On the last day of CfP 2015 Friday 23 October industry professionals came together in the Westergas Theatre for The Financing LAB: The Benefits of International Co-production. Read the blogpost by Sarieke Hoeksma below.
In a world of reducing subsidies, the financing of projects is becoming a lot more complicated. Out of necessity, producers are forced to come up with bright ideas and, luckily, there still are a lot of national and international funds that contribute to development of quality film. However, to quote the moderator of the seminar Warren Buckleitner: you can’t catch a fish if you don’t have a hook in the water. Or in other words: producer’s need to be very aware of all these possibilities, funds, their regulations and deadlines and submit their projects to them, to be able to receive those very welcome subsidies.
CREATIVE EUROPE: MEDIA’s sub programme
One important fund that supports European independent audiovisual production is the Creative Europe Program: MEDIA. There are three support schemes: for the development of single projects, slate funding (which is a package of 3-5 projects) and narrative video games. Nathalie Ducher (Program Coordinator Development of MEDIA) stresses the importance of being very precise when submitting a project. The deadlines are very strict and the submission has to be structured and as specific as possible. Moreover, Ducher notes, producers have to be innovative. That is, a company has to be innovative through – for example - coproducing with a new partner, a new director or other new talent and that way producers should always get out of their comfort zone with a new project. For more information and the guidelines of the programme: http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/creative-europe/actions/media_en.
Floor Onrust, producer of the by MEDIA supported feature film LIFE ACCORDING TO NINO (2014), advises to be as specific as possible, to describe the project plan in detail, to always tell the truth and to contact the local Creative Europe desk for advice. Both the financial plan and the marketing plan need to be as complete as possible, including plan B’s in case the first plans turn out to fail. Onrust also adds that producers need to be aware that the project must not be scheduled for production within 8 months from the date of application. If you do not meet this requirement you will have to return the entire amount of funding, something that almost happened to Onrust’s own production and which would have caused a huge problem.
Burny Bos, producer of ALFIE THE LITTLE WEREWOLF (2011), ZIGZAG KID (2012), WIPLALA (2014), and MR FROG (2016) – films that have all received funding from the Creative Europe program – states that producers really have to take the submission very serious. ‘Do everything you can do’, he advises. It is important to look critically at your project, the financing, the quality of it, the partners. Not only to create an impressive application, but also because it is a great exercise for the development of the project. In conclusion, moderator Buckleitner summarizes that producers should provide evidence, and they should do it quickly. Hyperlinks are allowed within the submission and are even recommended to show evidence on YouTube/Vimeo of previous work and projects.
The benefits of international co-production
In addition to the national and international funds, another avenue of funding is the possibility of co-producing with partners - both nationally and internationally. Following Gary Timpson, owner of Kavaleer Productions in Ireland, there are several benefits to co-producing. First of all, it increases the talent base: shared skillsets can help develop both studios. Secondly, there is a shared risk and a potential of sharing the costs for the development of series and testing, which can be expensive. Furthermore, there are possible tax shelters and there is a license fee from the partner territory. And lastly, it broadens the market attendance and exposure of the project.
On the other hand, Timpson notes, there are also some disadvantages to co-producing. For example, the total budget will increase as there are more producers working on the project. Also, the copyright share can be a complicated matter and an inexperienced co-production partner can make the domestic financiers nervous. Therefore, Timpson argues to look for a strong partner in co-production. One that has a proven track record - also in other co-productions - and a strong understanding of their territories tax incentives and subsidies.
Peter de Maegd, independent producer at Potemkine in Belgium, describes the importance of finding a partner of the same level as your own production company. In the case that you would co-produce with someone much stronger, you risk loosing control of your own project and you might mould into the structure of the other company. Don’t work with people you don’t feel comfortable with, de Maegd advises, as this can be very stressful. We should use our passion as the remedy against stress, he states. That is, make sure you team up with the right partner to be able to handle the battle!