The knowledge that a film made as a co-production has an added value compared to a 100% national film has become increasingly well-consolidated in recent years. A co-produced project is a symptom of a desire to build a common cultural identity as well as a European industry which is more mature and capable of penetrating global markets.
Moreover, the constant dialogue with non-EC countries is a source of pride and indispensable cultural exchange. The need for the Italian industry to open up to other markets, consolidating existing relationships and exploring new territories, has not escaped the Directorate General-Cinema of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism which – since 2013 – has given the internationalization of Italian cinema a further boost through the creation of co-development funds.
Apart from the need to augment the low number of co-productions in recent years (in 2013 they accounted for 29 out of the 166 Italian national films produced, in 2014 they were 21 out of 201 and, according to provisional figures, those produced in 2015 were 26 out of 191), the new funds also promote international cooperation during the theatrical creation phase that concerns the birth of the idea, its creative structuring and development, including the production aspect, so that the projects have an international breadth right from the start. The Directorate General-Cinema already has a national line di intervention for the development of projects based on original screenplays. However the co-development funds are co-financed by the countries that underwrite them, they have the full collaboration of the institutions and include a bilateral assessment committee (not to be confused with bilateral co- production Agreements, i.e. inter-country laws that regulate and define the principles for the recognition of the co-productions).
The first fund to be created, also as a result of a history of profitable collaboration, was set up in Cannes in 2013 with the CNC (Centre national du Cinéma et de l’image animée), and involved an allocation of 500,000 Euros per year – maximum funding could not exceed 50,000 Euros per project and 70% of the development budget – in order to increase the number of co-productions of feature length theatrical works.
The following year an agreement was signed – for a total amount of 100,000 Euros – with the German FFA (Filmförderungsanstalt), focused on supporting the development of projects mainly in terms of their theatrical exploitation, without distinction in terms of genre (the maximum contribution is 30,000 Euros and no more than 80% of the development estimate). In both cases, the essential ingredient is the presence of a deal memo with a foreign production company.
In 2015 it was Canada’s turn; the co-development incentive with the CMF (Canada Media Fund) was co-financed to the tune of 150,000 Euros and was destined for the development of documentaries, a genre which finds one of its most successful expressions in the Canadian audiovisual market. In fact, the Italian-Canadian fund is not only focused on documentaries (features or shorts), but has also been opened up to audiovisual products (not serials), for both TV and the web. In this case, the maximum contribution is 40,000 Euros and cannot exceed 80% of the Italian budget.
It is relevant here to mention the existence of a fund with Argentina – managed by the Istituto Cinecittà-Luce based on an agreement signed for the first time in 2008 and soon to be renewed – and another with Brazil, managed by the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and mainly aimed at first and second works. For both the Latin American funds the Directorate General-Cinema’s intention is to create bilateral funds along the lines of the Italian-French model.
If we consider that development activities need time to become the product we all know, today we can only give an indicative assessment of the projects funded in relation to the Italian-French fund (it is too soon for any in-depth considerations regarding the fund with Germany, the first edition of which saw the funding of 6 projects, 3 with a German majority stake and 3 with an Italian majority stake).
A total of 44 projects were financed in relation to the CNC fund, 22 of which with an Italian majority stake. In the two year period 2013-2015, ten projects closed development, eight of which were put forward by the production companies for a contribution from the FUS (Italian state entertainment fund), and went on to receive the same. Moreover, among the few to reach the final phases of being covered by the financial plan, two also received support from Eurimages. A positive, albeit partial, result that has encouraged the Government to continue along this path.
For 2016, the implementation of a fund with Macedonia has been confirmed based on a co-development agreement signed in 2015. The intention of the Directorate General-Cinema is to expand its future perspectives to include other European countries and look towards new production horizons. In parallel with this activity is an ongoing commitment to setting up further co-production Agreements in order to define new partners in the audiovisual sector.