Credit crunch opens door for co-productions

Berlin panel talks ups, downs of financial landscape

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BERLIN -- The current credit crunch may give rise to an increase in co-productions, according to industry experts on a finance panel Saturday.

"We will enter a period of co-productions as the market settles," predicted Patrick Russo of the Salter Group, a financial advisory firm.

Russo, along with Senator Entertainment CEO Helge Sasse, Jens Meurer of Egoli Tossell Film and Commerzbank Berlin's Aclin Thielmann, convened at a panel hosted by The Hollywood Reporter, EFM and Commerzbank. Moderated by THR's Scott Roxborough, the group debated whether the sky was indeed falling on film financing and how best to find financing to get a film made when the amount of capital is limited.

Co-productions spread the risk, while also opening up many potential financing doors, the panelists said.

Muerer made "The Last Station" with an American director and British stars, and used mostly German locations to tell a Russian story.

"In European cinema, there's a long history of doing co-productions," he said. "I wish it was less complicated, but I enjoyed working with the Russians and drinking vodka. Co-productions offer so many opportunities."

Sasse, meanwhile, bemoaned U.S.-based producers' invasion of Germany to use the country's generous film subsidies.

"Too many Americans are coming in and using the same pot we use," he said, noting that Berlin has become a filming hot spot to the detriment of local filmmakers. "The French ... are introducing a new program that is especially for foreign investors. Here we have one pot and we share it."

Other hot topics included a crisis in Germany's TV industry, which has a dearth of buyers; how to read sales projections, which can be wildly overblown; and currency fluctuations.