×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Crews Cash in Bigtime With International Co-Productions

Film production has been described as an industry of itinerant workers. Below-the-line crews move from job to job, often from location to location. Job security is precarious. Benefits, negotiated by unions and guilds, are frequently at the mercy of such factors as number of days worked per year.

Outside and unpredictable developments can have a devastating effect on those workers. One such example: the writers’ strike that shook Hollywood in 2007-08 — a repeat of which was narrowly averted last week.

Yet, for foreign crews, one global trend has been particularly beneficial. International co-productions have been assembling financing and pooling resources from many countries, giving life to films that might otherwise not be made.

Stockholm-based producer Erik Hemmendorff has based his career on building such co-productions. His next feature, “The Square,” pictured above, which debuts in competition in Cannes this month, has brought together financing from Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S. Directed by Ruben Ostlund and starring Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West, the darkly comic drama, set in the art world, was created by crew members of many nationalities and hailing from four countries.

For Hemmendorff, the business model matches that of his 2014 film “Force Majeure,” also helmed by Ostlund, which built its $3.8 million budget from 15 financiers in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France and Italy. The international roots of the film, a drama about the ways in which members of a family on a ski vacation try to survive an avalanche, are apparent in its locations — which include the French Alps and a perilous mountain road in Italy. Its wildly diverse crew included a Danish editor and color grader, Swedish and Norwegian sound mixers, a Swedish cinematographer and grips and technicians from all three countries.

When “Force Majeure” filmed in Italy and France, Ostlund and Hemmendorff worked with Italian and French crews, hiring locally and creating jobs at each location.

“We think of ourselves as international filmmakers,” Hemmendorff says. “The way we develop our projects, they are not so much Swedish as European.”

Co-productions are also boosting the number of animated films.

When Canadian producers Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen set out to adapt Deborah Ellis’ children’s novel “The Breadwinner” as a motion picture, they had no idea just how international the project would turn out to be. Set in Afghanistan, the animated drama is a co-production of Canada, Ireland and Luxembourg.

“We were really happy with the way this project came together,” Leo says. “It was a very organic process.” To gain better access to funding, Aircraft Pictures, Leo and Rosen’s production company, partnered with Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon and Luxembourg animator Melusine Prods. The result: significant financial backing from the film boards of both nations as well as from Canada.

Such partnerships are an attractive way for producers to raise funds in situations where domestic channels alone aren’t enough. And by pooling resources, projects can be bigger and hire more crew.

Where the money comes from and how it’s spent is often determined by co-production treaties among nations. Canada, for instance, has 54 international co-production treaties with nations including Germany, Norway, Colombia and Brazil.

“Treaties outline what each producer [is required] to bring to the table,” says Kristine Murphy, director of industry development with the Ontario Media Development Corp. In addition to specifying how large a percentage a nation must invest in a production’s budget, they determine how much of the budget is spent in each territory that’s part of the deal. Therefore the amount of funding a country puts into a movie generally returns in the form of local spending, which boosts the local industry.

“Any time there’s a co-production, jobs are created for all countries involved,” Murphy says. The deals are beneficial to film crews all over the world. And since labor is divided among the funding nations, producers can avail themselves of a broader range of talent, drawing on the skill sets of local crews in more than one territory.

Rosen notes that “The Breadwinner” benefited substantially from its partners abroad. “For us to be able to tap into Europe, where there is this rich animation tradition,” he says, “was a great way to do the film.”

Above: Scene from “The Square,” which helped grow its crew with funding from Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden and the U.S.

More Artisans

  • avengers infinity war

    'Avengers,' 'Lost in Space,' 'Ready Player One' Lead Visual Effects Society Nominations

    The Visual Effects Society announced nominees for the organization’s 17th annual awards on Tuesday. Leading the way in the film and TV fields, respectively, were Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and Netflix’s “Lost in Space.” Each picked up six nominations. Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” received the most nominations among animated feature contenders with five. “Ready Player One” [...]

  • Dynasties BBC Vundu Pack

    Bush Guides, Night Cameras Help BBC America’s ‘Dynasties’ Catch Unique Moments

    Just getting to one of the locations of BBC America wildlife documentary series “Dynasties” — presented by David Attenborough and following the lives of endangered animals — requires an 11-hour flight from London to Johannesburg, a two-hour connection to Harare, Zimbabwe, an hourlong chartered Cessna 206 trip to Mana Pools National Park airstrip and an [...]

  • The Masked Singer Costume Designer

    Meet the 'Masked Singer' Costume Designer Behind Those Elaborate Looks

    Fox’s “The Masked Singer” is a talent competition with a difference. The series, which drew 9.2 million viewers in its Jan. 2 debut, is not looking to find America’s next big star. Instead, it’s about hiding them as they perform covers of chart-toppers in masquerade. Twelve celebs compete, with one singer eliminated each week as identities [...]

  • Black Panther Production Design

    Editing Duo Worked Together to Raise ‘Black Panther’ to Blockbuster Status

    Debbie Berman brought Marvel superhero experience to the table. Michael Shawver contributed his longstanding relationship with director Ryan Coogler. Together, the duo edited “Black Panther,” a cultural phenomenon, critical success and, oh, one of the most successful films of all time, which has grossed over $1.3 billion internationally and is now a major Oscar contender. [...]

  • Mortal Engines

    Is There Bias Against Movies With VFX by Awards Voters?

    Cinema lives or dies by illusion. To make stories work, movies must take audiences to another place, suspend their disbelief and thrill them. And effects, whether created in-camera or in post-production or a combination of the two, have always been among the tools used by filmmakers to make that happen. But despite their vital role, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content