Methodology, Skills and Professional Benefits Participants Participants' Comments MEDICI Coordinator and Head of Studies «The 12 Labours of Hercules» Report of the Reports – Workshops 1 to 4

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First Workshop Report – 25 to 27 April, 2012 – Sigtuna (Sweden)

Case Studies — MEDICI — First Workshop — Highlights

Module 1 — Three case studies

Questions to Roberto Olla, Executive Director — Eurimages (supranational fund):

Eurimages has an overview of many (almost all) funding mechanisms in Europe. Do the funds share the same view of their role as public funders? What is the reach of a public fund? How does it deal with political pressure?

⇒ Our mandate

There is a limit to my role, given the Statutory documents. Eurimages was born because the MEDIA Programme could not take care of cultural matters. As a Council of Europe Fund, it does not have an economic mission, nor does it seek to make a commercial or industrial impact. Its core value is clearly cultural.

Our main objective is cooperation in the cinema sector; we seek to foster good and common practices in production, and to encourage the exchange of work methods. We want to incite people to work together using coproductions as an instrument of collaboration, not only at the production stage but also to improve market access. After 23 years, we can say producers share a common language.

Helping films circulate better is very important to us. MEDIA does it very well: they have more money. Given that coproductions improve the circulation of films outside their original market, Eurimages should help producers to give earlier and stronger consideration to the distribution of their films.

We are also interested in contributing to a diversity of films, widening the range of choice for consumers.

⇒ Our relation with the industry

We do not have a mandate to protect or represent the Industry except when sitting on the Council of Europe. We are complementary to the actions of other funds such as national or regional funds. Being the last source of financing — ever more difficult to find in today's context — our support affords professionals better filmmaking conditions.

⇒ The selection of projects

Eurimages is a quality label. What we look at during the evaluation and decision processes is the quality of a proposal. A film's potential as a commercial success is not a criterion of decision, despite our interest in seeing films cross borders.

⇒ Political pressure

I have 36 governments on my back with different priorities, ways of managing funds and specific patterns. My solution: sticking to the rules. It works when they are precise enough and applied without exception.

There are some clear differences between countries due to the definitions and missions of the film bodies but also to the personalities of the Heads of funds and the people working within those organizations.

On one hand, the mission of national funds is to look at and support the Industry as a whole; regional funds are more interested in the economic impact. For producers, it can become a real puzzle to assemble the differing opinion pieces!

On the other hand, there is the Jeanne d’Arc category or “patronizing approach” used by film funders who want to protect their projects at all costs, even if they are not good, while others seek to support the best projects from their own countries.

⇒ Conclusion

Eurimages has come a long way, and the decision process has been improved but it can’t be perfect. We are trying to make sure that the best films are funded, and to please a maximum number of people. The number of Eurimages members is on the increase, and so too the number of coproductions, but it all falls under the same heading! The rules of the game are good, but they should be rethought over the next couple of years. In 2013, a study will be launched on the support systems of the member states and the current effectiveness of the role of Eurimages.

Questions to Laufey Gudjonsdottir, Director — Icelandic Film Fund (national fund)

Public money is crucial to the industry. No public money – no films. How can budget cuts be faced and a fund reorganized?

How can a small country, like Iceland for instance, face a 35% budget cut?

We decided to consult the producers subsequent to the financial crash and discuss solutions together. The strategy adopted is to not cut everything proportionally but:

Questions to Katarina Krave, CFO — Film I Vast (regional fund)

Film I Vast (FIV) has existed for over 20 years. It is one of the strongest regional funds. Today Film I Vast faces different challenges — above all, how can it at once support cultural projects and sustain an industry. How can it bridge the gap between cultural reality and economic reality? How does it cohabit with national funds?

What is the philosophy of the fund? Is it possible to coproduce jointly with national and regional funds? What kind of balance can be stuck between the two?

The task is not easy, but it is possible. Collaboration is a necessity today, as opposed to the situation 15 years ago. This is due to growing regional funding for films, which today comes to 25% of the total of public funding in Europe (with 75% coming from the national funds)[European Audiovisual Observatory figures].

For FIV, the key element is getting to know each other better, so as to improve working together. This implies more understanding and knowledge of each other.

Is FIV economically or culturally driven?

For FIV, so far the accent has been on the cultural rather than the economic. But we cannot ignore that there is a film industry. For political and budgetary reasons, we need to use the argument that funding films does create jobs, and that it impacts economically on the region.

Is any prerequisite needed to foster a regional effect at FIV?

Yes, but the cultural takes over. When selecting projects, we have a choice between two main criteria: namely their high quality standard, or else their larger audience potential.
We are not concerned with the nationality of the film, and have no problem cooperating with any country.

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Module 2 — Part 1 — 3 case studies

Questions to Roland Teichmann, CEO — Austrian Film Institute (national fund)

The Austrian Film Institute (OFI) sees itself as an “open house” for all people involved (producers, directors, writers, distributors…). What type of collaboration from funders would most benefit the industry? How do you position your fund: as a public service? As a facilitator? And/or as a leading organization — that is a policy maker — or as both?

⇒ OFI as an open house

We have to encourage not only producers, but also all professionals. Everybody is at the same level, treated the same way, both small and big producers.

A fund is in a tricky position. It is not a studio: it has to maintain a certain ethical stance and have the open-mindedness of someone in an advisory role. I rarely say something is impossible. I prefer saying "go for it," and if any problems arise, let’s talk.

We are managing State money. Transparency is thus a big issue. We have to give clear answers and explain why a project has not earned support.

⇒ Selection of projects

Films will not come into being without the support of a national fund. Happily, the financial crisis has not yet hit us. We operate on cultural grounds, but we try to measure the economic and market outcomes. This is not easy because the national market—which is quite small — always has its ups and downs. To the contrary, the international market is doing quite well for our films.

Questions to Jochen Coldewey, Head of Funding – normedia/Germany (regional fund)

normedia is not only a provider of funding but a partner in all phases of realization of creative projects. What does that mean? How do they collaborate with the other German regional funds?

Introduction on the German market: about 200 German films theatrically released, 2 federal funding systems and 7 regional funds.

nordmedia was created in 2001. Its budget comes mostly from TV. Its website is very informative, including all the details about the film commission (location, production guides etc.)

All the events, services, and activities are set up on the fund’s initiative, but we proceed to collect their feedback from the professionals at the end of the year. We do this in order to revise/change/improve our guidelines, practices and procedures for the coming year.

Questions to Martin Smatlak, Executive Director — Slovak Audiovisual Fund (national fund)

The industry is directly represented in all of the fund’s bodies (board, selection committee…) and takes part directly in the fund's policies. Where do you draw the line? What kind of dialogue do you have with the film industry?

⇒ Dialogue with the industry

…Quite a lot. I spent 13 hours yesterday, including 9 with the Board, discussing with professionals!

The Slovak Audiovisual Center was established in 2009 further to a new law. It is a public institution with a Board and a director. The budget of the fund is 6.5 Mio € a year. It comes from both the State (60%) and the private sector, mostly TV (40%). The director is considered a civil servant and must maintain a neutral position.

We are an interface between the government and professionals who are involved at all levels:

On the Board: 9 members represent different categories of professionals.

On the selection committees: the decision-making process for projects involves professionals within the different committees (documentaries, feature films, distribution, festivals…). These committees meet about five times a year.

⇒ Transparency

The fund is fully transparent. All information is available on the website: applications, decisions with explanations and signed contracts!

Even the meetings of the Board are open to the public…

We have endless discussions, but in a real spirit of dialogue. We must understand each other.

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Module 2 — Part 2 — One case study

Questions to Ivar Kohn, Executive Director Development & Production — Norwegian Film Institute (national fund):

How does a public fund see the role of Producer? What does it expect from them?

⇒ Experience and knowledge

There are more producers (10 to 15) producing about two films a year. The producer’s experience is essential in our decision-making process. Sometimes we ask them to team up with another, stronger producer to improve chances for good financing, a better distribution strategy etc. We are fully convinced that it is important to develop a generation of well-armed producers.

We need producers who are always willing to fight for their film to be the best one — persons who are ambitious, knowledgeable and skillful. We know that being a creative producer is a very difficult job, because they have to know a lot about the script, about how to work with talents and distribution. We want to encourage them.

We want producers we can trust to recognize talents, who know what added value means and how money is best spent. We need producers who have trust in us, and who understand the relationship between funders and professionals. We are not an enemy, but a friend.

Producers need the same from us: a fund that has ambitions, that deserves their trust, is transparent, has good rules and sticks to them.

⇒ In short: AMBITIONS, TRUST, TRANSPARENCY.

Nonetheless, we need to be careful. Producers have to please us because we are the customers. We serve you and you serve us…it can be a vicious circle. It is crucial that we take the audience into consideration one way or the other, in order to break out of the circle.

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Module 3 – 3 case studies

Questions to George van Bremmen, Head of Finance — Netherlands Film Fund (national fund)

What sort of models could best serve the needs of the industry while, at the same time, taking on the responsibility and the accountability of public funding?

In the Netherlands, films are going to have a hard time due to budget cuts and a decrease in available funding: a cut of about 25% of the Film Fund budget, the disappearance of any tax scheme or regional fund (Rotterdam has disappeared), and art house films that are doing less and less well in theatres without any other source of revenue (like VOD etc).

We also need to find alternative solutions to our financial support to projects. The Netherlands Film Fund covers 30 to 35% of the budget of a film. This position is too strong; we feel it is unhealthy for us.

Thanks to our CEO, Doreen Boonekamp, the structure of the organization has been reorganized and its regulations revised (simplified by 20%). It is much more readable now, and concentrates on:

Questions to Claus Ladegaard, Head of Production & Development — Danish Film Institute (national fund)

The Danish Film Institute is very open and flexible. What are the core activities that would better serve the industry (scriptwriting, development, Production, distribution, promotion, professional development…)? How do you design guidelines best suited to the industry?

⇒ Our core activities

Decision-making in funding – guidelines in deciding what to fund. Take risks? Give chances? Or be more protective of public money?

We do not have a systematic approach. In our opinion there are two important issues:

⇒ The challenges we are facing

The role of the producer versus the role of the fund: we have changed the role of the producers because we, the funders, have become more involved in the process. Producers have mixed feelings and opinions about our respective roles and this needs to be clarified.

The role of the commissioner: we need to create a new kind of commissioners — we have to find them or else teach them the job.

The projects: as of 2006, it became important to make our professionals understand that audiences no longer want the low budget, realistic stories they were in the habit of producing (the Dogma concept).

What about the political element? There is so much press coverage about money being badly spent. Nevertheless, our point of view is that the money spent on films represents but little compared to what is spent in other fields, such as medicine etc.

Questions to Olivier Mueller, Head of selective programme/cinema — Federal Office of Culture (national fund)

As a country with three different languages and cultures, how can a national fund better serve the production of national films and, at the same time, sustain a viable industry?

⇒ Financing available in Switzerland

OFC is the main funding institution with a selective and automatic scheme. 20 Mio. € are devoted to productions.

There are also regional funds such as Fonds Romand/Cineforom (6 Mio. €), Zurich (8 Mio. €), and investment from TV (about 8 Mio. €).

⇒ Cultural diversity

Switzerland is a micro EU with a number of states, a small population (8 Mio), three languages and many minorities. Cultural diversity is part of our identity.

This means different markets:

⇒ The projects

Different problems in Switzerland:

 

Photos by Daniel DePierre

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