Media program that helped 'Pina' land 3D screens may add money

ROME — “Pina,” Wim Wenders’ touching and technically innovative 3D tribute to late great dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, is a noteworthy success story for European auteur cinema, earning more than $16 million worldwide — a stellar total for a docu.

But such success for the well-reviewed film wasn’t always a certainty — until funding to support the film’s distribution model came from the Media Program, Europe’s biggest source of soft money, which supports mainly distribution and exhibition.

Producers wanted auds to see the film in 3D, which is such an integral part of the film’s performance-heavy aesthetic. “(But) most of the movie theaters that usually play Wim’s films were not equipped for 3D,” notes “Pina” producer Gian-Piero Ringel.

The film received €550,000 ($725,000) in distribution support from Media, which helped distribs in a dozen European territories secure appropriate screens and market the film.

“While having Media funding has always been important, these days it has become crucial,” says Antonio Medici, general director of Italy’s BIM Distribuzione, which earned a strong $1.7 million from “Pina” in Italy.

The question at last year’s Berlin Film Festival was whether the Media program would continue, amid cuts to a swathe of arts-related funding across the continent. That possibility prompted a collective uproar by Europe’s film industry honchos. The program is now being revamped and reorganized by EU pols, likely under an umbrella arts-funding model called Creative Europe, in an effort to maximize transnational circulation of European movies and expand the industry’s horizons. More details are expected to surface on May 22 in Cannes when the EU’s culture czars hit the Croisette.

Also in Cannes, in a clear sign that Media wants to broaden its sphere of influence, it will award its first prize ever to Iranian helmer Asghar Farhadi (“A Separation”), whose next film will be shot in French in Paris this fall, produced by Gaul’s Memento Films.

Meanwhile, European industryites are clamoring for an increase of Media’s roughly $132 million annual budget, about 55% of which goes toward distribution, with the rest going to exhibition, development, and training and promotional programs, with digitization of Europe’s movie screens a priority.

Europa Distribution, which comprises more than 100 of Europe’s indie distribs, issued an April 24 appeal to keep Media’s core activity, consisting of schemes for distributors and sales agents, unchanged.

Martin Moszkowicz, topper of Teutonic independent Constantin Film, says,”Opening markets for European movies is an important part of what the European Union should be promoting,” he says.

But any attempt by Creative Europe to have more creative control over European movies would likely spark outcry.

Many Euro auteurs cautioned in the April 24 appeal that Media must not create new schemes, which could be seen as threatening the traditional support for distribution and exhibition, “which have proven over the years to be very successful.”

Indeed, new initiatives for the Media program are on the Creative Europe agenda, including a fresh $264 million film production fund in addition to current coin — amounting to a 20% budget boost, which would allow Media to maintain its current focus as well, according to Media Desk Italy topper Giuseppe Massaro.

Massaro believes Creative Europe could be in place by the end of this year. And while discussions on new guidelines are under way, other considerations on the docket figure to be day-and-date distribution via new technologies, notably VOD, which could help films move quickly across multiple territories.

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