"My Life as a Zucchini" "My Life as a Zucchini"

In April, we reported on a schism in the French animation industry. Imminent reform at the Césars, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, had triggered a debate about how animation should be represented at the awards. The animation world agreed that it needed greater recognition, but disagreed over what this meant in practice.

One group, led by the union Animfrance, wanted a dedicated branch for animation and vfx (which the Césars didn’t have). Another, led by the union SPI and labor group SRF, rejected this option, calling instead for a proportion of membership in the existing directors’, producers’, and technical branches to be reserved for people working in animation. The two groups described their proposals in open letters, both of which received widespread support from within the industry.

The reforms were unveiled in July. They represent an overhaul of the César Academy and the organization that oversees it, the Association for the Promotion of Cinema (APC). Where animation is concerned, the changes contain elements of both proposals, enabling both groups to claim some satisfaction.

Under the old system, the academy’s 4,300-plus members were distributed across ten “colleges,” none of which was dedicated to animation or vfx. Those colleges have now been replaced by 21 branches, including an “animation branch” and a “special and visual effects branch.”

The APC’s general assembly has been expanded from 45 to 170 members, who are now subject to elections every four years. Each branch is allocated up to 16 seats in the assembly, with eight reserved for animation, and six for special and visual effects. The branches will appoint the board of directors, with each branch electing two directors every two years.

The creation of dedicated branches for animation and vfx has pleased the first group, although it initially wanted the two to be represented by a single branch. Animfrance and the organizers of Annecy Festival greeted the reforms as “a new, significant step forward for the recognition of French animation.”

They added, “[We] express the wish that those elected to the animation branch, and its representatives on the [APC’s] board of directors, work to establish rules at the [César Academy] that open it more widely to animation professions, and enable animated features to compete in all categories.”

Meanwhile, the second group has applauded the separation of animation and vfx. Addressing signatories of their original letter last week, representatives of the SPI and SRF wrote, “Combining animation with special and visual effects would not have conveyed an accurate impression of how we live our art.” They thank the APC for their “understanding of animation.”

On the other hand, the representatives criticized the decision to create dedicated branches in the first place. “We assure you,” they wrote, “that we will fight and campaign to bring animation out of its ghetto and back at the heart of cinema. We have deliberately used these forceful words to get people’s attention. The debate has shown us that the sector isn’t quite ready for it.”

The reforms were launched amid heated criticism of the academy’s opacity and lack of diversity. These problems have been addressed too, through policies like the new elections and the provision for two presidents: a man and a woman. The first elections for the APC’s general assembly are due to be held in September.

The Césars currently have awards for best animated feature and short film, but not for vfx.

(Image at top: “”My Life as a Zucchini,” which won two Césars in 2017.)