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."