Industry Report: Directors Talk II, Berlinale World Cinema Fund Day
Financing Plans and Budget Management
by Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film
- Moe Honan and Emely Christians presented the back side of an international co-operation agreement between two European companies, the German Ulysses Filmproduktion and the Irish Magma Film describing the management of the animated series Ooops! Noah is Gone. "Partners in co-productions share a long and sometimes bumpy road. To be successful it helps to share the same approaches."
Moe Honan has been working with Magma Films since 1998. She works in the areas of content development, producing and voice directing predominately in Magma’s animation department. Also in the role of producer along with Anima Vitae (Finland) and Ulysses (Germany) she completed Niko and the Way to The Stars in 2008, a CGI feature film.
Emely Christians is Managing Director and Executive Producer for Ulysses Film. The company was founded in 2004 as film production company and is based in Hamburg and Bremen.
What are the main sources of finance for animation in Ireland?
Moe Honan: In terms of film, predominantly, the Irish Film Board often do contribute to television, but they prioritise feature film or at least something that has the theatre goes aspiration. Nevertheless the IFB still put some money into television series prioritising animation. That has proved to be quite good to us in Ireland and, hopefully, continues to be.
We also have tax credits scheme in Ireland, which we lovely call Section 481. It’s a quite complicated thing to execute, but it is also very attractive for the producers in Ireland, and this can apply to either film or television, it doesn’t discriminate between the two. There is also another fund which is from the broadcasting commission, called BCI; this is little bit more difficult to access if your product doesn’t fit culture boxes. For this one you need to have the support for a broadcaster. A broadcaster in Ireland has to bring your projects to the system and recommend us. The broadcaster situation for television in Ireland is not very strong at all; we have one public broadcast that looks more at live action into their commissioning. When it comes to animation they broadcasters may give a small MG, but in generally they pre-buy.
If your company is based in Northern Ireland (like Magma), we can also receive a subsidy from the Government.
Can you present your common project?
Emely Christians: We have been developing a project called “Ooops, Noah is gone…” which we brought to the Cartoon Forum. We have been developing both the future film and the series.
“Ooops, Noah is gone….” is 26 half hours episodes CGI. Our budget is currently standing at 6.4€ million, it’s an international co-production. The world sales agent is Telepool who is attached to the future film, not to the series.
Our planned completion is 2011. We are sharing the rights 50/50 as we developed the concept completely out of the companies.
What are the main difficulties you encountered in the co-production process?
Emely Christians: Co-production is a challenge. The companies have to agree on three levels: artistically, financially and personally.
Let’s start with artistic approach. This is rather easy to explore, because you can have a look of the company and the projects they did before. You can make an investigation on these works.
Financially it’s becoming a bit more complicated. It is difficult to find “public” information about the financial capacity of your potential partner. You may look at the legal structure of the company, check where they can bring money from, the team they work with, if they work with strong broadcasters.
There is a lot to investigate, and you should do it on a personal way, it is very good to meet at very beginning and to set together. All our projects were brought to the Cartoon Forum. It is an unique possibility to set together and see if there are concrete possibilities to work together for two, three years. It’s nearly like working in one office, because you talk every day; you are on the phone all the time, for two years, you establish a very close collaboration. We had regular meetings; we really see each other and not only through Skype or emails.
When you are in a co-production, there are a lot of challenges, a lot of things to test: your patience and your brain. If you don’t really stay together you will be in a problem. You now have become in one team, you have the same goal and the same target, and that is to deliver a top quality, television series and to do it in the best possible way, and you have to really remind yourself that that is your goal. But you really are married; you can’t just walk out the door.
When you are finalising your co-production partnership - and that is really always in the beginning - you are responsible for defining your own limits and your own targets. You have got to know what it is you can and cannot do, and be comfortable with that and not be over ambitious. Co-producers have to define the objectives of the work, the markets, the potential revenues.
Most important, co-producers must have a common voice together. If you are in a co-production, there could be very often different visions about how something is, either visually or from the story-telling point of view.
How did you split the work?
Emely Christians: You need to find agreement on how to split the work. The recoupment is very important. You will have different recoupment’s requirements within your own territory, depending on your financing structure and your financier’s demand, if it’s private, if it’s a bank or a public founding. The investors will all have different requests or demands and you really need to have a clear recoupment strategy.
Moe Honan: Cash-flow is really king in a co-production, it’s really important to keep an eye on the cash-flow. The cash-flow has obviously to be agreed by everybody, so you have a general cash-flow and then you have your own internal cash-flow. And this has to be managed all the time, week by week.
The milestones, which you want to achieve as work’s time, really have to be kept; otherwise all the system will fail. We had weekly Skype conference between producers, production managers, directors and creators to check the milestones. At Tuesday morning turns out to be the best one in the week.
It is very important to have a production management system. The primary task of the system is avoiding that people confuse drafts and versions of things.
When you are working with a co-producer out from the Euro zone, what can you do if there is a big change between money?
Emely Christians: basically, what we tried to do is to lock the value at some point. We tried to avoid sending money around between the countries with their own money.
Production Budget "Ooops! Noah is gone"
CGI TV Series 26x26 min.
TOTAL DEVELOPMENT COSTS: 182.000 €
TOTAL ABOVE THE LINE: 1.320.280 €
TOTAL PRE-PRODUCTION: 982.430 €
TOTAL PRODUCTION: 2.711.030 €
TOTAL POST-PRODUCTION: 452.480 €
TOTAL OTHER: 753.614 €
TOTAL BUDGET: 6.401.834 €
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