CANNES — Euro film producers usually don’t need much encouragement to talk about the precarious state of European film and the domination of the global biz by the Americans. But at least one producer on Friday’s Variety-sponsored panel, “Hits Without Borders,” sounded a surprising note of optimism — and defiance in the face of the Hollywood titans.
Peter Olberg, from hot Danish production company Zentropa Entertainment, said Danish cinema is positively thriving precisely because world-renowned auteurs like Lars Von Trier make pics without worrying about what studio bosses in L.A. will think of the product.
A ‘no depression’ strategy
“The only way to handle the U.S. market is not give a damn about it,” said Olberg. “I don’t care about it. If they want to buy our films, they have to come to Copenhagen. This is the only way to deal with them. Our primary market is Europe. It’s 10 times easier to not think of strategy. So there’s no room for depression.”
Ironically the Zentropa exec’s comments came a day after Von Trier inked a two-picture deal with U.S. companies Fine Line Features and Good Machine Intl.
Panel moderator Steven Gaydos, managing editor of special reports at Variety, kick-started the discussion on an upbeat note by noting that Italian helmer Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful” is far and away the top-grossing foreign-language pic ever in the U.S. But the Euro execs on hand were quick to point out that Benigni’s Oscar-winning pic is more the exception than the rule.
“As independent American film has become stronger, foreign film has become weaker,” Dutch producer Ate de Jong said.
The British advantage
London-based entertainment lawyer Lisbeth Savill said Brit producers have a big advantage in selling to Hollywood, given that they always shoot in English, but she said it’s now tougher to nab a U.S. pre-sale.
Roberto Cicutto of Italy’s Mikado Film complained that Euro TV webs don’t do enough to boost homegrown cinema, while British Screen topper Simon Perry said the U.K. production sector continues to be in shaky financial shape.
German producer Stefan Arndt (“Run Lola Run”) suggested the solution was more cooperation between filmmakers in different Euro territories, and U.S. indie veteran Jonathan Dana added that it’s key to work with partners in Europe who understand the film biz on both sides of the Atlantic.