Panel: British producers should look to Europe

Opportunities abound in Germany, says group

LONDON -- British producers on Monday were told to stop looking toward Hollywood for production opportunities and start looking closer to home -- Germany, for instance.

Speaking at a financing panel at the London-based Festival of German Films, filmmaker Jens Meurer ("Black Book") said he had a "bee in his bonnet" when it came to U.K. producers' ignorance of the opportunities available in Europe and, specifically, Germany.

"Stop looking to Hollywood, because you'll just end up being poodles," Meurer told the audience at London's Curzon Soho theater. "We (Europeans) have to stick together in this."

The large panel also noted that Hollywood, unlike the Brits, has been very adept at using tax incentives to locate productions in Europe over the last two or three years.

British producer Chris Curling, who is co-producing Michael Hoffman's Russia-set "The Last Station," starring Helen Mirren and James McAvoy, noted studio smarts when it came to financing.

"The U.S. studios only go where there is a good deal to be had," Curling said. "So if they are going over to Germany, then that is because there is a good deal going on there now."

But the difficulties in matching the tax regimes governing co-productions in Germany and the U.K. emerged as the main sticking point.

Legal eagle Hans Radau, who helps run German uberfund the DFFF, said that the fund was specifically established in 2007 to stimulate and help grow the local film industry.

"The complication is that you need to have a German producer based in Germany apply for funding. He (or she) can be a German co-producer," he said. "The other complication is that the project must have German distribution in place."

Italian born producer Uberto Pasolini, whose credits include "The Full Monty," noted he was the guy "who didn't get any money from anyone on the panel" but had tried when putting together his Sri Lankan set directorial debut "Machan," which finishes with scenes in Germany.

Pasolini lightheartedly described how his film had continually fallen between the qualifying cracks at various funding bodies in Germany and the U.K.

The panel was chaired by Berlin Brandenburg Medienboard managing director Kirsten Niehuus.

The Festival of German Films concludes Thursday.