Eurimages - The Council of Europe - Roberto Olla Part II

by Sydney Levine
October 28, 2010 3:30 AM
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Eurimages’ Roberto Olla was interviewed in a recent blog and it continues here. Eurimages is the Council of Europe fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works for “greater Europe” which goes beyond the member nations of the European Union. Set up in 1988 as a Partial Agreement, it currently has 34 Member States. Eurimages aims to promote the European film industry by encouraging the production and distribution of films and fostering co-operation between professionals. Russia seems poised to enter and Jeremy Thomas is urging the U.K. to get on board as well.

During this financial crisis, public funds are important, and they are actually quite stable. Market films and TV are dependent upon market flows and exchange rates, so investments are curtailed. Governments, similarly to banks, give money. However, governments are more stable, and with the exception of the United States, they provide a refuge for cultural entertainment. People are earning less and they prefer to go to the movies rather than to travel or go to theater or opera. (An interesting footnote is that people also tend to have dinner parties more at home rather than at expensive restaurants, and so the sale of flowers has also dramatically increased during the crisis.) Public funding allows citizens to have such entertainment. So for the last 2 years in Europe while the commercial film sector’s equity investments have been curtailed, fewer commercial films are made. While some countries have cut back on public funding of entertainment by about 10%, Eurimages even took the inflation rate into account and has continued its program unabated.

The parent of Eurimages is the European Audiovisual Observatory in Strasbourg. It was set up in December 1992. It is the only organization of its kind to gather and circulate official statistical information on the audiovisual industry in Europe. The Observatory is a European public service body with 36 member States and the European Union, represented by the European Commission. It owes its origins to Audiovisual Eureka and operates within the legal framework of the Council of Europe. It works alongside a number of partner organizations, professional organizations from within the industry and a wide network of correspondents.

Its statistics have shown that European co-productions travel to third countries more than national films do. Co-productions are by nature international and must appeal to more international TV stations, distributors, etc. In addition, European co-productions make more money now as well. National comedies make a lot of money in their own territories though they do not travel well. They tend to be very commercial; in fact, they are the equivalent to U.S. blockbusters. You cannot compare the finer, intellectual art films to these films. However, Observatory research and reports show that these films’ educated audience is more or less homogenous around the world and consequently, the “art” or “specialty” films travel better internationally and in the end make more money. This news should make what is seen in the U.S. as an endangered species happy to know, as there is strength in numbers.
You can talk of Woody Allen films which appeal across borders to these culture-oriented audiences. Analogous to this are the European co-productions. For this reason, Eurimages positions itself in that area in which 50 to 60 projects travel well worldwide.
American blockbusters, Hollywood comedies and genre films using the star system make lots of money internationally. However, regarding indies, genre and comedy, even if made in the U.S., do not travel well. Art films travel better no matter where they originate.


Villa_Schuetzenberger Built 1897-1900 by Berninger & Kraff


Four programs of Eurimages operate to fulfill two objectives

Eurimages’ first objective is cultural, in that it endeavors to support works which reflect the multiple facets of a European society whose common roots are evidence of a single culture.
The second one is economic, in that the Fund invests in an industry which, while concerned with commercial success, is interested in demonstrating that cinema is one of the arts and should be treated as such.

Bearing this in mind, Eurimages has developed four funding programs:
· Assistance for co-production
· Assistance for distribution
· Assistance to cinemas
· Assistance to digitization for Eurimages funded projects

The majority (almost 90%) of the Fund’s resources – which originate from member States’ contributions – goes to supporting co-production. Since it was set up in 1989, Eurimages has supported the co-production of about 1300 full-length feature films and documentaries. A number of these have received prestigious awards (Oscars, Palme d’Or, Golden Lion…). The rules and conditions under which assistance is awarded are revised each year in order to reflect developments in filmmaking in the member States and to respond better to the needs of those working in the industry.

The sum committed to assistance for distribution amounts to more than 800,000€ a year.

Finally, Eurimages, in partnership with Europa Cinemas, supports approximately 40 cinemas in four different countries. An amount of about 1,000,000€ is awarded each year for assistance to cinemas.
To enumerate a bit more

There are 1,100 films produced in Europe per year. On average of 250 to 260 of these are co-productions. Eurimages can support up to 50-60 co-productions (1 out of 5 or 20%), so they try to support the best of the co-production and compute their success by festivals and awards.

What qualifies for Eurimages funding

Non-European countries must have two European Eurimages members as co-production partners. Third countries’ producers cannot exceed 30% of the investment, e.g., France and Germany might fund 70%, 10% might be Argentinean and another 20% might be U.S. money.

Before Roberto Olla reformed the rules, there were two absurd ones.

1. 51% had to come from the Eurimages countries. When a non-European sales agent offered a MG to producers as a financier, Eurimages opposed it, not wanting foreign investors to control the financing of the project. Roberto erased that rule so financing can come from a non-European country as longs as the producer from a Eurimages country owns the copyright and controls the production process. So U.S. entities can have the license to distribute or represent internationally and can pay any amount feasible for that.

2. The project had to originate in Europe. The link between the writer, director, and producer had to originate in Europe, e.g., a great film by a European director with an American producer would not qualify if it originated in U.S. even if the rights on the project had been transferred to a European producer. That rule was also dumped. Now European producers can produce a film developed in the U.S. and still be eligible for funding in Eurimages.

For the readers who have made it to this point, I hope this has been helpful and persuasive in your considering ways of moving your film with its universal ideas and themes forward.

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