Producers Debate the State of European Production at Zurich Summit

Triangle of Sadness
Courtesy of Tobias Henriksson

European producers swapped notes about financing challenges, the talent crunch, distribution bottlenecks and rights retention at the Zurich Summit.

Speaking in the session “Creative Financing and Producing in Europe,” Giorgos Karnavas, co-founder of Greece’s “Triangle of Sadness” producer Heretic, spoke of the challenges of finding crew given that so many were booked on big budget projects for streamers.

Greece has seen an influx of foreign shoots, such as “Knives Out 2,” with productions attracted by its generous 40% tax credit and because Covid-19 rates were relatively low at the beginning of the pandemic, allowing it to open up quickly to international productions.

Gudny Hummelvoll, the CEO of “Nothing to Laugh About” and “Occupied” producer Hummelfilm, expressed fears that many European producers are unable to hold on to IP given the streamers preference for buying out films, and “might end up becoming service producers.”

Hummelvoll is a member for the European Producers Club, which in May issued a Code of Fair Practices for streamers when commissioning content from indie producers.

The EPC’s code comprises four basic principles covering crucial bones of contention such as the right for European indie producers to retain IP; to have access to streamer viewing data; and to become the exclusive conduit through which U.S. streamers can access European soft money.

She echoed these calls at the Summit, calling for more transparency over data, adding: “I think we have to fight to keep the IP and also keep the diversity of the content that we produce.”

Karnavas said that producing European films “was always difficult and it will be difficult” given the competition. “There’s a lot of projects out there…so you need to have a good project.” He also spoke of the importance of “building organic co-productions” rather than simply “going to places to ask for money and trying to fit in.”

He added that, in some ways, the European system for funding film is “pretty healthy,” citing the competition among many countries to attract productions with generous tax rebates. Combined with state funding, pre-sales and public TV funding “you have the tools to make it happen.”

Hummelvoll noted that tax incentives were welcome, but that – at a time when the environment is high on the agenda – “it feels bad moving productions back and forth all the time… we should try to find ways to work on greener productions at the same time as how to collaborate.”

There was also debate about whether James Bond film “No Time to Die” would kick start the cinema-going habit once again among audiences, and whether the post-COVID-19 stock of movies sitting on shelves and waiting to be released would find an audience.

“I’m not very optimistic,” said Dan Wechsler, founder of Switzerland’s Bord Cadre Films. “Our arthouse distributors are suffering a lot. The whole chain is suffering, I can see that some theaters are going to close. We need some strong films to give confidence to people to come back.” He noted that 15 years ago Geneva had 15 arthouse cinemas, but now had just three.

Wechsler also spoke of the importance of film festivals returning strongly post-COVID-19, given their crucial role as a platform for arthouse films.