Editorial in the January 2010 newsletter

by Caroline Champetier

For the past few months, we - the officers and initiators of "active dialogues" - have been struck by the accuracy and depth of the contributions to these " active dialogues" between members of the AFC. We now choose to give room to one of them, whose distance from us, both in terms of experience and geography, allows him to understand that our concerns should push us to share tirelessly, in order to build a future for our profession.

Following is an excerpt contributed by Philippe Rousselot, AFC, ASC to these " active dialogues".

Active Dialogue – Philippe Rousselot

"I followed the exchanges with great interest, and yes, it’s true, this debate shows that the AFC is very much alive. Despite the widely divergent opinions of all, I found it difficult to favor one position over another, and I often have the impression that the last speaker is right, because each point of view resonates with concerns and reasonings that are justified not only by the accuracy of simple opinions, but also by the varying position of each of the speakers.

More than a debate, I see interests and sensitivities scattered all across an extremely varied film landscape, each position justifying a point of view. Thank you all, I have learned a lot because of you.

I started working in the Sixties when the trade was experiencing a significant fracture, left by the Nouvelle Vague. Nuyten, Lafaye, Robin, myself, and many others, rushed into the breach with an arrogance and disregard for the rules that our elders certainly reproached us for, and rightly so, no doubt. Each generation breaks the rules and sometimes, which is less friendly, lowers the prices.

Slowly, this new generation rebuilt rules, ways of working, and more or less restored the salaries (in this regard, it is urgent to have a debate on the union’s role and our participation in its activity !).

A sort of peace ensues, with winners and losers, and for them a way of taking part in the world of film is paved, and modes of participation, rules of conduct and communication are sketched ; and while the world (of cinema, like the world in general) remains in constant flux, this way of being in the world slows down the transformations that are constantly wanting to change it, to bend it to various market constraints. It is at the cost of these delays that artistic things happen, in moments of apparent calm in which the rules are respected and talent is recognized. But where speeds have been slowed, tensions are created, like rubber bands stretched too far, to their breaking points, and one fine day, a new fracture occurs, a new chaos moves in.

New technologies are not necessarily the cause of these fractures, but they emerge when a fracture occurs (a new technology is only able to win over when a demand occurs, never because of its mere market availability). The current crisis is a manifestation of one of these breaking points. The fact that it is combined with a more generally economic crisis of a different order, makes these changes all the more painful and drastic.

And while it is difficult to become a "Being in the world", it is even more difficult to leave it without anguish, without loss of certainties, without mourning the loss of a loved one. It is normal for every generation to experience the painful death knell of its time and the end of its world. We cannot imagine asking Van Gogh to do abstract art or Schoenberg to write pop music.

We have lived with the noblest aspirations and sometimes the most petty but, fortunately, things that we do remain and maybe they will serve as an example, like the films seen at the Cinematheque in the rue d’Ulm were for me in the Sixties. And I would humbly reply to Ricardo Aronovitch, regarding his teaching, to say that it suffices that he asked the question, and that, should he abandon his course, to whom would we teach, and what would we teach ? That the talent he possesses, his love of cinema (and I am one of his many admirers) are the best things that can be transmitted, regardless of techniques, fashions and random fluctuations of this métier, and that it is necessary, even indispensable, that he continue.

I would like to find some consolation in the belief that a new generation will find its way to be in the world, and will be able to restore the rules to create an opportunity to continue to do cinema, and even, to make a living of it. (It is also possible that they rediscover the same rules as long as they make them their own).

I am no less saddened to see the present situation and we need to continue our reflection. We must expand our efforts towards a political and trade union action, in one way or another, so that these breaks are experienced in the least painful way possible by us and by all those young men and women who want replace us, and will."

Philippe Rouselot

translated by Benjamin B