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“The seeds of possible collaboration can be sown”

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Mike Downey • Deputy chairman, European Film Academy

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- Cineuropa met up with Mike Downey, who shared his thoughts on the CineLink UK Partner Country 2014, and the opportunities for collaboration between the UK and the Balkans

Mike Downey  • Deputy chairman, European Film Academy

Mike Downey was part of the delegation of 20 producers, sales agents, distributors and festival representatives invited to CineLink as part of the CineLink Partner Country Initiative. The delegation met with regional film professionals to promote the possibilities of co-operating with the UK.

Downey took over from Volker Schloendorff as deputy chairman of the European Film Academy this year. Over the last 15 years, he has produced over 50 international co-productions with budgets totalling over €100 million. This contribution to the international film economy is reflected in the BFI annual Statistical Yearbook, where his company, Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME), appears regularly among the top five British production companies. F&ME is the UK’s centre for excellence in European co-production.

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Cineuropa met up with Downey, who shared his thoughts on the UK Partner Country 2014, and the opportunities for collaboration between the UK and the Balkans.

Cineuropa: What is your opinion of the Partner Country Initiative?
Mike Downey: The Partner Country Initiative is a welcome one, and one which gives an opportunity to provide an exchange of information, ideas and projects, with the hope that, whether in the near future or not, the seeds of possible collaboration can be sown. CineLink’s Jovan Marjanovic and Amra Baksic-Camo are particularly skilled at brokering this kind of event, and this year was no exception. 

How could the collaboration between the UK film industry and the Balkans be improved?
There are a number of ways in which collaboration between the UK film industry and the Balkans could be enhanced. The right legislative and film culture approach would be to reverse the UK’s entrenched position not to participate in Eurimages. If Eurimages accepted the UK back into the fold, then countries like the Balkan states could work with the UK in a much more integrated and reciprocal way. As a European nation, the UK has a serious duty to look at its position with regard to the incredible benefits that membership brings – and not only in the financial sense. 

What could help the Balkans’ film industry to grow, and what could the UK do for it?
The core development of the Balkan industry is in regional collaboration and co-production. This should be the focus of the development and growth in the region. In terms of the UK, the only thing that can be done would be to increase the amount available for international co-productions. The UK minority co-production fund is essentially looking to support projects where the UK elements elevate their creative and commercial potential. Clearly, a unique UK angle has to be present in the configuration. The core of the ideology is to maximise the economic growth and cultural reach of UK films. The backed projects are distinctly market-focused. There is £1 million available per annum. There are approximately, on average, 1,300 feature films produced in Europe annually. You don’t need to be a statistician to analyse the probabilities involved here. The Balkans, Caucasians, Scandinavians, Iberians, Celts and Post-communists don't need me to tell them to be realistic. Do the arithmetic.

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