Nadia Khamlichi • Producer
by Aurore Engelen
- Umedia, the historic Belgian Tax Shelter intermediary, is revving up its international production activities. Cineuropa met up with Nadia Khamlichi
Founded ten years ago on the heels of the launch of the Tax Shelter law, this year Umedia has made a significant strategic shift, refocusing its activities on the executive production of international projects. Though the company is carrying on with its Tax Shelter fundraising activities, it has also recently signed a cooperation agreement with Belga Films, handing over to it the distribution of its films for Benelux, in order to be able to concentrate more on production. Nadia Khamlichi, Umedia’s CEO and co-founder, reflects on the firm’s journey so far.
We raise between €50 million and €60 million per year, and we do 30 to 40 co-productions with Tax Shelter funding. In 2010, we founded a line-production company as well as a distribution outfit and a special-effects facility, followed by our international sales activity, based in London, in 2012. Today, the screenplays that were kicked off four years ago have now achieved a level of maturity that allows us to get going with their production. This strategic shift to full-fledged executive production is a great present for our tenth birthday.
Setting our sights on the international sector
We have an international vision of the cinema that we want to produce. I’m going to use some words that often get misinterpreted, but we want to make commercial films. For us, “commercial” doesn’t mean substandard quality; rather, it means films that there is an audience, or even a demand, for. Sometimes that can mean arthouse films from somewhere else. Though we sometimes only provide the Belgian Tax Shelter piece of the cake, our aim is to organise 100% of the film’s funding, by going to look for the sources of funding that are best suited to each production, with a view to maximising the return for the producer. That’s really our area of expertise. Certain projects could go to studios or mini-studios that would be happy to write them a cheque, but they would also swipe all of the rights that go with it, and the producer would be left with nothing. We have in-house experts who have an in-depth knowledge of all the available funding systems, and we can work on projects with Anglo-Saxon funding models as well as French ones.
A different kind of Belgian cinema
We are producing Sketté, Olivier van Hoofstaadt’s film, in the same vein as Dikkenek. We are thoroughly convinced that we can make films in Belgium that constitute a more marketable type of cinema and that are more open to the international domain. For example, a film like Grace of Monaco [+see also:
film profile] involves a five-week shoot in Belgium, 50 Belgian employees, 300 extras… It’s enormous. And then if you add in the special effects, that’s an expenditure of €4.5 million. It’s a European co-production with Belgium, with a US-sized bill. The film is definitely meant to be exported. We don’t want to limit ourselves to this vision of Belgian cinema that inevitably has to be very private, to deal with social issues, or be lacking in humour… Among our projects still in the writing phase, we have Universal War One, an adaptation of a comic book written by a Frenchman and published by Marvel, with Skip Woods (The A-Team, X-Men Origins) writing the screenplay. It’s a space opera, a sci-fi movie, with a lot of special effects and a budget of between $60 million and $80 million. But it will be a Belgian film, made by a Belgian producer... However, our flagship project is Sandcastle, which we’re co-producing with Mark Gordon, the independent American producer. It’s the story of a soldier who enlisted during the first Iraq War, and whose squadron gets ambushed. The movie will be directed by Seb Edwards and will star Nicholas Hoult, who first rose to fame in the TV series Skins, and has appeared in A Single Man and the two latest X-Men instalments.
The Tax Shelter reform
What a saga that’s been! The proposals initially put forward to the government would have brought the Belgian film industry to its knees overnight. The version that was voted in is objectively very good in principle, despite the misprints. It’s still very attractive for investors, as well as for producers, even though there are some very real operational risks in relation to the way the date of entry into force has been drawn up…
(Translated from French)