An interview with Sabine Brantus and Catherine Colas, programming managers at ZDF/ARTE.

Short Film – as a format – has been modified in the last few years thanks to the new platforms. Can you share with us what short film means to a traditional television channel like ARTE?

ARTE is a channel open to new adventures. Short film itself is in motion. The genre has always been multiple and throughout the last past years, it has taken more and more mixed and  hybrid forms…We buy worldwide and try to present films which are, in some ways, “state of the art”. ARTE, being as you said a traditional TV programme, is still encouraging young filmmakers to find new ways and a cinematographic approach. ARTE and the slot Court-Circuit/Short Circuit definitely plays the role of a discoverer. Our aim is also to build bridges from short to long and long to short, mainly within the European Art House Cinema. Being screened on ARTE helps filmmakers, along with a presence of their work at festivals, to take a step in the industry.

How do you work with shorts? If I have a script, can I approach you, or should I wait to finish my film to contact you?

ARTE is a channel, which produces, co-produces and buys short films. So, yes, you can send a script, either by knocking on the door of ARTE France or ARTE Germany. In order to know how to proceed, have a look on our website. There, you can find the name of the commissioning editors on both the French and German sides.

What do you look for if you want to buy a short?

We look for an author, for an artistic point of view, for an engagement.  A look  into society. Even imperfection is good! It can be animation, fiction, experimental – from 2 minutes up to 60 minutes. As a matter of fact, ARTE broadcasts a middle-length film every Friday night, after the slot Court-Circuit!

ARTE has been existing for more than 20 years. Do you have an always changing target group or has it been the same since the beginning?

As a French-German  cultural  channel, ARTE has a very strong profile and a target less  fluctuating than other TV broadcasters.

Do you get feedback from your viewers regarding the short films you programme? Is it possible to say what kind of films they like?

This is a difficult question, especially for ARTE, being a channel crossing frontiers. Considering our slot on Friday nights, we can see that the audience is a community of very open-minded viewers, who want to know and to discover more. Of course, we have ratings.  We can evaluate which films have more viewers on screen and off-screen, as our films can be found online on the ARTE website. But while choosing the film, the author, or the project we want to promote, thinking of the “likes” would be too much of a self-censorship, which is not welcome on ARTE.

You have a late night programme for short films called Short Circuit. Would it not be possible to put it to a more frequented time slot? Would it not be possible to screen some really short shorts individually, in between two feature-length programmes?

We are happy to have a weekly magazine dedicated to short film on TV! A 52 minutes running magazine enables us to present a large scale of shorts and not only the “short shorts”, as you say. Furthermore, “short shorts” have their place on ARTE between programmes during day time. In addition to this, short series like “MAMMAS”, “Minute Vieille” or ” Silex and the City” are running  during prime-time on a regular daily basis.

Cinema. Television. Internet. VOD platforms. Do you think these platforms can live alongside each other happily? How do you see the position of ARTE in this constellation? Is it going to stay a traditional TV channel or are you planning to enter new platforms?

ARTE is quite beyond its time concerning the use of technology. We have ARTE+7, Live streaming, the Arte website of Court-Circuit, etc… These platforms can live happily together. Their target groups may be different, and they may offer a broader choice. ARTE plays the role of a curator: selecting the works, presenting them,  not reducing them to an Internet-aesthetic…

You have a new media platform called ARTE Creative. What is the role of short films in it?

“Court-Circuit Labo” presents a range of experimental short films on this platform.

interview by Dániel Deák