France looking to up int’l pic pacts

CANNES — France is taking steps to boost cross-border film projects between Gallic producers and their Italian and British counterparts.

Negotiations are now under way with Rome and should start soon with London to consider pre-buys of French pics as risk investment, comparable to co-productions.

Under the guidance of the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC), the French are trying to solve a problem that has dogged co-productions throughout most of the 1990s.

Traditional co-productions have tended to be a struggle to put together because they necessitated meeting requirements relating to French talent involvement in order to qualify for French public funding.

In order to facilitate co-productions, France instituted new financial co-production rules in the early ’90s that dropped the artistic requirements but called for a degree of reciprocity — every time a French company took a minority stake in a Brit project, for example, the British were supposed to do the same in France.

Unfortunately, while French companies such as Studio Canal Plus, UGC and Telema have shown an interest in backing Brit pics, their counterparts on the other side of the Channel have been more reluctant, and the system has virtually ground to a halt as the reciprocity clause kicks in.

Over the last eight months, CNC head Marc Tessier and his team have been holding discussions with the Rome authorities. The French are suggesting that pre-buys of French pics will become roughly equivalent to co-productions. If Italy pre-buys three Gallic pics, then that will open up the possibility for French producers to take minority stakes in three Italian projects.

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