New productions span gap between film, TV<br /> <br />

TV financing is footing the bill for hybrids

CANNES -- Cannes may be the celebration of Le Cinema, but increasingly, European filmmakers are turning to the small screen to get their movies made.

Oliver Assayas' Out of Competition entry "Carlos," which had its first market screening Saturday ahead of its festival bow, is just the latest in a flood of hybrid productions that span the gap between film and TV.

Examples include Swedish crime sensation "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," the critically acclaimed Brit noir trilogy "Red Riding" or German Oscar contender "The Baader Meinhof Complex." All were made simultaneously as films and as TV series, giving producers a double-dip of commission cash and film subsidies to build their budget.

"This is almost the standard way to produce in Germany. There are virtually no German movies made without TV money in them," said Regina Ziegler, who found the $20 million needed to bankroll Jo Baier's "Henry of Navarre" by tapping public broadcasters from Germany and France, as well as relying on subsidies and tax breaks designed for feature films.

Hybrid productions can also enjoy a more lucrative exploitation cycle, as different versions of the same story can be packaged to suit separate outlets.

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"It has definitely helped with sales to be able to offer two versions of 'Henry,'" said Stefanie Zeitler, head of sales at Bavaria Film International. "The miniseries format is often much more attractive for TV channels than the feature film."

Sweden's Yellow Bird produced "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" as one of three features based on Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy and cut a six-part TV series from the same material. On the home entertainment side, Yellow Bird is releasing separate box sets of the film trilogy and the series, getting Larsson fans coming and going.

But while TV might be Euro Cinema's sugar daddy, it still can't get any respect. "Carlos" was initially snubbed by Cannes because of its small-screen origins and only added to the official lineup at the last minute. Assayas and his producers are also keen to avoid the "miniseries" label for the 5.5 hour epic, preferring to call "Carlos" a "movie in triptych form."

German director Volker Schloendorff, in Cannes with the director's cut of his Palme d'Or winner "The Tin Drum," famously attacked what he called "amphibious" TV/film productions, claming the results of such small and big screen combos were neither good cinema nor entertaining television. His outburst cost him a job. German mini-major Constantin, a specialist in hybrid productions, kicked him off "Pope Joan" and pushed ahead with its plans to do the medieval epic as a feature and TV two-parter.

Big-time talent is no stranger to it with directors such as Paul Greengrass, Anand Tucker, Julian Jarrold, James Marsh and Oliver Hirschbiegel just some of the names making high end local television productions sold overseas as movies.

And the contribution to the movie landscape from the British broadcasters is of vital importance to both the growth in talent pools and the tallies of movies -- whatever format they start out as -- making it to screens.

Whatever the aesthetic objections to the hybrid, the model is unlikely to go away. Expect more TV-film mash ups in Cannes. It's almost certainly the way forward.
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