This year, the EFA will present its inaugural Prix Eurimages co-production kudo to Austrian Veit Heiduschka (Wega Film) and France’s Margaret Menegoz (Les Films du Losange), who have co-produced such films as Michael Haneke’s “Hidden” and “The Time of the Wolf” as well as the upcoming “For a Moment, Freedom,” from helmer Arash T. Riahi.
Heiduschka shares his reactions to the prize, as well as lessons learned from years in the trenches of European filmmaking:
“I was a little stunned by the news because, as you know, this prize is very new. I’m happy, because up until now, there’s never been a European prize for producers. (But) also I was a little bit irritated to be singled out from other co-producers who also contributed to the same projects.
“A co-production can be very dangerous. My first co-production was a Swiss-German-Austrian co-production. At the end of the shoot, the Swiss producer went bankrupt and we had a lot of problems making up the budget. So when you find a co-producer who is reliable, like Margaret Menegoz, then it’s easier to plan on making future projects. It’s a good idea to co-produce always with the same producer if it is possible. You know exactly what they can and can’t do.
“With every co-production, you learn how you can do it better the next time. Every year I have a lot of offers to co-produce films, but most of the time they’re not looking for a co-producer so much as a co-financer. Co-production is about bringing technical and artistic expertise, not just financial backing. On ‘The Piano Teacher,’ there was a good mix, because the main actors came from France; the script, director and cameraman came from Austria, and we shot in Austria. If you’re not careful getting the mix right, then you end up with what’s called a Europudding. Co-productions are not easy. If you co-produce, you have to include your partner in the decision-making. It’s best to start off on a small scale and build up.
“Small countries like Austria are best-equipped to make arthouse films. If these films are done right, they can then be sold around the world.”