“A confined president:” that was the headline for my editorial, which was published last week on TV France International’s Le Mag blog.

What an odd situation has been spreading throughout the world. We’re supposed to live for April in Paris. It’s supposed to be the best time of the year. Even the weather has been perfect here, with blue skies five weeks in a row. One just wants to go for a stroll outside.

TV France International, a supporting body for France’s entertainment industry, typically gets people from the industry together in person and helps its members travel around the planet to meet buyers. Now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these activities are prohibited.

We have therefore had to reinvent ourselves, while at the same time fervently hoping that come September, when our Le Rendez Vous is scheduled in Biarritz, everything will be back to normal.

Being forced to work from home is an unprecedented oddity. Not commuting by métro to the office, not travelling at all, not having the pleasure of sharing information over lunch — all of these are real losses. I even miss the multiple constructive talks I often had at the threshold of the offices with my staff. These social exchanges permitted us to share information and to solve problems.

Consequently, I now write numerous e-mails, receive an awful lot in return, and spend most of my time staring at my computer screen, phoning people, and on virtual e-meetings.

Surprisingly, I find myself working longer hours than usual. Time flies. I start working by 9:30 a.m. and other than a short break for lunch, I tend to work until 7 or 8 p.m. The exceptional weather in Paris does, however, allow me to enjoy the sun shining on my terrace from time to time.

Indeed, our new reality has turned us from an organization based on consistent human interactions to one focused on a multi-screen virtual dialogue. So far, I find it sad and isolating, and I hope it shall never be the rule.

Meanwhile, we have been helping our members work differently, through digital means. We’ve helped them open thematic screening rooms or e-markets in order to further promote their programs. We’ve helped them get information from international markets thanks to our audiovisual attachés at local embassies.

We’ve also been working to recreate cancelled events online. Among the live events that can’t happen this year are: Series Mania, MIP-TV, and Annecy’s MIFA or Sunny Side of the Docs in La Rochelle. For each of these events we’re trying, thanks to digital tools, to recreate the activity as much as possible, highlighting our members’ titles, and showcasing their programs. All of this is made possible thanks to our own digital platform, ScreenOpsis, which gathers tons of French TV content at a unique and singular address. We push this information to our extensive buyers’ list, which includes buyers for many different genres, including drama, documentaries, animation, feature films, etc. Each of the buyers, in return, can screen their program choices on ScreenOpsis.

Since the beginning of this crisis, TV France International’s permanent team, led by Sarah Hemar, has been working creatively and inventively to ensure that our traditional member services have remained as close to normal as possible.

The team at TV France International is talking to our members every day. We need to get their feedback on how the market is responding to the situation. All of them are in motion, working hard from home to keep things up and running, as well as to serve their clients’ needs. Indeed, since the outbreak of the virus, not many programs have been produced, and broadcasters are in immediate need of available finished content. Content is more necessary than ever, therefore opportunities do exist in the international market for those able to meet the demand and deliver quickly.

We are also in touch with our members ​to get their ideas on how to help them further in these trying times. This will allow us to better understand the actual state of the markets and the mood of the buyers.

We recently (virtually) held an executive committee meeting of our association, and next week, we’ll host a board meeting. We still work a lot, but each of us is now on his or her own little island.

Some interesting questions have arisen: What of these new work habits will survive after the crisis?  And what lessons will we be drawing for our future? ​

Hervé Michel is president, TV France International. Elected by the 120+ members of the association, the president represents the association in France and internationally. He chairs the board of directors and works closely and on a daily basis with the general manager of the association.

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