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Eurimages - The Council of Europe - Roberto Olla Part I

by Sydney Levine
October 27, 2010 3:30 AM
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Roberto Olla, Executive Director, Eurimages

It has been stated that co-productions are driving world production these days, and I have been urging U.S. producers to look at the opportunities that international coproductions offer them. While it is not their salvation, nor is it the right path for all indie producers; it is creating a new and exciting vitality in world cinema. Given the major studios’ current investing in international productions and their film acquisitions to supply a pipeline for their off shore operations; given the German and French financial encouragement for English language coproductions, over the last couple of years a broad range of film types and budgets in the world of co-production has developed.
Now I have corroboration on this repetitious liturgy of mine:

Per Deadline Hollywood:

Jeremy Thomas gave the keynote interview at Wednesday’s Film London Production Finance Market as part of the BFI London Film Festival which is where I interviewed him.
As the former chairman of the British Film institute, he urged the British government to reconsider rejoining European super fund Eurimages to boost co-productions and had harsh words for U.K. leaders: ‘The problem with these politicians is that they’ve never made a film. They’re planning the war but they’ve never been in the trenches and had their faces splattered with blood. But when it comes to movies everybody thinks they’re an expert. It wouldn’t happen in any other business.’ Thomas unlike most producers owns the rights to his films and believes that should be the endgame of any independent moviemaker. (He even owns the freehold on his office building.) He launched his own sales agency Hanway Films in 1998, which has become one of the biggest in the market. 'Raising the money, shooting the film, distributing it – it’s all a nightmare', the 61-year-old said. 'But it’s better than working'. He is also quoted as saying, 'My advice to American filmmakers is to marry a European. I’m not kidding'.


Eurimages’ Executive Director, Roberto Olla, is seen frequently on “The Circuit”. I met him at the Thessaloniki (Agora) Film Market a couple of years ago, at the Moscow Film Market last year and again this year in San Sebastian. When he spoke in Moscow about Eurimages, the media financing arm of Council of Europe, I was impressed not only by him but by the ease with which he could explain what I had always seen as yet another European bureaucratic film fund. BTW, Eurimages and the Council of Europe is not the same as another film funding body called MEDIA of the European Commission. The Council of Europe goes beyond the European Community to include what is known as “Greater Europe” including such countries as Switzerland and soon Russia.

Roberto is far from a bureaucrat. He is the one who prepares new candidate countries’ entrance into Eurimages, from beginning up to the point where the Board OKs it. My guess is, he does the same with the film projects that Eurimages backs financially. In fact, my guess is, the Eurimages we see today is his creation. Trained as a lawyer in his home country Italy, PhD in entertainment law in Florence and then trained as creative producer, , he started in MEDIA right after graduating where he worked for nearly seven years until he came to Eurimages. Eurimages began operations in 1989 and now, 21 years later, it has proven its value. He revamped the rules governing Eurimages and changed it from a simple film fund to an instrument to furnish producers with vision to create films that can actually circulate among those 34 countries which now comprise Eurimages’ constituency. (It started with 12 countries.)
Eurimages is one of the engines behind today’s prize winning co-productions. Their 23 million Euros per year is a very small amount for quality films and yet they help more than 55 films per year with average budgets of 4 to 6 million Euros. Eurimages comes in at the very end for the projects when finishing funds are so hard to find. Producers must have joined forces with other producers sharing the same vision of the sort of film they want to make. Eurimages likes the money to be an instrument to make producers see Europe as an international entity, not as a conglomeration of various nationalities. That is why they exist as part of the Council of Europe. In unity there is diversity.

Other funds exist to create national cinema, which is good for guarding the local culture, but the film’s story then usually stays within its national borders. Roberto sees that as a huge and long-standing weakness of Europe. European films, as co-productions with a particular identity but accessible and interesting to other nationalities are important culturally and often financially as well, though this is not Eurimages’ prime focus. Still, should the film make money, there is a provision for reimbursing the production loan which goes back into the filmmaking fund.

Roberto has tried to simplify the rules of the game to create co-productions which circulate beyond their national boundaries. Success is defined as quality films as measured by selection in A festivals and awards.
In 2009 Eurimages had 12 films in Cannes. 6 were in Competition including the Palme d’or winner and 6 were in Quinzaine, Un Certain Regard, and La Semaine de la Critique. In 2010 a Eurimages supported film, Honey, won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale.

Eurimages films are not top box office winners. The idea of Eurimages is not to supplant the big commercial successes but to support films that could not be made because they’re controversial or they express another point of view (i.e., they allow a wider choice for the viewer, you can call this “pluralism” or “freedom of choice”), be they niche or cutting edge -- in other words, films that are too risky for market money. They foster not just creativity but “duality and diversity”.

BUT, public money is the same as private money and so it is treated in the same way. If a film generates revenues, the loan should be paid back, though, as said, whether a film will make the money back is not part of the decision making criterion. Pay back is pari pasu and pro rata, and the money is put back into the fund and used to make movies.
This ends part one of this article. It will continue in another installment to define what makes a Eurimages co-production, how it is organized and how it has continued to operate in the most optimistic way possible during this two year financial crisis, backing up its ideals with working capital. Isn’t this the dream of all filmmakers?

Read below for actual films which have received the last round of support October 4.

Eurimages of The Council of Europe awarded co-production support of 14,210,000 € for 42 films for the year 2010. 37 feature films will share 12 710 000 €, 3 docs will share 350 000 € and 2 animation features will share 150 000 €. For more details click here.

It also gave its support to 38 projects for distribution. For details click here.

Their site provides comprehensive information on the four programs, together with their funding history (co-production, distribution, exhibitions) and the application procedures (coproduction, distribution, exhibitions and digitization) to be followed.

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