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MIA 2020

The MIA investigates what lies ahead for international co-productions

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- A lively panel brought together European film professionals to discuss the hot topic of whether co-productions are seriously threatened in today’s world

The MIA investigates what lies ahead for international co-productions

An open conversation among producers, financiers and funds was organised at the MIA Market, aiming to find ways to face the current and future challenges of the co-production world. Jacobine van der Vloed, director at Amsterdam-based ACE Producers, hosted and moderated the panel.

Tobias Pausinger, head of acquisitions and development at The Match Factory, argued that returning to the way things were would be a slow process, for both sales agents and producers. He also suggested that exceptions to commonly set rules should be allowed and that everyone should be flexible in reviewing what might be possible on a case-by-case basis, as each film should be treated differently.

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From her side, Iole Giannattasio, International activities, legal support, and research unit at Direzione Generale Cinema e Audiovisivo, MiBACT, stated that the fund had to react quickly and to adjust its regulations, something very challenging for a public organisation, especially when all its supported segments were hit at the same time. She also pointed out that all the changes had to be made carefully in order to be fair to everyone: for example, if films that are not distributed in cinemas receive more support, the theatrical industry is conversely affected. Finding the right balance is difficult.

Marta Donzelli, producer at Vivo Film, mentioned that most of her films are co-productions, such as Miss Marx [+see also:
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by Susanna Nicchiarelli, a co-production with Belgium that went through post-production during the pandemic and which was in Competition in Venice. Her experience shooting Non mi uccidere, the new film by Andrea De Sica (read the news), during the summer, also made her “re-evaluate” her role as producer, since everything had to be rearranged from scratch. There are more rules to be considered, especially budget-wise, and a producer’s most important quality is to remain flexible. She also underlined that the collaborations with institutions such as ANICA — she is on the directorial board — and the minister were fundamental in helping production resume in Italy. It is also important for funds to capitalise on producers’ expertise, and to make funding and support schemes easier.

Another producer who also works exclusively with co-productions, Tom Dercourt (Cinema Defacto), had to stop all shoots during lockdown. An animation film was stopped during post production, while two ongoing projects have just resumed filming. Dercourt stressed that the previous rules are now changing and there are contingencies that cross the lines of what used to be producers’ obligations. The fact that each institution has different regulations in each country makes collaboration on co-productions more complicated. For an upcoming co-production between France, Germany, and Chile, Cinema Defacto decided to increase the budget by 10% in order to cover any possible expenses, since the insurance was not covering that.

Also working exclusively on co-productions, Jonas Dornbach (Komplizen Film) was forced to stop the shooting of a film and of a series during the lockdown, and will next week begin a co-production with France. He argued that the big winners are the platforms as they have their own insurance policies, while insurance costs for independent producers have skyrocketed. Another major issue for his upcoming shoot is that the insurance only covers the expenses in Germany but not in France, while the French co-producer cannot get any support for insurance from French bodies, because he is a minority producer. Everything therefore becomes extremely local, with governments apparently not caring about what the future of co-productions will be in the next two years.

Giannattasio then mentioned that all the funding bodies are evolving and are taking extraordinary measures, which should not affect the fundamental schemes that are already in action, as this would disrupt the whole industry. She explained that funding bodies often have to examine everything on a case-by-case basis, since co-production rules cannot change on a local level and communication with other countries is necessary. Regarding the demand for increased support, especially for bigger budgeted production, there is always the danger of infringing the threshold of the majority production country, which might affect the balance of the production. For example, Eurimages follows the rules of the main production country, but if other funding institutions want to increase a film’s budget, the EU needs to approve of that before proceeding. A lot of steps need to be followed.

Regarding the threat from streamers, Giannattasio underlined that not all companies are ready for such partnerships, and this is where funding bodies have to intervene in order to support and preserve the independence of the companies, the creation of content and the film industry. Platforms can be an option for collaboration, but they are not the only way forward. On that aspect, Dercourt suggested that bringing young audiences back to theatres in the post-COVID era will be the biggest challenge. Donzelli added that producers have found solutions to continue production even when a clear policy on the insurance is missing, but a study at the European and international level is needed to evaluate the impact of the pandemic. She also suggested that the reason for this lack of insurance support also lies in the fact that insurance companies do not yet have the accurate data necessary to calculate risks.

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