Inherent value of co-productions stressed at Frames

MUMBAI: 1+1=3, film co-production is financially beneficial to the countries involved but one has to be wary of the euro pudding, ensure legal due diligence. These are a few of the ideas that came out during the Ficci Frames session on ‘co-productions a win win situation’.

CEO British Film Commission Steve Norris said: "The UK film council was set up a couple of years ago to serve as a single voice for the films. Later we realised that the UK also needed a global film strategy. However co-production is not easy to define. For instance it is difficult to tell the national identity of Bend It Like Beckham. Last year the UK government approved 132 co-produced films. A decade ago the number was ten. The European co-production convention has 28 countries signed on. This gives us access not just to France and Germany but also to new areas like Romania and the Czech Republic."

He elaborated on the advantages of co-production thus,"Co-production allows producers to merge resources - creative and talented people regardless of culture.The treaty is a legally binding contract with rules. Once a film is approved whatever benefits, subsidies exist for one country must also completely apply for the other country. However one must beware of the euro pudding. This is when you hire talent from different countries like a Spanish actor, an Italian director of photography not because of cinema techniques or script requirements but simply to avail of the benefits, the result is nonsense. The film has no identity and does not find its audience.

I feel that a treaty between Indian and the UK is vital. It has to evolve out of the needs of both the countries or else it will remain a simple piece of paper. It must be framed in such a manner that 1+1=3 not 2. Our film industry operates in a European style which is alien to India. So when the treaty is formed it will be quite different from the others. I spoke to the I&B Minister and he rightly spoke about the issue of reciprocity. I have even brought down fund managers who are looking for projects to invest in and co-produce."

Joint Secretary (Film), I&B Anjuly Chib Duggal said that co-production could especially be useful in the area of animation. Co-production will be one of the main ways of making films. "We are talking with Canada over the possibility of a treaty. Canada has 64 treaties. Besides the economic benefits that come in the form of tax breaks the communication revolution is on in full swing. Therefore people are becoming increasingly aware of content from other countries. From a situation of acceptance we now welcome different takes on a number of issues for instance ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon," she said.

Partner Denton Wilde Sapte Ken Dearsley spoke on the legal issues and other things that one must examine. "Co-production is an enabling strategy. There is a lot of detail but once you get right down to the nitty gritty it is worth it. The two types of co-productions that can be done are through treaty and non treaty. In fact very few German films are single productions as film makers want to avail of tax breaks. Usually a film producer does co-production though a special purpose vehicle. Legal due diligence is also crucial. One must make sure that the other party is not tied up in litigation. Usually split laws apply. So for some sectors of production you have the Italian law for some French. The financing plan is also important. Is it going to be through pre sales, below the line benefits or equity? You could go into overcosts which is fine as long as there is a completion guarantee."

Dearseley also pointed out the need to get insurance issues sorted out early. Usually the copyright and distribution rights are co-owned. Distribution though can run into run weather and some territories can remain unsold.

The UK has treaties with Norway, Italy, France, Germany. These require films to be made for theatrical release. However the treaties with Australia, Canada and New Zealand allow for the television product as well. In the UK however the tax breaks only apply for films. "

Another criterion for co-production is that financial and filmmaking resources must be pooled. However third party personnel can also be used like small crowds. The finance being put in must be proportionate to the film making activity. Costs that will be incurred should be included in the budget. This includes hard, indirect, overheads, deferment. Dearseley also mentioned that the authorities like to see the receipts go in proportion to the financial contribution of the country. However exceptions can be made.

Deputy High Commissioner, Canadian High Commission Brian H Dickson said that Canada had been active in the area of co-production since 1963 when the first treaty with France was signed. It is also interesting to note that 90 per cent of co-productions are done with just six countries although there are 64 treaties. So most of them are in a dormant state. From 1992-2000 507 co-production projects have been made. The fact that there are one million Canadians of Indian origin makes for a decent market.

Winter Time Films John Winter ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ spoke about a commercial project being co-produced with India. "It is about a shared audience and shared creative input. I had an Australian writer. I was able to find an Indian director who could convey the story to the American midlands while doing a musical number which would appeal to Indians. We used Indian crew as well the country’s unique filming methodology. Most Australian filmmaking tends to beindependent in nature. In terms of how they fare there is a constant flow and ebb at work. Some work while quite a few do not manage to go beyond a niche audience."


The session: Co-productions: A win - win game.

The speakers:Joint Secretary (Film) I&B Anjuly Chib Duggal, British Film Commission CEO Steve Norris, Winter Time Films promoter John Winter, Denton Wilde Sapte partner Ken Dearsley, Canadian High Commisssioner Brian H Dickson

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