As Canada is being honoured at this year’s Sunny Side of the Doc, we asked Monique Simard, President of the Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles (SODEC), and honorary president of this edition, answer some questions: assessment of the DCP, perspectives and expert opinion on VR…

 

Coproduction is not just a question of money, it is also, and to a great extent, a question of vision.

Monique Simard, President of SODEC

Monique_Simard_COUL web

Monique Simard, President of SODEC and Honorary President of Sunny Side of the Doc 2016

Question: What new funding has SODEC earmarked to help the production of transmedia programmes?

Monique Simard: In September 2014 the government of Quebec announced a Digital Cultural Plan, a vast reform which has given rise to a massive increase in the number of projects designed for other platforms. This made Canada a forerunner in the field of original production for the web and mobile platforms.

As for SODEC (Société de développement des entreprises culturelles), in 2011 it started digital programmes, but mainly for commercialisation (music), digitisation (book publishing) and digital equipment (cinema theatres and digital tools for artists). SODEC decided to support companies in these sectors with business plans designed to turn their work into “transmedia” productions, rather than supporting “projects” as the cinema does.

Question: People are talking more of “digital creation” than transmedia, where a programme can live and develop without TV broadcasters, what is your opinion on this point?

Monique Simard: In this sector, terms and vocabulary are constantly changing. This is normal since technology is changing rapidly. “New writing”, “digital creation”, “transmedia, “interactivity”: all these terms mean new types of creation, production, and above all distribution.

Changes in the media world concern just as much the form of works (interactive, non-linear), as their broadcast simultaneous on several platforms. Users (consumers, citizens) are now in the position of prescribing culture in that they decide what they watch, when they want, on whatever platform they want, paying or not for the product.

Television was the trigger for the past 25 years. As for the multiplication of television channels which started in the early 90s, there was a need, all around the world, “to feed the beast”. There was a big demand for TV content, a demand which continued for almost 20 years.

But the appearance of new platforms has divided audiences and consequently a drop in revenue for TV broadcasters. Hasn’t the television screen become just another screen among others? Two thirds of culture is consumed via an internet connection. Applications such as Netflix or Spotify have revolutionised the business model. This needs to be faced up to.

Wherever there are public support programmes for production, a review is needed to adapt to these new realities.

Question: Which programmes have you helped and which are you the most proud of?

Monique Simard: For many years – from 2008 to 2014 – I was managing director of French Programming of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). I had the privilege of setting up the first interactive studios, participating in the first free, worldwide viewing platforms and contributing to making an institution, which was founded in 1939, go down the digital path in all these areas. This experience was certainly the most gratifying for me. And I am proud to have decided at this time to earmark 20% of the budget to this type of production. As early as 2009 we signed coproduction agreements in interactive production with ARTE France, and a year later with France Télévisions. These are both concrete examples which have enabled us to go further in these projects. I have always believed in coproductions as long as the project requires it and when there are the right partners. Coproduction is not just a question of money, it is also, and to a great extent, a question of vision.

Question: Is virtual reality that everyone is talking about just a fad or a genuine revolution?

Monique Simard: Having experience in around 20 projects, I can say that it is incomparable. I don’t think it is a fad, either the experience itself, or being in the centre of a particular reality (360˚), is very far from watching a flat screen (with or without 3D). Very soon we will all have our VR headsets. This means that there will be a big demand for VR content.

 

Monique Simard, Montreal, 29 March 2016