Eurimages tries to cut the red tape

Financier thrives in co-productions

BERLIN — Since 1989, Eurimages has been one of the central pit stops in the convoluted maze that filmmakers enter when they embark on a European co-production.

“We only deal with the creme de la creme of European productions,” Eurimages topper Jan Vandierendonck states proudly. “Receiving Eurimages monies also holds a certain prestige, and our support opens doors.”

Indeed, the list of Eurimages-sponsored co-productions is pretty impressive. In the past, Lars von Trier’s “Dogville,” Hany Abu-Assad’s “Paradise Now” and Michael Haneke’s “Hidden” received Eurimages coin.

During its most recent spending round, more than $6 million in production monies were assigned to 11 co-productions, among them Haneke’s “Das weisse Band” (which received the maximum amount of $1 million), Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void” and Theo Angelopoulos’ “Trilogy II: The Dust of Time.”

On average 200 productions apply to Eurimage per year. Half of those are weeded out and not even put in front of the commission because they don’t comply with Eurimages’ requirements. Roughly half of the productions that reach the final round, however, receive production coin.

Decisions are based on artistic merit with a special emphasis on auteur-driven pics, but concerns over the likelihood of a project being distributed internationally also come into play.

The org, which is headquartered in Strasbourg, now has 33 member states, and Armenia (together with the Ukraine) has already made an official application to join. But while the number of member states is growing, there’s little chance that Eurimages’ annual co-production fund of $30.7 million is likely to increase.

“It’s simply not enough money to go around. I wish the Media program would give some money to Eurimages. Nobody understands Media anyway, and Eurimage is a tried-and-tested scheme,” opines Veit Heiduschka, Austrian producer of “Hidden” and “Das weisse Band” and recipient of the newly created Eurimage Award at the EFAs this year (see above right).

“Eurimages is becoming more and more important to producers from small countries, because the big European countries like Germany have increased their requirements for local spending,” Heiduschka adds.

Vandierendonck agrees: “As long as the current drive by European governments toward increasing local spending requirements continues, there’s a need for us to exist. We don’t mind where producers spend their Eurimages money.”

However, as free as filmmakers may be to spend their Eurimages coin, securing it requires a huge amount of paperwork. “Eurimages is an insanely complicated financing tool,” says Teuton producer Alfred Huermer, who received Eurimages coin for Martina Gedeck starrer “Clara” as well as Jaco van Dormael’s “Mr. Nobody.” “There are so many countries and people involved, it’s a very slow-moving apparatus, especially when you’re used to dealing with national subsidy boards. I don’t mean this as a criticism, it’s just an observation.”

Indeed, Eurimages does have a bad rep as far as bureaucracy is concerned.

“You really have to ask yourself whether the relatively small amount you eventually receive is actually worth the hassle,” says Constantin Film’s production topper Martin Moszkowicz, adding: “I wonder how smaller companies than us come up with the time and manpower it takes to fill in all those forms. Eurimages needs a serious overhaul to make it more user-friendly. And I wish there was a place or an office you could appeal to if you believe a Eurimages decision is wrong. As such, it’s not accountable to anyone.”

While Eurimages’ organizational configuration is unlikely to change in the near future, new proposals put forward by Vandierendonck promise to reduce bureaucracy to some extent.

“If the proposals go through, by next January we’ll require less paperwork,” says Vandierendonck, adding, “Hopefully we’ll be more clear and transparent and easy to use. We’ll also allow producers to bring in non-European financing partners as long as the production remains genuinely European.”