Overcoming co-production borders in the borderless world
by David González
- Public funding for co-productions and connecting countries in the digital era were topics at the core of the second panel of Sarajevo’s Regional Forum
After tackling exhibition and raising awareness of European films in South-East Europe during the first panel entitled “Cinema Exhibition Sector: Opportunities and Challenges in South-East Europe”, the Sarajevo Film Festival’s Regional Forum held a panel on public funding and instruments for co-productions in the digital era on its second day. The panel, “Public Funding for Co-productions: Cooperating Better Across the Borders in the Borderless Digital World”, was composed of Marten Rabarts of Eye Institute Netherlands, Robert Balinski of the Polish Film Institute, Tamara Tatishvili from the Georgian National Film Center, Dorien Van De Pas of the Netherlands Film Fund, Hrvoje Hribar from the Croatian Audiovisual Center, and independent expert André Lange, who was formerly at the European Audiovisual Observatory. It was moderated by CineLink's head of industry, Jovan Marjanović.
The panel shone the spotlight on the contrast between countries in South-East Europe (Georgia, Croatia) and other nations that have more of an international perspective regarding co-productions (the Netherlands). One of the main topics discussed was the significant boost to the countries’ industries when they increase the number of co-productions they take part in (Hribar explained that Croatia’s industry has grown to have a €550 million annual turnover) and when they are included in international funding programmes like Eurimages (Tatishvili told those present how Georgia had improved its situation through Eurimages' help, after a long and heated discussion with the WTO, which initially denied its inclusion). Rabarts and Van De Pas addressed the situation of being a country on the other side of the spectrum. “We still look at reciprocity in international collaborations – and theatrical distribution,” said Van De Pas, “also offering cash rebates and the help of the film commission to projects from abroad.”
Talking hard figures, film expert Lange gave the participants a thorough insight into the current situation. “In a study on 5,200 films from 2001 to 2009, co-produced films circulated better than non-co-produced films – and they got more admissions.” Still, by structuring the different categories of countries depending on their level of co-productions – low: Poland, the UK, Italy, Finland, the Czech Republic; high: Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland, Slovakia, Cyprus (mainly because of their larger neighbours) – he made it clear that “the importance of co-productions is very different in different countries”. These differences come face to face when the borders are somehow removed, and that is achieved through the internet and new on-demand services. So how do we get them to contribute to film funding?
In ten countries, there is a transfer system organised by the players, which are obliged to contribute to the funds or to make a direct investment. However, with the new players hailing from the US (iTunes, Netflix and so on) starting to get involved, the market is becoming a little trickier. “National players are obliged to invest, but foreign players are not,” continued Lange. Germany and France are two countries that are trying to impose a levy on these players in order to keep their industry a little healthier, but it is nonetheless seen as an obstacle to the free circulation of services by the European Commission. “If the European Commission says this is illegal, in ten years' time the entire system of transfer will be destroyed – national players will stop investing because it is unfair for them, and if the funds lose their main investors, the whole industry will collapse,” stated Lange.
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