Co-productions are the order of the day here in MIFF Business Square. As festivals have changed from being solely places of seeing films to places of conducting business as well, the next generation of filmmakers have a great need to know about co-productions because co-production means co-financing. This day was devoted to how to access financing, which (lucky Europe!) means knowing the public funds. The funds are increasingly opening up to non-European films as long as there are European co-producers. Russia seems more and more open to co-productions herself and is waiting to hear whether it will be accepted into Eurimages, the Council of Greater Europe, an organization which goes beyond the European Union and has some similar activities in terms of media funding.
Martin Blaney, correspondent for Screen International moderated a long day of presentations and discussions about international co-production financing. Mike Goodrich of Screen was supposed to have moderated but the cab he was in going to the London airport was hit and he is suffering from whip lash. Hope Mike feels better soon and was not seriously hurt!!
Germany is making a strong showing here in Moscow, with the Berlinale represented by Nikolaj Nikitin and Sonja Heinen who spoke about the Co-Production Market as well as about the World Cinema Fund. The Co-Production Market credits itself with being the starting ground for Mongol. Film Foerderung Hamburg helped to fund Russian director Sergei Bodrov’s epic tale of the Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan. FilmFoerderung Hamburg, which is one of 8 German regional funds, contributed €380,000 ($459,000) to the production which received North American distribution through New Line and HBO Films’ distribution company Picturehouse Films. It was co-produced by Russia’s CTB Film Co. along with Germany’s X Filme.
At the Co-Production Market’s last edition there were 2 Russian co-productions.
The World Cinema Fund has also been very effective while operating on a miniscule budget of €400,000. Twice a year, out of 110 projects, 3 or 4 are awarded a share of this. The countries served include Latin America, Africa, Central SE Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.
While there are 8 regional film funds in Germany, there are also 2 national German film funds. Of the 2 national funds, the FFA operates like France’s CNC with a percentage of box office receipts going toward the fund. Kirsten Niehus, the Managing Director of film funding for Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, another of the 8 regional funds, explained that their €25 million fund’s grants must be spent in the region of Berlin and Brandenburg, can be combined with other funds, and require a German co-producer. Their top grant is 20% or €2-300,000 per project. Manfred Schmidt, the CEO of MittleDeutsche Medienfoerderung also spoke and explained his presence there as part of the former East German portion of Germany based in Leipzig, about an hour away for Berlin. I have heard that while financial resources are being squeezed, the regional funds are in competition with one another which is a good thing for worthy projects.
Connecting Cottbus is one of the oldest festivals featuring Eastern European films. Gabriele Brunnenmeyer, its artistic director invites 145 guests from Eastern Europe and has a pitching invitaitional as well. There is a traditional place film financing for Eastern European films and its success is engendering other festivals who are trying to duplicate its success.
Other Germans in attendance, aside from producers, were Angelika Krueger-Leissner, a member of the German Parliament, and spokeswoman on Film Policy for the SPD Parlamentary Group, Deputy Chairwoman ofthe Committee on Culture and Media, Simone Baumann of German Films, Prof. Dr. Dieter Wiedemann, head of the German Film School HFF Konrad Wolf and his assistent Angela Bernasch, the Go East FilmFestival, Julia Kuniss of Russian Film Week Berlin.