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Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Coproducing with Balkan countries. Case study: Armin (2007)


- Directo Ognjen Svilicic interviewed about his recent feature film Armin. In the interview, Svilicic talked about the collaboration with Cinelink and the co-production possibilities in Balkan countries, including his current film project Heaven on Earth.

Coproducing with Balkan countries. Case study: Armin (2007)

Armin, directed by Ognjen Svilicic; 2007; Croatia, Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Drama; 82’

In this interview the organisers of the co-production market CineLink held within the Sarajevo Film Festival between 23 to 25 August 2007, asked the producer Ognjen Svilicic his impression about the CineLink edition and a survey of the co-production possibilities in Southern Europe.

Presentation of the CineLink Co-production Market and Project Development Workshops

Sarajevo Film Festival is organizing its CineLink project for the fifth consecutive year already. In that period the project has grown to become the “industry section” of the festival now including: Project Development Workshops, Co-production Market, Awards, Screenings, Conferences, Consulting and different other services for film professionals.

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The core idea of this regional initiative was to establish itself as the place for film professionals from Southeast Europe to meet each other and their counterparts from the rest of Europe and build successful co-productions. Another important aspect was to make it an instrument for development and training, which film projects from this part of the world lacked so much.

So far so good, this year the harvest from previous editions is prosperous. Four former CineLink projects have been selected for the festival in various sections; two are having their world premiers in the main Competition Programme, one in TeenArena section for teenagers, while Armin by Ognjen Svilicic after premiering at the 57 Berlinale, shows in Sarajevo Film Festivals new “In Focus” section, presenting the best already discovered films from Southeast Europe.
After presenting the project of the film Armin in Sarajevo in 2005, Ognjen Svilicic has his new project “Heaven on Earth” presented at the 5th CineLink Market. CineLink asked Ognjen his impression about the new CineLink edition and a survey of the co-production possibilities in Southern Europe.

Cinelink: Why did you decide to make this film as an international co-production?
Ognjen Svilicic: Not only because of money. To be honest, main reason is that I think that cinematography from a small country like Croatia should be more open to the world. That’s why I and my Croatian producer Damir Teresak have chosen to find partners. Other reason is that for a long period of time I’m friends with German producers Markus Halberschmidt and Marcelo Busse. All of us wanted to do a movie together, so that combination of friendship and interest was the main reason to do a co-production. What I want to say is that personal contact is really important. And CineLink is a perfect platform to establish that kind of contact. Not to mention that Sarajevo is a right city to make friendships.

Which development funding options were available to you?
We were counting on Croatian Ministry of Culture. Once a year they open a fund for films and we got their full support. Other option was Croatian Television and they also gave us support. In Croatia these are the two main sources to make a feature film. After that, our German partner applied to Nordhein Westfalen Film Fund and we got their support too. Last support we got from a fund from Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. If we are talking only about developing the script than CineLink was the most logical choice. It is the only script development program in the region. So we did not look any further than that, even if there are some European funds, but we wanted to start production as soon as possible.

What did the work with a foreign script doctor bring into the script?
We worked with Franz Rodenkirchen, one of the CineLink script doctors. He made this script understandable for foreign audience. It’s a kind of outside look that everybody from this region needs if we want to gain any international audience. So beside very good script doctoring, we got also more clear and international script.

How did you find using a co-production market for getting the project of the ground?
I see CineLink and any other co production market as a tool. It depends on every filmmaker how he is going to use that tool. Cinelink is not giving solutions, it is more pointing to the possibilities. So we used this co production market to see how to upgrade our project. To get some feedback. Because in the time when we approached the market, we already had public money from Croatia and partners from Germany. Some other filmmaker in some other situation will probably use market in a different way. Sort to speak, our plane was already in the air, but we needed a good ground control, and that’s what CineLink did for us. When we finished the movie CineLink organized for us closed test screening which was very successful and got us to Berlin Film Festival.

What was your co-production structure and how it came about?
Major producer was Damir Teresak from Croatia, and he was handling the shooting in Zagreb, Markus Halberschmidt from Germany was in charge of postproduction, and Bosnian producer Ademir Kenović was in charge of shooting in Bosnia. I think that it was very precise agreement who is doing what. That’s the most important thing. And of course to do that job well. Believe it or not, not only that all sides in co production stayed in good relationships, but we all became really close friends. So the result of this co production is that all of us want to do next movie together.

What was the “festival strategy” used?
I think it was Berlin or nothing. We all like this festival, and it was worthy to be there. Before Berlin we found world sales – MDC International, and after that everything was easy, because they made the festival strategy which depends on their market ambitions. For example – they are closing the deal for distribution in Norway, so they send a film to festival in Trondheimm. Same happened with France, or Finland. Of course, we got lucky so we got our movie presented on Tribeca and Karlovy Vary also, but that’s the cherry on top of this festival cake.

Was the film released theatrically in all the co-producing countries and what are the prospects for its further circulation?
It finished distribution in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Germany it will open somewhere beginning 2008. It is sold to France for theatrical release and it’s opening on August 15th. It’s sold to Sweden for theatrical release also, and it’s opening before New Year. The MDC International is also pretty close to closing the deals with Norway, Turkey, Finland, and Sundance channel, and they are opening new deals every month. So, we are happy with this situation that international co production ended with international distribution.

How are you developing your next project?
CineLink again. This time we are in the early stage of finding money and it’s a little bit more complicated because we need international cast. We have some good advises from CineLink on which door to knock this time, because every project is different. But we have a little bit more time, so we hope to make right decisions concerning next partners. This time we would like to have some big TV station as a partner, because script is more open to wider audience. At least, I hope so.

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