Europa's Le Pogam gives PFM keynote

Production Finance Market unites producers, financiers

LONDON -- A beer-swilling wannabe veterinary surgeon from Brittany in France seems an unlikely candidate to provide the keynote address at the fourth Production Finance Market here.

But then that person happens to be Pierre-Ange Le Pogam -- co-founder of French powerhouse Europe Corp. with filmmaker Luc Besson -- one of France's most successful creative producers.

The producer's personable and wryly humorous account of achieving success in the world of independent film financing and distribution kick-started this year's PFM, which runs over two days.

After describing his early life as a dirt-poor cinephile who spent a year in Paris relying on the kindness of others having had his ambitions to be a stage actor crushed, the one-time movie theater programmer told the audience that it was his love of movies and the creatives behind them and a lot of luck that informed his creation of Europa Corp.

He told the audience of filmmakers, producers and financiers that the impact of digital distribution will be a good one and that producers and financiers should always look at reducing costs and taking advantage of the margins in distribution.

Le Pogam said: "I am not giving anyone a lesson here. The plan (in setting up Europa Corp.) was to capture the margins from the distribution business. There also comes a point when you match artistic ambition with financing and you come to a final number, say 10. We will always try to make that an eight without cutting anything from the artistic merit or input of the project."

But when it comes to making money from video-on-demand, Le Pogam had one word. "VOD, f---," he said, smiling. "I personally believe there is a real business in VOD but I don't understand why it doesn't work better. I am convinced one day it will do business."

But he also warned that he thinks there are too many movies produced globally now -- hinting that Europa Corp. is among the guilty parties perhaps making two movies more than it should -- to maximize revenue and audience levels from distribution.

And, while declining to offer it as anything other than an opinion, Le Pogam said that the U.K.'s commonality of language with the U.S. is perhaps turning out to be a disadvantage now. "Perhaps British producers have spent too much time trying to get deals with American companies and have forgotten they are English and have an incredibly proud and capable heritage. This country (the U.K.) produces so many great artists, fantastic theater and talent."

Le Pogam's appearance heralds the start of an intensive day and half of meetings between producers and potential financiers.

Companies with reps on hand include Lionsgate, Summit International, Warner Bros. U.K., Paramount Pictures International, Hanway Films, Pathe, TF1 International, Optimum Releasing, Film4 and Ealing Studios International.

And this year, sitting in the front row, SBK Pictures founder Sir Ben Kingsley and exec producer Mambo Sharma rocked up to participate.

Previous keynote addresses have been delivered by Miramax president Daniel Battsek and The Film Department CEO Mark Gill.