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VENICE 2021 Venice Production Bridge

Co-productions are still European film industry’s firepower, say the panellists of the European Producers Club

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- The talk explored the measures put in place by European film bodies to resume filming, the new opportunities offered by virtual production and new co-productions models

Co-productions are still European film industry’s firepower, say the panellists of the European Producers Club

On 5 September, Hotel Excelsior’s Spazio Incontri hosted the annual panel organised by the European Producers Club as part of this year’s Venice Production Bridge (2-7 September). The event, titled “Co-productions: toward a revolution?” was moderated by the body’s managing director Alexandra Lebret.

In his opening speech, Italian MEP Massimiliano Smeriglio talked through the delicate times we are living in and why it is still important to talk about co-productions. He explained that figures show how European co-productions sell roughly three times more than domestic productions. These films, moreover, circulate almost twice more than single-country titles, despite the fact that our fragmented market is characterised by a number of different languages and cultures.

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Firstly, Netherlands Film Fund’s CEO Bero Beyer spoke about the support measures provided by the body to protect the industry: “The pandemic was so intense that, way more than before, everybody had to realise we’re in the same sinking boat,” he said. He explained that the outbreak came at a time when power structures in the film industry were already being rediscussed. “For us it was logical to make sure that, despite COVID, we were not gonna be the problem. [...] Whatever happens, we got your back,” Beyer added, and then listed all the provisions that allowed productions to resume filming, to incentivise cinema-going and to keep the sector alive through the crisis. The power shifts currently taking place, however, are seeing certain players gain more and more profits and prominence, and this can be problematic for those who wish to remain independent, he concluded.

Next, Film Fund Luxembourg’s managing director Guy Daleiden disclosed a co-production model they tried to develop some time ago. The idea was to involve four directors and four producing countries – Austria, Ireland, Denmark and Luxembourg – and to produce one film each. Every country had to be involved financially in the other three films (a minority stake) and you could shoot everything domestically, with no need for travel or foreign spend. “It simply didn’t work for egoistical reasons,” he said. “Everyone wanted to be the first starting their project and we ended up scraping the whole thing.” With Beyer, they are now implementing a similar model but only involving their national agencies as the two parties. The deal will total €500,000, to be funded over the coming years and spread over different co-productions.

Later, EFAD’s (the European Association of National Film and Audiovisual Agencies) secretary general Julie-Jeanne Régnault insisted, among other things, on the necessity to strengthen a certain European model for co-productions, with independent producers sharing rights and IPs and not playing the role of service providers. European and domestic funding, she argued, should be granted to this type of works. She also praised the role of Eurimages in promoting said co-production model and admitted: “We’re in the middle of this battle, the battle for IPs and for good investment models.”

Hummelfilm’s producer Gudny Hummelvoll mentioned some of the challenges she has to face when it comes to co-productions. The main ones include finding a distributor at home, and to foster creative collaborations when co-producing (even at co-development levels, as suggested by Beyer) rather than simple co-financing.

Finally, LED Unit’s CEO Max Pavlov (who attended virtually) touched upon the role of technology as a game changer in film production, and then talked about LED Unit’s newly-built 16,000 sq ft virtual production facility utilising real-time rendering, camera tracking hardware and LED screens. The studio’s background, he added, can update to match camera perspectives in real time and LED panels can replicate highly realistic backgrounds. A possible future model owing to these technological developments, he argued, could see one country contributing with digital assets, one providing key crew members and HUDs, and the other handling principal photography in a virtual production studio. “This could affect the whole co-production landscape,” he concluded.

Despite some industry reps’ initial scepticism, Pavlov said that, eventually, they realised how virtual production can make the process faster. The recreation of locations through digital assets, he argued, may be “three times cost-effective” compared to filming on location.

A final round of contributions and questions rounded off the panel.

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