Kim Jee-woon's 'Max' among global projects

CANNES — On the second Friday of Cannes, at its chic Old Port-side HQ, StudioCanal made the fest’s last big deal announcement.

The French major will produce “Max,” the next film by Korea’s Kim Jee-woon (“The Good the Bad the Weird”), a reworking of Claude Sautet’s “Max and the Junkmen,” StudioCanal CEO Olivier Courson declared.

And it was noted at the time that the production pairs Korea’s Zip Cinema, Hong Kong’s Lion Rock and France’s Black Mask with StudioCanal.

This essentially talent-driven international deal reflects the winds of change sweeping through Gallic cross-border filmmaking. A generation of young Gallic producers is tapping such auteurs worldwide. And it’s bent on expanding French film production beyond its French-language, artsy, auteur domain into genre-driven, English-language and animation ventures.

Such Gallic expansiveness flies in the face of recent Euro regulation trends.

“If anything, recent regulations haven’t particularly favored co-productions in Europe, including France,” says J.J. Lousberg, European executive, U.K. Film Council. “Tax incentives have become increasingly skewed towards encouraging productions to stay within the country they’re initiated from.”

But French rebate eligibility has loosened, allowing more overseas shoots. That helps explain a French majority co-production hike in 2007, says Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, which publishes an online “France: The Co-Production Guide” and runs a co-production hotline.

Majority French productions climbed 26% from 1998 to 2002 to an average annual 53 in 2003-07, according to CNC French Film Institute stats. Minority co-productions are up 27% to 40 films.

France remains, by a wide margin, Europe’s most prolific co-producer. That’s seen in many ways. Project applications for the Paris Project, the Paris Cinema Fest’s co-production forum, are up from 40 in 2004 to 200 this year, reports Project head Lucas Rosant.

And Gallic cross-border financing and official co-prods made a large Cannes splash:

  • France’s MK2 and the U.K.’s Film Four announced co-production of “Satisfaction,” the second pic from Sundance discovery Miranda July (“Me and You and Everyone We Know).

  • Pathe Intl. sold seven territories on “The Illusionist,” helmed by France’s Sylvain Chomet, but 80% financed by Edinburgh-based Django Films.

  • Films Distribution packaged financing on Wim Wenders’ upcoming “Miso Soup,” teaming Korea’s SSD, France’s Cine-@ and F Comme Film, and Germany’s GreenSky Films and Neue Road Movies.

  • StudioCanal’s U.K. distributor Optimum Releasing announced British remakes of StudioCanal properties “Brighton Rock” and “Le Choc.”

  • Cannes’ most-talked-about film, Steven Soderbergh’s “Che,” was Yank-directed but co-produced by France’s Wild Bunch and Spain’s Telecinco Cinema/ Morena Films.

Some of these films will qualify as French-nationality productions, and some will not. But the opening up of French cinema — in attitudes, reach, talent and genres — is undeniable.

The co-production surge “reflects a new producer generation, which wants to be international,” says Nathanael Karmitz, MK2 managing director.

Europe’s “industries are moving towards each other out of an interest in talent and a creative point of view,” adds the U.K. Film Council’s Lousberg.

The cross-border thrust is bulwarked by economic and market forces. “It’s harder and harder to produce a film 100% with money from only your own country,” Rosant says.

“Lots of young French directors want to work on international projects, don’t care about language or shooting in France and can work with international talent,” adds Verane Frediani, co-prexy at La Fabrique de Films. “But working in English, you don’t get French subsidies. You need international money.”

And the smartest sales agents in France are moving from just handling foreign films to packaging co-productions.

What: Readings, meetings, seminars & workshops on int’l co-prods.
When: July 2-4
Where: MK2 Bibliotheque

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