European locales benefit U.S. films

"Midnight in Paris"

Woody Allen, Ralph Fiennes among those shooting overseas

Think global, shoot local was the unofficial motto for "Playoff," the new feature from Israeli director Eran Riklis. Financing for the $6.7 million biopic starring Danny Huston came from France, Germany and Israel but the shoot took place almost entirely in the German state of Hesse, mainly on location in Frankfurt and Weisbaden.

The feature tells the true story of Israeli basketball coach Max Stoller (Huston), who became a national pariah after he accepted an offer to coach the West German team. Riklis has tapped German financing for such features as "Lemon Tree" and "The Syrian Bride," but "Playoff" marks the first time the Israeli director has shot in Germany.

Jens Meurer of Germany's Egoli Tossell Film, who produced "Playoff" with France's Fidelite Films and Israel's Topia Communications, says Hesse was an ideal spot to re-create the film's 1970s-'80s period setting. "It would have been impossible to shoot this film in Berlin -- the locations are either too old or too new," Meurer says. "But Weisbaden is one of those German cities that was incredibly modern in the 1980s and hasn't changed since."

"Playoff" also benefited from HessenInvest, the state's incredibly modern film-financing plan. The film picked up $1.2 million from the regional fund, the highest amount ever awarded to a single project.

Casting German actors in lead roles and plenty of below-the-line Euro talent made it a snap to secure financing from Germany's federal film fund the DFFF. Further backing came from Eurimages and from the Rabinovich Foundation in Israel as well as a healthy minimum guarantee from Wild Bunch, who will release "Playoff" in France and Germany next year.

-- Scott Roxborough

After years of dreaming of shooting in the City of Lights, the clock finally struck "Midnight in Paris" for Woody Allen thanks to TRIP, a 20% tax rebate for foreign production in France passed by the French government to inspire international filmmakers to shoot in the territory.

With France's capital city affordable enough for him, Allen opted to shoot "Midnight" during the summer there. The romantic comedy, nicknamed WASP -- Woody Allen's Summer Project -- stars Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard and French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy in a story about an American family in Paris and will reportedly feature several jumps through time.

Letty Aronson, Steve Tenenbaum and Jaume Roures are producing the film, which is part of a multipicture financing deal between Allen's own Gravier Prods. and Mediapro. "Without the TRIP, Woody Allen would never have been able to shoot this movie, since the scenes that take place in the past called for a budget that was different from the romantic comedies he's made in Barcelona and in London," says Franck Priot, deputy director with Film France, a division of the French Film Commission.

"Woody Allen always works with the same budget no matter what country he's in or what is written in the script," adds the film's line producer Raphael Benoliel. "The fact that this movie was being made in France and had a more financially complicated script made it more expensive than typical Woody Allen films, so without the tax credit, it wouldn't have been made."

-- Rebecca Leffler

Ralph Fiennes chose to shoot (and star in) his directorial debut, "Coriolanus," based on William Shakespeare's play in Serbia to take advantage of low production costs and matching locations.

Apart from two final shooting days in neighboring Montenegro, the entire film was shot in Serbia over the course of 40 days, mostly in the vicinity of the capital Belgrade and on locations within the city, including government institutions like the Parliament and the former Royal Palace, which is presently housing the City Assembly of Belgrade.

"Aside from the significantly lower shooting costs, the locations that Serbia had to offer were in accordance with what the story called for," says Angie Vlaisavljevic, head of Work in Progress, the Serbian co-production partner. "The Serbian government and the ministry of the interior gave us full access to armored vehicles and weaponry. In addition, we were able to use members of the anti-terrorist unit, rather than using stunt doubles and extras."

The film's producers still hope to utilize the incentive program which is expected to be adopted in Serbia before year's end. "At the time when 'Coriolanus' was shot, no incentives were offered," Vlaisavljevic says, adding that the project would still qualify for a 15% cash rebate that would be paid off next year. " 'Coriolanus' would still qualify because of the importance of the project."

-- Vladimir Kozlov

Without Spain's sprawling Ciudad de la Luz studio, Juan Antonio Bayona's upcoming "The Impossible," starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, may have been, well, impossible.

A film that qualifies as Spanish, via a 33% stake with a Spanish partner, can benefit from subsidies from the Culture Minister's Film Institute, accounting for 15% of the Spanish box office gross, with bonuses added for festival awards or producer investment, capped at $1.8 million. Additionally, producers can use a reduced interest loan for the production, backed by the ICAA and Spain's Official Credit Institute.

Producers who shoot at Spain's Ciudad de la Luz studio can tap into the Valencia regional subsidy -- a 16%-24% return on local spending in Valencia, which includes insurance. New additions to the package include European cast and crew salaries, with a maximum salary subsidy of €50,000 ($64,000).

Spain's tax law allows for an 18% tax deduction, which filmmakers hope makes investing in film a very attractive investment option.

But for "Impossible," the biggest incentive to shoot in Spain was the facilities that Ciudad de la Luz offers. Based on a true story and centering on the 2004 tsunami that swept Thailand, the film found a natural home in the studio's unique water tank. Ciudad de la Luz's new tank offers a massive green screen, as well as some natural horizon. The production also made use of Ciudad de la Luz's eight air conditioned soundstages, an exterior water tank, 52 acres of back lot with water, power and fiber optic network, advanced technology for filming in celluloid and digital and an exterior water tank with a blue screen backdrop and a 57,000-square-foot super stage set on a 27-acre back lot with panoramic views.

-- Pamela Rolfe

United Kingdom
The producers of "StreetDance 3D" certainly had to resort to some fancy footwork when it came to putting together the financing for the British urban dance romance. "There was a great deal of skepticism around when we first shopped the idea around to make a glossy British dance movie in 3D," producer James Richardson says.

Richardson and his partners at Vertigo Films secured a meeting with the then-U.K. Film Council Premiere fund chief Sally Caplan and pitched her the idea during Sundance in January 2009. Caplan, who left the UKFC this year, became a big supporter of the urban dance romp and came up with just north of £1 million ($1.6 million) for the £4.5 million ($6 million) film from her fund.

Producers Richardson and Allan Niblo then took their budget dance card to BBC Films and the filmmaking arm of the pubcaster pledged a further £1 million ($1.6 million) from its coffers to get the party started in earnest.

Shot on location in London, the production also spent a week at Shepperton Studios and qualified for the U.K. tax credit (equal to about 16% of the movie's overall budget). It also saw U.S.-based Paradise FX, Germany's Post Republic and Vertigo unite to form Paradise FX Europe, proudly boasting to be Europe's first one-stop shop for 3D production. "It worked a treat because we had zero, and I mean zero, problems with the production from beginning to end. It came in on time and on budget which was a big ask and relief for us making what is Europe's first live-action 3D movie here," Richardson says.

-- Stuart Kemp
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