Co-production pact to be signed at Berlinale

COTTBUS, Germany — A historic German-Russian co-production treaty is due to be inked by the two country’s presidents at next February’s Berlinale, sources close to the talks said Friday.

The treaty — modeled on an existing Franco-German co-production treaty that formalizes relations between producers and funding bodies in the respective territories — should help put existing cooperation more firmly on the political map, heads of two key regional German film funds involved in drawing up the treaty said.

Kirsten Niehuus, managing director of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, said a draft treaty was nearing completion after months of talks between the German and Russian sides.

“A decision needs to be taken very soon if they want to make it in time for a signing at the Berlinale between (German chancellor) Angela Merkel and (Russian president) Vladimir Putin, because soon after the festival Putin is due to stand down,” said Niehuus, who was attending an industry co-production event at the 17th Cottbus Festival of Eastern European Cinema near Berlin.

It was not yet clear whether Putin would be in Berlin personally to sign the deal.

Although Russian and German producers are already making films as co-productions under an existing European Union convention, the new treaty would lift the status of co-productions and send out a positive message on bilateral relations between Germany and Russia, Niehuus added.

Sergei Lazaruk, deputy head of Russia’s state film funding agency, had met frequently with German partners in the past year to formulate the treaty and was due to meet with Peter Dinges, head of the German federal film fund FFA in Moscow early December, Niehuus added.

Lazaruk was also in Cottbus for screenings of a number of Russian films in the festival’s program. He is due to attend the annual meeting of the Franco-German treaty group in Versailles, Nov. 22-23 along with a group of Russian producers. The Russians are expected to study the co-production model there, which includes a special joint ring-fenced fund specifically for Franco-German co-productions.

Manfred Schmidt, head of regional German film fund Mitteldeutsche Medienforderung, said a heads of state level treaty would give an “official seal of approval” to co-productions between the two countries.

“Our co-production meeting we held with the Russians during the Berlinale earlier this year was very important especially for young producers from Russia as they could see that the authorities are behind such things,” Schmidt said.

The funds that Schmidt and Niehuus head are co-producers on Russian director Ilya Khrzanovsky’s epic new film “Dau,” contributing a combined 700,000 euros ($1 million) to its $5million budget, a similar amount to that coming from the Russian state fund.

“Dau” will tell the story of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of a scientist called Landau; set in five different time periods and five different locations (although not Germany), it has a cast of 40,000 — necessary for its epic crowd scenes.

Shooting is due to start in St Petersburg, Russia, in March. The Teutonic money will be spent in Germany on crews, insurance and post production services, Schmidt said, adding that regional German film funds were required to have 100%-150% local spend for their contribution to co-productions.

Location shooting in their regions was not essential.

Artem Vassiliev, of Moscow’s Phenomen Films, producer for “Dau,” who was in Cottbus for the Connecting Cottbus (CoCo) industry event, said a Russian-German co-production treaty would help producers solve logistical problems and access funds.

It could also help address critical issues such as customs regulations for bringing expensive production equipment back and forth across borders without having to pay excessive duties designed for permanent import or export items, he added.

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