It’s been a challenging year-and-a-half for co-productions between Switzerland the U.K., but there appears to be cause for optimism.

Directors of media funds from both countries, as well as a pair of producers, gathered at a Locarno Film Festival panel to discuss co-financing and co-production opportunities between the two countries, and to try and entice the room to share in that positive outlook.

Neil Peplow, BFI director of industry and international affairs, was at the center of proceedings as he explained how the U.K. Global Screen Fund (UKGSF), launched earlier this year, has the potential to replace the financial support that was lost by the U.K. leaving Creative Europe’s MEDIA program due to Brexit.

“We’re very much here, we’re very much present, and we very much appreciate the importance of co-production, especially with our European partners,” Peplow said. “Although we may have left the EU, we have not left Europe. Culturally, our stories are important to share.”

However, during the Q&A segment of the panel, a producer in the audience shared his negative experience of making a film as a U.K. co-production, saying that he “never felt welcome” or that the U.K. was keen to partner with foreign films.

Christopher Granier-Deferre, a U.K.-based producer who has decades of experience in co-production via his Poisson Rouge shingle, said that the messaging from the U.K. regarding media funding has been hard for Europe to understand of late. He deemed this to be one of several major contributing factors, along with COVID and travel bans, which have led “the appetite for co-production to change a little bit.”

Looking at the distribution side, Granier-Deferre said the main challenge for foreign films is that it often proves difficult for U.K. distributors to “marry our cultural desires with our market realities.”

“We have distributors that are very good, but quite timid when it comes to foreign language, possibly because they don’t need to do much other than go to Cannes and Venice and wait for the rich, ripe fruit to fall,” he said. “I think English audiences approach it a little bit like dining out: They had Italian last week, so maybe this week we’ll go and see something else this week…It’s a challenging place in our domestic market to get that commercial appetite into distribution.”

Despite these barriers, Pleplow said that the UKGSF is a signal of positive change in the U.K., and that an effort is being made to push U.K. producers to think more internationally, and to attend co-production forums like Locarno’s Match Me!

“It’s an important point to note that it is about feeling welcome and open and listened to. I think the Global Screen Fund provides that opportunity. We look at projects which are non-English, we look at projects with talent and we trust the team,” he said. “I think there is a definite change happening.”

Earlier in the panel, Laurent Steiert of the Office Fédéral de la Culture and Corinna Marschall from MEDIA Desk Suisse shared the current outlook on co-production opportunities and funding in Switzerland.

Marschall shared that her fund supports around 25 projects a year, with a particular eye on international potential.

“Another speciality is that it’s one of the few funds in Switzerland where it doesn’t matter whether the author comes from Switzerland or from abroad. If he or she is a foreigner, it doesn’t matter, so that opens up a broader spectrum of projects,” she said.