Germans, Russians prod'n allies

Funding program in place to support joint ventures

Two of Germany's biggest regional film funds have teamed with Russia's federal culture and film agency to back co-productions between the countries.

At the first of a series of producer meet-and-greet sessions here Sunday, hosted by the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and central Germany's MDM, Sergei Lazaruk, head of film at the Russian federal agency, said that $3 million from the Russian side was available to help fund two or three co-productions annually.

"The key thing about this initiative is that it has not come from the bureaucratic or political level but from the producers themselves. I hope that this first meeting will help give a push to the two or three projects that are already in existence," Lazaruk said, adding that another meeting was likely to take place in June during the Moscow International Film Festival.

Peter Dinges, executive director of the German Federal Film Board, said that German funds were not ring-fenced, but that grants of up to $1 million per project were available from an annual total of $16 million in selective funds targeted specifically at co-productions.

When regional film funds and money available from a new German federal film fund for producers of co-productions were counted, a total of $300 million annually — of which $180 million was aimed at theatrical release films — was available.

"All these German film funds are open for co-productions," Dinges said. "It is up to producers to make paper (agreements) live. They need to bring life and spirit to such co-production agreements. It is essential to bring producers from both sides together on a regular basis."

Producer Karsten Stoter of Germany's Rohfilm, which is hoping to begin shooting the time-travel gangster movie "Buddha's Little Finger" later this year in association with Moscow's Kalatozov Fund, said: "Films from both countries are doing well in their own territories but not always so well beyond their borders. I think this initiative can really help both cinematographies find a wider audience and wider market."

His film, based on a Russian novel of the same name by Viktor Pelevin and directed by Berlin-based American Tony Pemberton, also received funding from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Europe's Media program, Stoter said.

Russian producer Sergei Selyanov of St. Petersburg's CTB, which is producing Sergei Bodrov Sr.'s Mongolian-language Ghengis Khan epic "Mongol" — which has a $17 million budget and is partially financed by the Russian federal agency and Berlin-Brandenburg's Medienboard and co-produced by Berlin's X Films Creative Pool — said greater cooperation between Germany and Russia was important for the future.

"We have a number of Russian-German productions besides 'Mongol' — which should be finished by early summer — in the pipeline," he said.

Representatives of both Medienboard and MDM said they were keen to see more co-production agreements at early stages between Russia and Germany, and that facilitating contacts between producers was a key part of that effort.