Global focus: Int'l co-production treaties


International co-production has come a long way from the days of Europudding and cobbled-together tax write-offs that no one, anywhere, would pay to see. Recent cross-border efforts, such as Fernando Meirelles' Cannes opener "Blindness," Oscar winner "The Last King of Scotland" or Roger Spottiswoode's "The Children of Huang Shi" show how creative producers can use international treaties to their advantage, delivering high-end features that would be impossible to finance out of a single, non-U.S., territory.

"We've gotten a lot smarter in doing co-productions," says Christine Ruppert of Germany's Tatfilm, which co-produced "The Last King of Scotland" and is in post on Belgium-Germany-Poland feature "Within the Whirlwind." "Now we realize that films need their own integrity, their own roots. We can't shoehorn in 'alibi' actors from the various countries just to get funding, as used to happen a lot in the 'Europudding' days."

Veteran producers have gotten better at making multinational features that work around the world. A recent study by the European Audiovisual Observatory found that European co-productions get released in more than twice the number of markets that 100% national productions do. A separate study showed African or Asian films have a much easier time securing distribution in Europe if they have a European co-producer on board.

Globally, co-productions are starting to fill the gap between big studio tentpoles and small-budget indies. By spreading risk among several partners and tapping soft money opportunities around the globe, the $10 million-$40 million feature is becoming financially viable again.

A new territory for cross-border co-productions is television. The success of limited series "The Tudors," set up as a co-pro between Canada and Ireland, has gotten producers thinking beyond the big screen. Expect to see more TV series produced and financed outside the U.S., with the domestic sale an add-on.

When it comes to setting up international co-productions, Europe has an obvious advantage. The 1992 European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production allows cross-border productions within the EU to dip into subsidies from all the participating countries. But several other territories, notably Canada, Australia and South Africa, can also point to attractive production incentives and an impressive track record.

All eyes are now on India, home to a massive local industry and piles of investment capital, which has recently signed treaties with the U.K., Germany, Italy and Brazil. If the power of Bollywood can be harnessed to make sellable international features, a whole new range of opportunities will open up for ambitious indie producers.

Despite the obvious advantage of doing co-productions -- a bigger budget -- veterans of the bilateral game warn of the hidden costs of flying around talent and crews. Not to mention having to give up substantial rights to your French, Japanese or Brazilian co-production partners.

But with private capital running scared during the global credit meltdown, regional subsidies and tax breaks -- the financial backbone of international co-productions -- look a lot more enticing. Producing a film across two or more borders requires doing a lot more homework and often means a few more headaches, but when it works, it can turn you into a truly global player.

A country-by-country look at some of the most effective co-production treaties from around the world:

Treaties: Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, U.K.
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Treaties: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela
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Treaties: Australia, Canada, Italy
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Treaties: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, U.K., Venezuela
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Treaties: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, France, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland
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Treaties: Brazil, Germany, Italy, U.K.
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Treaties: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Macedonia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, U.K., U.S., Uruguay, Venezuela
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Treaties: Canada
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South Africa
Treaties: Canada, Germany, Italy, U.K.
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South Korea
Treaties: France, New Zealand
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Treaties: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Tunisia, Venezuela, U.K.
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The U.K.
Treaties: Australia, Canada, France, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa
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