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Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Funding and co-production opportunities in Eastern Europe and Baltic countries


- EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) presented Funding and Co-Production Opportunities in Eastern Europe and Baltic Countries held in December 2007. Manfred Schmidt director of MDM, Tanika Sajatovic EAVE Workshop Assistant, and Karlo Funk from the Estonian Film Foundation were invited as guest panellists to talk about the recent changes in the film industry structures in Eastern Europe.

Funding and co-production opportunities in Eastern Europe and Baltic countries

EAVE’s Eastern European Cinema panel presented funding and co-production opportunities in Eastern Europe and Baltic countries. The guest experts on the panel were Manfred Schmidt (MDM, D), Tanika Sajatovic (SI) and Karlo Funk (Estonian Film Foundation, EE).

Manfred Schmidt, Executive Director of the Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM), elaborated on his many years’ experience in co-production with Eastern Europe. Manfred Schmidt began with the observation that MDM was from the very beginning interested in co-production with Eastern Europe, but he emphasized that it was hard to talk about Eastern Europe in general, because there were huge differences among the countries. In the last years MDM supported more than 50 co-productions and more than half of them were co-productions with Eastern Europe.

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Manfred Schmidt pointed out that cultural exchange was one of the reasons in favour of co-production. Helping Eastern European films to travel was important, because it was difficult for them to cross borders. He also pointed out that co-production was not a value in itself. In his opinion co-production should be considered only when there was a potential in the story and from the financing sources. Manfred Schmidt underlined the importance of developing long-lasting relationships and willingness of the country’s authorities to support international co-production and develop strategic co-operation. The structures (infrastructure, financing resources, producers’ network, etc.), in different Eastern European countries have changed considerably in the last few years. Many countries established film institutes or similar public bodies in order to support national film production and also international co-operation. The producers got more experienced and many young producers started to work on international co-productions. He observed that from the point of view of a German film fund it was much more interesting that co-production partners were involved in development and not only in financial co-productions.

MDM mostly co-produced with Hungary, Czech Republic and Bulgaria. He observed that a new generation of Bulgarian producers and filmmakers contributed to recent success of Bulgarian films. He also found the territory of former Yugoslavian countries interesting for co-operation, mostly because of the talented young producers and directors.

Manfred Schmidt shortly introduced new German-Polish Co-Development Fund, a joint funding initiative of the Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and the Polish Film Institute. The fund has a budget of 150.000 Euro and aims to support the development of co-productions between Poland and Germany. MDM has also a partnership with Connecting Cottbus, which takes place during the Cottbus International Film Festival, specialized in screening films from Eastern Europe. Connecting Cottbus is a co-development forum and aims to encourage contacts and co-development of projects between Eastern and Western producers.

Manfred Schmidt remarked that the number of markets offering the possibilities to meet potential co-production partners was growing, also in Eastern Europe: CineLink in Sarajevo (BiH), Crossroads in Thessaloniki (Greece), Industry Meetings B2B in Belgrade (Serbia), Sofia Meetings (Bulgaria), CentEast in Warsaw (Poland). He advised the producers to build up their networks and to take time to find the right partners, because Eastern Europe has a huge potential in terms of interesting projects and talented filmmakers.

Tanika Sajatovic, EAVE Workshop Assistant, Meeting Coordinator of the Berlinale Co-Production Market and CineLink, and former Head of Media Desk Slovenia, gave a general short overview of the audiovisual landscape of former Yugoslavian countries. Due to the war in the nineties the population of 22.750.000 people was divided into 6 countries: nowadays 2 million people are living in Slovenia, 2 million people in Macedonia, 3.9 million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 4.4 million people in Croatia, 9.8 million people in Serbia and 650.000 people in Montenegro.

Regarding the funding institutions she observed that only Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had specialized public film financing bodies, in the rest of the countries funding decisions were still carried out by the national Ministry of Culture. In 1995, Slovenian Film Fund was established in Slovenia; in 2002, The Foundation for Cinematography Sarajevo was established in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Some statistical data: considering the budgets available for the support of film production in the region, the total support amounted up to 11.4 million Euro: 4 million Euro in Slovenia, 4 million Euro in Croatia, 1 million Euro in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1.3 million Euro in Serbia, 1.1 million Euro in Macedonia and 50.000 Euro in Montenegro. The average number of feature films produced per year in the last three years: 3-4 films per year in Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina; 6-9 films in Croatia and Serbia. The average feature film budget: 700.000 - 1.000.000 Euro.

Acknowledging the above mentioned statistics she raised the following question: Why would European producers want to co-produce in the region? Obviously, we couldn’t speak of rich or big production, but there were two things in favour of co-production: all countries are members of Eurimages and all countries signed European Convention on Co-Production. Still, in her opinion the most important reason to co-produce dwelled in talent coming from the region. To support her opinion she drew attention to some of recent success stories:
- Berlinale 2006: Golden Bear for Grbavica by Jasmila Zbanic, BiH (co-production with Austria, Germany and Croatia)
- San Sebastian 2006: in competition Border Post by Rajko Grlic (first co-production of all former Yugoslavian countries!)
- San Sebastian 2005: Alatadis Award for Gravehopping by Jan Cvitkovic, SI (more than 20 other awards at film festivals all over the world)
- Cannes 2004: in competition Life is A Miracle by Emir Kusturica (co-production between Serbia and France)
- Berlinale 2004: in competition The Witnesses by Vinko Bresan, CRO
- Berlinale 2003: in competition Spare Parts by Damjan Kozole, SI
- Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002: No Man’s Land by Danis Tanovic, BIH (UK-Belgium-Italy-France-Slovenia co-production; numerous other awards all around the world)

Regarding the international co-productions Tanika Sajatovic observed that the co-production partners mostly came from bigger European countries like UK, Germany, France and Italy, but also from Austria, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands. Co-producing within the region was brought to a standstill due to the war until 2002, but nowadays more and more projects find their co-producers “only” in the region. At the end she pointed out that although the region was lacking any kind of tax incentives, which could attract co-production partners, its potential dwelled in a new generation of talented filmmakers and producers who were eager to work internationally.

Karlo Funk, Head of Production and Development at Estonian Film Foundation (EFF), presented co-production possibilities in the Baltic countries. His first observation was that co-production in the case of small, but not rich countries, was bound to be a pragmatic issue. Generally, Estonian producers find their co-production partners in Finland and Latvia. Speaking about the Baltic region he observed that an Estonia-Latvian-Lithuanian co-production had not been shot yet.

Karlo Funk shortly mentioned the financing bodies in the region and their yearly budgets: in Lithuania - Lithuanian Film Studios (mostly big US co-productions are shot), Lithuanian Ministry of Culture with a budget of 1 million Euro; in Latvia - National Film Centre of Latvia with a budget of 1.5 million Euro, Film Board of Culture Capital Foundation with a budget of 1 million Euro; in Estonia – Estonian Film Foundation with a budget of 2.8 million Euro, Estonian Cultural Endowment with a budget of 1.3 million Euro and Estonian Ministry of Culture with a budget of 600.000 Euro. He also added that there were no tax incentives in the Baltic region. Regarding the most known co-productions shot in Estonia he mentioned Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky and Lilya Forever by Lucas Moodysson.

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