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HFM Boat Session #2: Financing & Co-Production

Boarding the co-pro boat

HFM guests had to make a stark choice 30 September, whether to take to Utrecht waters on the finance boat or to wax lyrical on the subject of co-production on a second boat captained by IFFR CineMart’s Marit van den Elshout.

After a lengthy introduction procession as everybody onboard underlined their co-pro credentials, topics ranged from juggling priorities on a complex co-production, Netherlands Film Fund priorities, the creative benefits of co-production and how co-pros can go wrong. The session was rounded off with an inevitable assessment of how Brexit may or may not affect European co-production in the future.

Ian Prior of Scala Productions explained how their exec-producer contribution to the €2 million North Macedonia/Hungary/Albania/Belgium co-production Willow largely lay in the provision of post-production services. Despite being directed by Academy Award-winning Milscho Manchevski, the film didn’t meet BFI co-pro funding criteria. “They have a co-production pot of around £1million per year,” pointed out Prior. “The priorities are world-class filmmakers making a film engaging with UK cultural content…, a project originated outside of the UK that offers an opportunity to an outstanding UK talent and a third priority, which is a little looser from my perspective, which is a project that would be enhanced by UK involvement… I guess you can interpret it one or two or more ways.”

Were there any cultural differences or hurdles to overcome while working with the international partners on the film? In the main no, he answered, as Scala Productions’ Nik Powell’s knowledge of the European production scene and force of personality was a huge plus. Now and then there were language issues, “but fortunately we had a producer on the ground in Macedonia who was fantastic and had a real can-do attitude.”

Answering the same question on cultural differences, Slovenian producer Joško Rutar, former director of the Slovenian Film Fund, stressed how “we are now seven different countries that came out of the former Yugoslavia, and we more or less know each other, so you have a network of partners in every country… and you work with them and the partnership are created on a long-term [basis].”

Joran Willink of BIND spoke about how his My Extraordinary Summer With Tess benefited from the co-development fund operated between the Netherlands Film Fund and MDM (Germany), which meant that from the word go he worked very closely on development with his German co-producer Ostlicht Filmproduktion to make sure that the film would also work well in Germany, as well as in other countries. “This takes more time but it was very interesting to get feedback from the very first line… The co-development fund was a good idea. I would love to do this again.”

Peggy Driessen-Bussink, the Netherlands Film Fund manager of Dutch minority co-productions, laid out the minority co-production funding available for international producers. Total support for feature-length amounts to €3.1 million. From this, €800,000 is earmarked for four VAF features (€200,000 per project), €100,000 for VAF Extra (for an outstanding Dutch/Belgian co-production) and €200,000 for a VAF feature animation. In addition, €200,000 is set aside for four HBF projects (€50,000 each). This leaves approximately to €1.8 million for feature-length co-pro support.

In addition, approximately €300,000 is set for documentary minority co-productions (of which €150,000 is earmarked for Flemish docs). €100,000 is given to short animation minority co-productions and support can be set aside for outstanding experimental film applications as well. Distribution support in The Netherlands for Dutch minority co-productions is also available, with a maximum contribution of €10,000 per project.

Changing tack, moderator Marit asked how the European industry will work with the UK after October 31 2019. Thomas den Drijver of New Amsterdam put the question into perspective, stressing how Dutch/UK co-production has always been somewhat clouded given the UK’s inability to guarantee reciprocity. “If I give money to an English project then the chances that I will get back on another project are slim to none.”

Just as the Brexit discussion was looking to get lively, the landing quay came into sight and guests were reminded that this topic was set to be addressed, consumed, cogitated over and digested the next morning in the presence of BFI representatives and Marleen Slot, producer of Sacha Polak’s UK-based Dirty God, which she co-produced with the UK.

Tekst: Nick Cunningham
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