Media Int'l seeks co-production opportunities

Goal is to bring new audiences to European cinema

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Cross-border was the key word Tuesday at the San Sebastian Film Festival as the MEDIA Program's Aviva Silver revealed the programs to be funded under the second call for Media International projects.

The €5 million ($7.4 million) earmarked for the pilot program, which turns permanent in 2011 under the name of Media Mundos, has separated out promotion and distribution programs this time to focus on "bringing new audiences to European cinema," Silver said.

"The audiovisual landscape has changed dramatically and is much more international. MEDIA should have a role," Silver said. "Media International would be effective in supporting co-production forums -- not at the development stage per se, but the events that lead to co-production."

MEDIA will also work to "break in to markets where it has traditionally be difficult for European films." Rather than using hackneyed distribution models, Silver said MEDIA will build projects around sales agents, such as the X2 project coordinated by Celluloid Dreams partnering in the United States and Japan.

Silver said MEDIA will open a consultation with a draft document on digital distribution by mid-October, dealing with digital policy of European Union member states.

MEDIA is looking to use a €6 million ($8.9 million) budget to persuade European distributors to offer non-national, European films that may not garner big audiences. MEDIA also would like to put mechanisms in place to help exhibitors switch to digital projection.

"We're looking to ensure that European films will have access to digital screens and the kind of cinemas that show European films have access to digital technology," Silver said.

In doing so, Silver said she hoped to send a strong signal about how important the European Commission deems digitalization and set a lead that national governments can follow.

Also Monday, the Madrid Film Commission stepped up to the cross-border plate with its fourth bilateral co-production event with Paris' Ile de France, within the framework of the Capital Regions for Cinema network.

Producers looking to partner on scores of projects lunched in San Sebastian and discussed business options.

"In order to have a European market, there have to be ties that link the territories and help verify if a project has an opportunity," said Ile de France general manager Oliver-Rene Veillon. "This initiative helps to establish synergies between companies."

The projects presented include Fernando Colomo's upcoming €8 million ($11.8 million) dramatic comedy "The Band of Picasso," which tells of a young Picasso surviving in Paris between 1907 and 1911 and Mika Kaurismaki's $5.7 million adventure "Patagonia Express."