With the exception of technology, there is no greater area of transition in film production than the growing number of international co-productions. This is a time of great opportunity and exciting challenges with one of the great resources being your fellow AFCI member film commissioners.

What is a Co-Production?

An international co-production is a production where two or more different production companies work together from different countries (typically two, three or more). The way the criteria is structured varies from country to country and between company policies and procedures. It is also jurisdictions working with productions to optimize financial incentives that the production/s are qualified to receive.

Co-productions became popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s in Italy, France and Spain, in part because of the strong studio contracts in the U.S. limiting actor’s ability to take on more opportunities. Clint Eastwood was one of the first to utilize this when tied to his television contract for a television series Rawhide, and starred in many Spanish-Italian productions, such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Why Co-Productions?

Economics is one factor. Today co-productions are globally on the rise as more countries are actively enticing productions by offering financial incentives, non-financial incentives (a.k.a. soft incentives), ease of permitting, professional, informed and pleasant film commissioners, and more acceptance by filmmakers to double locations by look-alike locations.

Technology is also a key factor. For digital productions, not having to use a film lab for dailies gives much more flexibility and control of quality and resources.

Whether shooting on film or a professional HD (high definition) digital camera, a major studio production will still have about the same size crew. For smaller independent productions, however, features are being shot on SLR cameras and handheld HD camcorders. This drastically reduces the crew size and the number of productions being made.

Co-Production Agreements

Official co-productions are made possible by agreements between countries. Co-production agreements seek to achieve economic, cultural and diplomatic goals. For filmmakers, the key attraction of a treaty co-production is that it qualifies as a national production in each of the partner nations and can access benefits that are available to the local film and television industry in each country. Benefits may include government financial assistance, tax concessions and inclusion in domestic television broadcast quotas. International co-productions also occur outside the framework of official co-productions, for example with countries that do not have an agreement in place, or projects that do not satisfy official co-production criteria.

In many cases, co-productions are a response to the challenges faced by countries with small production sectors, as they seek to maintain a viable production industry and produce culturally-specific content for national audiences. However, these dual goals also produce tensions within national film and television sectors. Although a co-production agreement may make available more resources, an international production risks being less relevant to its target audiences than purely local productions.

What do you do if you are involved in the co-production process?
• Familiarize yourself with cultural practices and etiquette of the countries’ filmmakers you may be interacting with.
• Learn about the incentives of the other countries/jurisdictions involved. This gives you a competitive and collaborative edge. The more smoothly the process is for the production company, the more likely that they, and others, will want to work with you again.
• If you have not assisted with a co-production before it may be beneficial to talk to another film commissioner who has, for specific tips and suggestions.

The following is an excerpt reprinted from the South African film and media site, originating from the Times-Standard, a News Corp publication, with permission by the author, Mary Cruse, Media Without Margins. A full copy of the article is available in the course “Resources” section.

One variable that has changed dramatically in the past five years is the number of international partnerships in film production and the extent of the collaborations. In the past, domestic studios would occasionally partner with a foreign production company on a special project, or get funding support from another country, but now it is frequently a part of the business plan.

Korea is a hub for executive production, financing and production. There is the emergence of a new paradigm shift in the way that Asian media projects are financed, produced and distributed.

Films such as Black Panther and TV series such as Game of Thrones are cross-continent productions. Much has changed since Clint Eastwood’s starring roles in Italian Westerns in the 1960s, referred to as ‘Spaghetti Westerns’.

Entertainment and media companies hoping to drive growth over the next five years will need to accommodate dramatic changes in devices, market and consumer behavior by creating strategic business alliances.

In PricewaterhouseCoopers’ “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2015-2019,” the report emphasizes the continuing importance of emerging technologies to develop global alliances to solidify their consumer position. The annual report states total worldwide entertainment and media revenues will rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.1% over the coming five years, from US$1.74trn in 2014 to US$2.23trn in 2019.

Predominant areas of growth in the film industry include box office revenue and electronic home entertainment. Event cinema and video game adaptations are also growing rapidly and represent future profitability for film. Another area of niche growth in the US is local-language content, as US studios continue to invest heavily in local-language production throughout the world. Other industry sectors, such as China, are experiencing massive growth in native language content.

The International Film Fund is one of several initiatives launched under the Singapore Media Fusion Plan at the Cannes Film Festival. The fund provides Singapore-based production and post-production companies the opportunity to executive produce and/or co-produce films of global appeal with international partners and will invest up to $5 million per film, covering 17 to 20 projects including animation, live-action features and post-production projects.

Strategic alliances are replacing the vertical integration that media conglomerates are historically known for. Several critical technologies are now reaching tipping points that will deeply influence both the pace and direction of entertainment and media growth over the next five years. Expanded global broadband coverage is one major factor in these shifts. It is the tool that has made it possible for video game developers, like Sidhe in Wellington, New Zealand, to get the contract to make games based off feature film content.  The importance to our local success in utilizing the Internet to grow jobs and build global partnerships requires a shift in our mindsets.

Working with film and media makers in other parts of the U.S. or the world does not equate with taking media jobs away from [a] region. It is the opposite. It can mean creating more local jobs, working with international clients or partners.

Representatives from South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation attended Cannes Film Festival in 2012 to sign a co-production treaty with Ireland. Below is an excerpt from an online article on the South Africa Info site that demonstrates the importance of co-production agreements/treaties and understanding how they can work for your region.

“South Africa’s increasing participation at the international level, including Cannes, showed “that our filmmakers are global competitors in the field,” National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) CEO Zama Mkosi said in a statement on Friday. “Their projects are authentic stories that resonate in the international marketplace.”

Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile is expected to lead South Africa’s Cannes delegation, and is scheduled to sign the country’s eighth film co-production treaty, with Ireland, while at the festival.

The treaty will enable productions from both countries to qualify for the different incentives associated with home-grown content in each country, as well as enable collaborations between producers from the two countries.

South Africa’s first co-production treaty was signed with Canada in 1997, followed by Germany, Italy, the UK, France, Australia and New Zealand.  Productions that have come out of these treaties include films such as Skin (SA/UK), The Bang Bang Club (SA/Canada), Death Race (SA/Germany), Skoonheid (SA/France) and A Million Colours (SA/Canada).

In 2010 France and India signed a co-production agreement.
“Among other things, India and France on Monday signed an agreement to co-produce films. An Indian producer can now co-produce a movie with a French production house by paying 10 per cent of the total budget. “We want Indian actors dancing on Parisienne streets,” France Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said after signing the agreement with Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni. Mitterrand said France “has opened its doors wider to cultural cooperation between the two countries.”