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Ari Folman’s ‘The Congress’ rounds up coin

Paris bank Coficine-Natixis also backs five pics at Venice

Paris bank Coficine-Natixis, one of Europe’s primary lenders to its film industry, is closing financing on Ari Folman’s “The Congress,” his follow-up to “Waltz With Bashir.”

Natixis Coficine has financed five films at Venice, including Vincent Garenq’s “Guilty” and Santiago Amigorena’s “Another Silence.”

A singular project — half animation, half live action, a broad adaptation of Polish sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem’s dystopic vision — “Congress” has already gone into production.

The Natixis Coficine deal seals the final financing structure on a film that has had multiple production suitors.

Germany’s Pandora Film lead produces; Paul Thiltges Distributions (“Kirikou and the Sorceress”) co-produces out of Luxembourg. A producer on Faouzi Bensaidi’s Toronto player “Death for Sale,” Entre Chien et Loup (“Irina Palm”), partners from Belgium.

The Israeli production company is Bridgit Folman’s Film Gang.

ARP has taken French rights, Studiocanal the U.K.

All in, said Natixis Coficine director Christophe Vidal, the bank will lend about €3.5 million ($5 million), discounting a multinational package of financing.

These include an ARP minimum guarantee for French distribution, a Luxembourg tax certificate, a Studiocanal MG for the U.K., Belgian tax shelter coin, and local incentives from Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia Film Foundation, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Hamburg Film Fund.

It’s unusual for a bank to close financing on a film when it’s some months into production: But “The Congress” is no ordinary film, being half live action, half animation.

In other ways, the Natixis Coficine deal illustrates its modus operandi — and where Natixis Coficine and Europe’s film industries at large are going.

Natixis Coficine cash-flows productions via structured bridge loans that discount all types of financing sources: contracts, subsidies, tax credits, and so on, said Vidal. It does — though rarely — provide gap financing but never takes equity positions in films, he added.

Most film banks fight shy of lending outside their domestic market.

Not so Natixis Coficine. Its tentacles spread over Europe: Recent investments include “The Secret of Melusina,” which meshed, among principal financing sources, Luxembourg’s tax shelter coin and a Fonspa subsidy, and a German DFFF rebate, a Bavaria MG and equity via Screenvest.

On “Now Is Good,” from Graham Broadbent’s Blueprint, Natixis Coficine discounted a U.K. tax credit, a Sony U.S. advance, and Warner Bros. commitment for the U.K., and an MG from France’s TF1 DA against international.

France still represents some 85% of Natixis Coficine’s business. But business at large is growing by a continuous 5% a year on average. Foreign trading is up to 15% of revenues.

Some territories are suffering. Vidal does not expect much uptick in business from Spain in the next year, he says.

But, France and Germany, the rapidly emerging heartland of continental business, remain “solid.”

The 2008 financial crisis saw some banks — the Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of Ireland — pull out of film financing.

“German and France have a longstanding policy of support for the film industry. Some other countries — Spain, the U.K. — just don’t have the battery of film support measures of others,” Vidal said.

But elsewhere in Europe, the volume of film business has been on the rise.

“Cinemagoing is still among the cheapest of leisure activities,” Vidal said.

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