Government coin fuels foreign partnerships

BERLIN — While Teutonic filmmakers have always been eager to partner with foreign producers, beefed-up government support could make international collaborations more attractive than ever.

One of the country’s most industrious co-producers, Berlin-based Egoli Tossell, currently has a number of high-profile co-productions in the pipeline. Company is partnering with the U.K.’s Zephyr Films on “The Last Station,” Michael Hoffman’s $16 million project starring Anthony Hopkins as Leo Tolstoy and Meryl Streep as his wife.

Egoli Tossell raised roughly 30% of the budget from German federal and regional film subsidy funds, including the Federal Film Board, the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the Mitteldeutsche Medienfoerderung (MDM) and the $80 million-a-year German Federal Film Fund, launched earlier this year.

“This shows that a major international film like ‘Last Station’ can be made by combining attractive and innovative financing arrangements in Germany,” says Egoli Tossell’s Jens Meurer.

Pic is set to shoot in Germany this summer.

Egoli Tossell also is teaming with Doug Mankoff’s Echo Lake Prods. on Gillian Anderson starrer “Helen,” the first English-language film from German writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck.

Anderson, fresh from her roles in “The Last King of Scotland” and the upcoming U.K. thriller “Straightheads,” portrays a talented professor forced to come to terms with her clinical depression. Pic will start shooting in the U.S. in September with support from German regional subsidy agency Filmstiftung NRW.

“It’s the story of a successful woman who has it all but whose life falls apart as a result of this disease,” Meurer says. “It’s also about her overcoming the illness against all the odds.”

The drama is a change for Nettelbeck, who wrote and directed the 2001 hit romantic comedy “Mostly Martha,” which served as the basis for Scott Hicks’ upcoming remake “No Reservations.”

In addition, Egoli Tossell is partnering with Georgian Films on “The Master of Farnow,” an English-language feature based on a German book, with Richard Kwietniowski set to direct from a screenplay by Paul Mayersberg.

In the vein of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Farnow,” which stars Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others”), is a romantic and erotic tale of love and deceit among wealthy families living in lavish country estates in northern Germany in the early 20th century.

Company also is collaborating with Zephyr on Agnieszka Holland’s “Peter and Catherine,” about the 18th-century Russian czar and the Polish maid who went on to become empress of Russia. Chloe Sevigny is set to star. MDM and the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg are backing the $16 million pic.

Another project on the company’s slate is “Hector’s Journey,” an adaptation of Francois Lelord’s international bestseller. Company is looking to produce the project with U.K. and French partners.

While “The Last Station” will be partially financed by the Federal Film Fund, which just allotted $12.3 million for Warner Bros.’ “Speed Racer,” the first international production-allotted coin from the new support cache was Ole Christian Madsen’s Danish World War II drama “Flame & Citron,” starring “Casino Royal” villain Mads Mikkelsen.

The fund provided $460,000 to the project, a fact-based gangster drama about two Resistance fighters. Pic, which co-stars Christian Berkel, is shooting in the Berlin and Brandenburg region as well as in Prague and Denmark.

Stefan Schubert and Ralph Schwingel of Potsdam-based Wueste Film Ost Filmproduktion along with Lars Bredo Rahbek and Morten Kaufmann of Nimbus Film are producing “Flame & Citron,” as is Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures.

“‘Flame & Citron’ is a further example of how German producers and filmmakers are becoming more and more involved in international productions,” says Henning Molfenter, managing director of Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures. “Through the German Federal Film Fund, German producers have the chance to gain international standing.”

Most of the post-production on “Flame & Citron” will be done in Berlin and Brandenburg.

Meanwhile, Senator Entertainment’s Marco Weber is overseeing the company’s growing slate of U.S. projects.

Senator has just started production on its first U.S. pic, Dennis Lee’s ensemble family drama “Fireflies in the Garden,” with Weber producing and starring Julia Roberts, Willem Dafoe and Carrie-Anne Moss.

Company also is in pre-production on “The Informers,” based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel. Project begins shooting this summer.

Meanwhile, Studio Hamburg Intl.’s Prod. (SHIP), which produced Florian Baxmeyer’s upcoming teen drama “The Three Detectives and the Secret of Skeleton Island” that Buena Vista Intl. will release locally, recently unveiled a $27 million credit line underwritten by the Berlin, Brandenburg and Hamburg state governments for English-language pics targeted at the global market.

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