Cécile Le Vaguerèse-Marie
Cécile Le Vaguerèse-Marie is head of the Onda, the Office national de diffusion artistique (French office for the circulation of performing arts) that offers several mechanisms to support structures committed to working with live performance.
Published on 12/11/2021
You have just been appointed head of the Onda, - The French Office for the circulation of performing arts. Could you tell us about this institution and its missions?
The Onda is an agency created in 1975 to connect artists, particularly emerging artists, with promotion structures. That is still its mission today. It is a public service that only functions in the subsidized sector: we defend every discipline in the live performing arts, except for the field of music, where we focus on jazz and contemporary music. The Onda works with about a thousand partner structures, at the national and international level. When it comes to working internationally, we focus on importing foreign artists to perform on French stages. We hence work in a very complementary manner with the French Institute, which is in fact more concerned with exporting French artists for foreign stages. We willingly take risks and support young companies that have difficulty finding bookings, and whose creative process is fairly long. We provide a financial guarantee for promotion structures that accompany them, to support the artistic risks they take. Helping emerging artists means ensuring that promoting shows will allow them to grow, and permit companies to progress and gain recognition.
What are the guiding principles of your work as head of the Onda?
I am not going to touch the Onda’s DNA, as it already functions very well. What I consider my mission is shifting the gaze of programmers, who sometimes need the Onda to allow themselves to be convinced to accompany unusual and/or innovative shows. Of course, the current situation is complicated with Covid-19, and it requires us to adapt our project. This pandemic has created numerous difficulties but has also forced us to question our approach and change the way we work and travel. Today, it is difficult to widen the audiences for live shows. The pandemic created new tools and allowed a new audience to discover these shows thanks to digital content. Earlier, there was a real separation between live performance and the audio-visual world, sometimes between the artists themselves, who ignored each other. My second mission will be to work with the different regions. Today, five French regions have created specialist agencies to accompany live performance, and they have developed a network called La Collaborative. Others have not yet taken the step, or do not want to do so. Our efforts target these groups, in order to support them in their work related to regional cultural policy.
Concretely, how do you support artists and performances halls?
We do not support artists directly, but we do support the structures that programme them. Our advisors see almost everything it is possible to discover. This small, extremely active team truly works in the field, and follows the work of a considerable number of companies and sites. They create a link between the artists on the one hand, and programmers on the other. This allows us to establish a real climate of trust. Our team knows the programmers and artists very well and can suggest creations that correspond to both parties. We also organise international meetings and itineraries, sometimes including assistance for mobility, in order to allow them to discover foreign shows.
The Onda offers a new scheme in the form of assistance to experiment with digital content. Did the Covid-19 crisis accelerate the development of this practice?
As part of its stimulus package, the Ministry of Culture gave us a large budget, which allows us to work on these new distribution channels via digital tools. We have just published a tender for a project called Live Screen to support this. This strategy targets artists via live show promotion structures, to allow them to develop their digital practices.
What will the privileged distribution channels for these recordings be?
Shows that are filmed in their entirety will be handled by the CNC, that will then be the link to television channels like Arte, TV5, France Télévisions, or the Culturebox channel that specializes in live performance. But this scheme will also help international promotion. This summer, a large number of foreign programmers did not attend the Avignon festival because of the pandemic. These recordings were a way of compensating for their absence and keeping the doors to international promotion open. Another key question is free distribution: either on television, or social networks. The projects we support must be freely available. We are also working on all the aspects of facilitation around the show itself: documentaries, capsules, and artist interviews, which can explain their approach. These audio-visual documents can then be used in schools, in the context of a pedagogical project to prepare a school group’s visit to a theatre. Some companies also create web-series for distribution on social media, to prepare the launch of a show. A few years ago, a company in Cherbourg created a web-series that created a buzz in the town, which led to full houses. The aim is to continuously try to go beyond the historical separation between the audio-visual and stage worlds.
Onda is a regular partner of the Institut français, particularly for the Focus. Focus is a major influence plan for artistic scouting to feed the programmes of prescribing foreign partners and to contribute to better distribution of French artists.
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