The twilight zone between Europe and the US
by David González
- How should filmmakers navigate the differences between US and European financing for genre films? A panel of experts answered the question at Frontières
What are the differences between US and European financing for genre films? The Frontières International Co-Production Market, which took place over the weekend in Brussels, addressed this question with a panel of experts in the field. House of Netherhorror owner and producer Jan Doense and Kinology's sales and acquisitions representative, Gaëlle Mareschi, shared their experiences in the European industry, while Glass Eye Pix producer Peter Phok and XYZ Films' head of international acquisitions, Todd Brown, shared their knoweldge of the US system. The panel, organised by EAVE - European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs and moderated by Tailored Films producer Ruth Treacy, highlighted the pros and cons of both funding models, and tried to shed light on a way for filmmakers to adapt to both worlds in order to get the most out of each one.
“Filmmakers need to be specific about the project and the partners they are looking for. There are so many opportunities, that one needs to know where to look,” said Jan Doense. Fresh from backing Chris W Mitchell's horror flick The Pool [+see also:
film profile] with his company, he stressed the benefits of working with film and cultural funds in Europe, which can provide soft money with more creative freedom than other financiers. That is, as long as the genre-film projects are presented as “elevated” - in other words, artistically, culturally and socially valuable. In his words, some countries such as the Netherlands not only foster a sense of working together, but also support a filmmaker from the beginning of his or her career, helping to forge stronger bonds that facilitate working on new projects. The Pool, an arthouse genre film in Dutch, was not able to follow the successful path trodden by Jonas Govaerts' auteur slasher Cub [+see also:
film profile], this time in Flemish. The film, sold internationally by Kinology, was one of the luckiest cases discussed. Gaëlle Mareschi addressed the importance of the project itself, regardless of the language it's shot in, in order to achieve the goals set. Cub was selected and screened in Toronto's Midnight Madness section, which, of course, boosted the film's visibility – and it was already enjoying a successful marketing campaign at the time (read more). “There have to be good ideas on how to market the film, and a willingness to let everyone know about what you have in your hands, so that festival programmers can be interested in it,” she added.
“In the US, there is not as much free money as in Europe. When you make a film, you're investing yourself; you work with what you have,” explained Peter Phok as a counterpoint to the European point of view. New York-based Phok, a regular producer of Ti West's films, and Toronto-based Todd Brown underlined the different economic tools present in the US industry, such as equity and crowdfunding (Kickstarter, especially), which are underused in Europe. As they explained, these are two ways of encouraging the get-up-and-go spirit of US film production, but they can also be a double-edged sword, as the equity system can become unhelpful for a director whose previous film hasn't recouped. Brown, who is now presenting his new project (Benni Diez's US-German co-production Stung) to the industry, assured those present that it was a good thing to have both American capitalism and the European funding system involved in the same project... but with caution. In terms of American capitalism, some aspects can be problematic, such as the language chosen: a film made in poor, non-native English will end a filmmaker's career. And regarding the European system, there are other obstacles, like funding bodies: most of the time, they can be very demanding and constrictive. “The American system is really broken, but we have to find the bits that work to make it match,” he added. If organised properly, Europe could also be on hand to enable the two continents to help each other out.
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