Subsidy makes France solid partner

Region has abundant film production opportunities

The search for international partners has never been more intense as many producers struggle to live on domestic finance alone. Thanks to a generous offer of public subsidy and specialist film funds, France looks like the Promised Land.

“With good reason the rest of the world thinks France is the country with the most opportunities for co-production and for public fund-raising for nonnational films,” says Lucas Rosant, who runs Paris Cinema’s co-production market, Paris Project.

But this doesn’t make France a pushover for hungry producers.

“We cannot work with everybody,” says Rosant. “There are some films that it would be very hard for a French co-producer to put money into, for example films from Japan or the U.S. You would never get public funding for that kind of film.”

Not everyone is convinced, however. “I’m not sure that there is more money available for minority co-productions in France than in other countries, like Germany,” says Philippe Bober, founder of sales and production label Coproduction Office. “There is certainly more than the U.K., but then any country has more funds for co-production than the U.K.”

French interest in co-productions is also rising, driven by the same scarcity of funds, according to Patrick Lamassoure, topper of national film commission Film France. “French producers have started to attend international events like Paris Project a lot more than before. They know now that they need partners abroad.”

This has also changed the role of French sales companies, he adds. “They are now developing know-how in helping French producers to build co-productions, and not only selling films, because they need upfront money.”

Yet the growing offers from abroad have not made it any easier for Charles Gillibert at MK2 to find minority co-productions of the right caliber. “We are looking for projects, but it is quite difficult to find good partners and good filmmakers.”

But then as a producer he is looking for a creative rather than a fiscal relationship. “There is a new tax credit in France for producers, so there are many reasons for having a co-production here,” he notes, but Gillibert doesn’t believe in that type of collaboration.

Paris Project is all about bringing a select group of foreign projects to the attention of willing French producers. All have scripts and helmers onboard, plus some domestic finance, but no existing commitments in Gaul.

The global search for coin and the market’s growing reputation have pushed up demand, so that Rosant and his team had to sift through 265 applications to arrive at the final list of 14 projects.

The selection is made to ensure a good chance of eligibility for France’s film funds and subsidies, which in turn should make them attractive to potential partners. Rosant also tries to make sure that artistic credibility is matched with commercial edge.

“Five years ago, many companies were living on arthouse films that did very well in festivals but not so well on release,” he says. “Now those producers are looking for films that have more commercial potential.”

There are some challenging auteur films on offer this year, such as Japanese helmer Naomi Kawase’s “And Protect, Protected.” But these are balanced by more audience-friendly fare, such as “Marina,” a biopic of Italian singer Rocco Granata from Stijn Coninx, whose pic “Sister Smile” is currently on French screens.

Paris Project also is developing its Asian links, with a workshop on Korean co-productions that will be mirrored later in the year with a meeting at the Pusan Promotion Plan. “To reach Asia we strongly believe that Korea is the best partner,” Rosant says.