Berlin Film Festival 2013

Germany’s well-earned reputation as one of the world’s leading co-production countries continues to attract international projects despite growing competition from neighboring European states.

The country has remained a favorite destination for co-productions thanks in large part to generous financial support — the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), which the government increased by $13 million to $117.5 million in November, coupled with some $290 million in additional production and development subsidy coin from federal and regional offices — state-of-the-art facilities and an industry that boasts a keen international outlook.

The DFFF alone funded 35 international co-productions last year to the tune of $23 million, including Ron Howard’s Formula 1 drama “Rush”; Bille August’s “Night Train to Lisbon”; Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac”; and Brian De Palma’s “Passion.”

Alfred Huermer’s Integral Film in Munich and Said Ben Said’s Paris-based SBS Prods., which co-produced “Passion,” are also partnering on “The Keep,” based on Jennifer Egan’s contemporary gothic novel; it’s set to shoot in Germany later this year.

Studio Babelsberg is also co-producing Wes Anderson’s upcoming pic, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which is set to film on location in the city of Goerlitz and around the state of Saxony.

The Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg is providing more than $600,000 in support for the film, which is also expected to land additional coin from the DFFF and regional funder MDM.

The producers of “Rush,” which include Exclusive Media and Cross Creek Pictures, partnered with Berlin-based Egoli Tossell and Action Concept in Cologne on the production.

Tobin Armbrust, Exclusive Media’s president of worldwide production and acquisitions, had nothing but praise for his German co-producers and the top-notch crews.

“The only question was how to navigate the various regional subsidies and try and get the most bang for the buck (but) “our (local producing) partners were very helpful in trying to figure out which regions were most efficient to shoot in, where we could get the best rebates or subsidies and which were best suited the production,” he says. “That was something we were always concerned about, simply because it was unknown territory for us.”

Armbrust says the local producers were not only crucial in helping to secure the most subsidies, they also provided production services on the ground for what he calls “an incredibly complicated film” that had lots of stunts and period shooting.

With a budget of about $55 million, “Rush” received some $4.3 million in federal and regional coin. While much of the film was shot in the U.K., about a third of the production took place in Germany and post is being done in Berlin.

Similarly, Brazilian director Karim Ainouz’s upcoming trans-Atlantic love story “Praia Do Futuro,” starring Wagner Moura and Clemens Schick, also proved the ideal co-production.

Produced by Berlin-based Hank Levine Film and Coracao da Selva in Sao Paulo, the pic tells the story of a Brazilian lifeguard who travels to Berlin after falling in love with a German tourist.

The production secured some $680,000 from the DFFF and regional funds as well as financial backing from Brazil.

Local producers applaud the country’s efforts to attract international productions.

Mathias Schwerbrock of Film Base Berlin produces his own projects and provides production services for foreign companies shooting in Germany.

He is currently serving as line producer on the Berlin shoot of Bill Condon’s Wikileaks film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruehl (which will shoot mainly in Belgium) and on Marjane Satrapi’s upcoming “The Voices,” a dark drama about a mentally disturbed man convinced that his house pets are talking to him. The latter, a $12.5 million co-production between Mandalay Vision and Studio Babelsberg, is set to shoot here in April and expected to secure regional and federal coin.

Schwerbrock, who co-produced Farhan Akhtar’s Bollywood hit “Don 2,” starring Shah Rukh Khan, is also partnering with Paris-based Bliss to co-produce Indian-born director Prashant Nair’s “Umrika,” a comedy about a man in search of his brother who left their small Indian village for a better life in the U.S. That pic will shoot entirely in India with post-production set for Germany and France.

“As a line producer and as a co-producer, I’m really happy with the support of the Medienboard (Berlin-Brandenburg) as well as of the DFFF. It’s really needed to attract productions here. Every international producer or financier is now asking, ‘What’s the soft money I can source in my destination?’ It’s either Belgium or Ireland or the U.K. or Germany or France or Italy — you have the tax credit everywhere now. Decisions are made on how much soft money you can source internationally.”

Eager to boost international co-productions and attract projects to Bavaria Studios in Munich, Bavariapool Intl. Coproductions, a joint venture between Bavaria Film and Telepool, recently inked a co-production agreement with Paradox Entertainment. The companies partnered on Peter Howitt’s thriller “Reasonable Doubt,” starring Dominic Cooper and Samuel L. Jackson, which Grindstone Entertainment is releasing in the U.S.

While the film did not shoot in Germany nor tap German soft money, Bavariapool provided equity and brought Wild Bunch Germany on board for German rights.

It’s the first of five films Bavariapool and Paradox are planning to produce together. Their next project is the $13 million English-language thriller “Black Butterfly,” which initially had Nicolas Cage attached but is now being recast and will likely shoot this summer in Germany. Regional fund MDM is backing the production with $1 million.

Bavariapool’s Frank Buchs says competition for big budget international co-productions around Europe is growing, especially in countries like Italy, which offers a 25% deduction in costs for international productions, and Belgium, where rebate incentives can provide even higher savings.

“This is actually why we’re fighting so strongly for our German market here, to bring projects to Germany. It’s competitive around the world. Everybody is opening their wallet in a way, so you have to convince your partners that you want to have them in Germany, you have to have the correct options.”

BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
Streaming brings boost to Berlin | Berlin films deliver diversity, box office | Lanzmann’s films bear witness for the future | Kosslick opens doors to global talent | New blood keeps EFM healthy | Big-name auteurs pepper Berlin lineup | Nonfiction payoff is for real | Germany remains a fav for co-productions

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