I love finding out more about the business of film and television; about the economics of production, distribution and exhibition; about the industrial histories of media industries. I wanted to read Christopher Meir’s book Mass Producing European Cinema: Studiocanal and its Works (London: Bloomsbury, 2019) as soon as I heard he was writing it; and once I began reading, I was eager to talk to him before I even finished it. This is how a Spanish-Canadian and an American ended up in a Madrid hotel room talking about the European-ness of British cinema.
Chris explains how it was seeing the credits of Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011) that sparked his interest and begun the research that would eventually become the book. The director was Swedish and almost everyone but the cast seemed Scandinavian, Spanish, French. And this at a moment of great euroscepticism in Britain. This made him realise that we were lacking research on the European dimension of contemporary British cinema and that the European underpinnings of British cinema were worth exploring.
This seemed to occur at a moment where mass-produced European cinema was achieving great success: Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014), Paddington (Paul King, 20014), the Liam Neeson action films, etc. There was a lot of flag-waving around Paddington in particular so it was interesting to see that it was financed and distributed by a French company, Studiocanal; and this also helped channel the book in the direction it eventually took.
It’s a wide-ranging conversation on Studiocanal and on how Europe also indutrially produces cinema for the masses, touching on historical antecedents (Pathé, UFA, The Rank Organisation); the influence of the Cannon Group and Carolco in the late 80s and 90s; the business history of the studio beginning with Canal Plus; the importance of a film library, and much more.
Meir demonstrates how European Cinema is industrial; how television has taken the place cinema once had for a mass audience; how this change has proved transformative for cinema and how industrial models are also changing for television. I love works of history on media industries. We don’t have enough of them. In fact Mass Producing European Cinema: Studiocanal and its Works is one of the first on a contemporary European studio. The conversation is a fascinating taster that I hope will leave you wanting to read the book.
The Conversation may be listened by pressing play on the very first image of the book above,