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‘Serena’: New model for co-finance

2929 Entertainment, Studiocanal team on pic

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper starrer “Serena,” produced by 2929 Entertainment but co-financed by European mini-major Studiocanal, with Denmark’s Susanne Bier directing, is a classic example of how U.S. productions are taking advantage of European financing opportunities.

Previously, Studiocanal, 2929 and Mutual Film Co. teamed on Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “Blackbird,” which Studiocanal sold and distributes in the U.K., Germany and France.

For 2929’s Ben Cosgrove, “Serena” is a meeting of like companies: Both 2929 and Studiocanal are “filmmaker-driven companies” with a sense of audience, he said.

Tempted by rebates, U.S. productions shoot frequently in Europe; indeed, “Serena” lenses beginning March 26 in Prague’s Barrandov Studio and on Czech locations.

“Serena” is budgeted in the $25 million-$30 million range, said Olivier Courson, Studiocanal chairman-CEO.

That would be lot of money to raise out of the U.S. alone.

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“We gravitate towards creatively ambitious films with ground-breaking filmmakers,” said Cosgrove, “With those films, it’s helpful to have partners who are also willing to commit significant resources of their own to help make them happen.”

U.S-based producer Nick Wechsler, who produces with Wagner, Cosgrove and Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz, noted that it’s essential to have “good European partners in making films outside the studio system for the world market.”

The melding of U.S. and European coin, talent and subjects, in films like “Drive,” “The Artist” and “The Descendants,” has created a kind of hybrid: the auteur mainstream movie.

“Serena” unfolds in the mountains of 1920s North Carolina, with Lawrence as the wife of a timber baron. She battles the government to save their lands but engineers the murder of her husband’s illegitimate son.

“Serena” captures “a great love which goes completely off the wrong path,” Bier said. Her challenge is for audiences to understand “how important, limitless and without boundaries this love is.”

“My goal in building a film for today’s market’s is to bring together auteur directors with interesting genre material,” said Wechsler.

“After ‘Tinker Tailor’ and the Coens’ ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ ‘Serena’ perfectly illustrates Studiocanal’s priority in terms of production: a high quality film with a great director, a very appealing cast and strong potential worldwide,” Courson said.

Financed by Studiocanal, “Tinker Tailor” grossed $20.5 million Stateside through Feb 5.

Studiocanal’s film financing capacity runs at about $800 million through 2014, the biggest of any company in Europe.

It is already taking distribution and international rights on wide-audience projects with decisive U.S. input: “Davis,” produced by Scott Rudin; the Eli Roth-produced “The Last Exorcism 2”; and Luca Guadagnino’s English-language thriller debut, produced with Scott Free.

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