then, the film Ru has also surpassed the million-dollar box office mark.

In this open letter, they urged the federal Liberal government to respect its promise to permanently increase Telefilm Canada’s budget by $50 million annually. And that this lasting increase be accompanied by the obligation for the organization to devote 40% of its total budget to French-language production, rather than the current level of 33%.

No confirmation had been given before the holiday period, underlined signatory Pierre Even, founder, president and producer of ITEM 7, in an AQPM newsletter of December 18.

“If you compare the budget of a series or film made in Quebec, versus the same budget it would receive if it were in the rest of Canada, we are on very different multiples,” explains Ms. Maestracci.

This compromises Quebec’s ability to “tell our stories,” underlines Ms. Maestracci.

Ms. Messier highlights other key elements that will be raised by the industry in 2024 with the authorities: the federal government’s promise to double its monetary contribution to the Canada Media Fund over three years, the regulatory framework to involve foreign platforms online in the wake of the sanction of the Act respecting continuous online broadcasting or C-11 and the improvement in Quebec of tax credits on payroll.

In the same vein, Philippe Falardeau, to whom this year we owe the production of the fiction series Le temps des framboises and the documentary series Lac-Mégantic: Ceci n’est pas un accident, warns that the increase in funding public of projects is the “nerves of war”.

The Quebec filmmaker, who shot several projects in the United States after the success of his film Monsieur Lazhar in 2011, affirms that there are no reasons which could lead him to no longer film in Quebec. Whether here or elsewhere, he looks “project by project”, asking himself the question of what he wants to say, what he wants to tell.

Still, he considers that in certain respects, filming in Quebec is becoming an “extreme sport”. Especially on the television projects side.

Especially since we are in competition, “whether we like it or not, with Succession, with Game of Thrones, if only in the time the viewer has to watch cases”.

Ms. Messier points out that average budgets for fiction and documentary television and film productions have decreased by 34% and 31% since 2012-2013 in constant dollars.

And this, in a context where the Quebec audiovisual sector has never been so strongly “in competition with content that comes from everywhere and is better financed”.

“Producers are very worried, the industry is very fragile,” says Ms. Messier, who judges that in the absence of rapid financial aid, there will be “significant cuts in the number of productions or the quality of production”.

That said, daring projects find their place, as underlines Julien Hurteau, director of the productions Les Petits Rois, Alertes 2 and Téodore pas de H. But for how much longer?

“It’s a mixed bag, in the sense that personally, I’ve never had so many opportunities to work on engaging, interesting projects like this. I feel the broadcasters are more daring, they are trying deals. We’ve seen in recent years, there are some really good series, like Do you hear me?. Oh wow, we can go there, there’s an audience for that. At the same time, given that there is a platform war, there is so much content, it is diluted, it also dilutes the money,” he emphasizes.

In an open letter last November, former manager Denis Dubois called on governments, broadcasters, producers and unions to be “bold”.

Mr. Dubois believes that we must “make the public our only priority” and that young listeners “find us on their way”.

“I think they still have a sincere attachment, but they can’t find us where they are. We need to review our strategies,” says the man who left his position as vice-president of original content at Quebecor this year and who had notably been general director of programs at Télé-Québec.

Mr. Dubois suggests the creation of a common platform, “where the public would find all of our television, cinema and digital production and of which we, the industry, would have control and marketing.”

He also launches this line of thought: “produce less, but produce better”.

“We do not have the means to maintain the current level of production. American platforms have accustomed us to productions that we can hardly match,” writes Mr. Dubois.

While considering himself one of the privileged ones in terms of resources given his experience, Philippe Falardeau “continues to believe that there is no point in making films to exhaust an industry, to exhaust artisans, and not to give budgets that match the scenarios that are accepted.”

If Ms. Maestracci also questions the financing premises on which we have been operating for a very long time, she believes that we must continue to offer an “profusion” of content to reach all audiences.

“Produce less? How do we ensure that there are emerging voices, too, that stand out? Because we still need to create succession. And then, what do we put on the air? What are we offering people? “, she argues.

On the radar in 2024, we will also have to keep an eye on negotiations to renew collective agreements which relate in particular to the remuneration of artists and technicians. These negotiations of the AQPM with the Union of Artists (UDA) and the Quebec Association of Image and Sound Technicians (AQTIS) took place until the last weeks before the Holidays, and must resume in January.