The pandemic is a real storm for artistic agencies, which depend financially on the contracts they find for the artists they represent. With the careers of 125 artists and 15 employees in his charge, Maxime Vanasse, who founded the MVA Agency 30 years ago, saw his income drop by 70% in the first months of the pandemic. Today optimistic, he wants the current situation to be an opportunity to “take the bull by the horns” and make a real reflection on the industry of cinema and TV, especially with regard to the giants of the web.
What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business?
It had a dizzying impact. It’s anxious for artists, cultural businesses, because we plan everything, but you never think there is going to be a pandemic. I am a captain on board, so at first I had to spend my days reassuring others when I was not more reassured. You are used to a certain turnover, and all of a sudden you have to pump the money. We have a rent of 5,000 square feet in Outremont, on Laurier Street, which is very expensive. The fixed costs are maintained. I was ready to financially support the business until September, but there had to be subsidies. […] If I take stock, we must have losses, overall, of 25% of our turnover. In the first few months, it was 70%. The performing arts have been strongly impacted. Again, it looks like it’s a reflection of the whole of society. It is always the most disadvantaged who are the most impacted. The theater is the poor child. Dance too. These artists have been hit hard.
It is your role to negotiate the fees and working conditions of the artists. Has the COVID crisis affected them —?
Right now, it’s clear that it’s having an impact. But our concessions should not be taken for granted, that it becomes the norm. We showed a lot, a lot of flexibility. For example, a performer who receives his text at the last minute, who has children, and is told: two weeks of filming may be condensed into one, in case they close the sets … Finally, the actor learns his 90 pages for a week, and after, we agree to change the schedules. I hope the producers are going to be grateful and that they won’t take advantage of this, because it won’t be able to last.
What about the mental health of your artists? Have you had requests for psychological help?
With two or three exceptions, no. I was surprised there weren’t more than that and I analyzed why. Artists are very resilient. They’re used to the stress of not knowing the next contract, of not knowing what comes next. Otherwise, when it comes to their future, they’re more philosophical and less emotional than I imagined.
How do you see 2021?
The states general on television and cinema must be completed. There has to be a real desire to get money from people on the web. They have to contribute to our cultural ecosystem. We have to stop saying it and do it. We need money in our industry to be able to compete with the greats of this world, and to have a decent life. Because film sets are no longer fun. It’s incredible pressure for the actors, the technicians, the directors. It’s okay when you’re in a busy period, but when it’s an actor’s daily life, it gets heavy. And it’s taken for granted. If you complain at all, you get picked up.
How to improve the lot of artists?
We have never seen so much the importance of artists —. Culture is not a luxury, it is an essential need. Artists have a role of social cohesion, and they contribute to the moral and physical well-being of people. They must have the means to create, in minimal comfort. We need to have more money and for me, that goes, in part, through the giants of the web. I would even go further: there should be an obligation for the web giants to distribute part of our content, so that we make ourselves known internationally.
- Last name : Maxime Vanasse
- Profession: Founder of the MVA Agency in 1989
- Impact: Agence MVA was one of the first agencies specialized in artistic representation in Quebec. Today, Maxime Vanasse and his company manage the careers of Hélène Bourgeois-Leclerc, Pascale Bussières, Sophie Lorain, Julie Le Breton, Christian Bégin, Sébastien Delorme, Pier-Luc Funk, and Jean-Philippe Wauthier.