Patience a virtue with studios

U.S. involvement key if sometimes frustrating, panelists say

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BERLIN -- The vagaries of the studio system were at the forefront of "Transatlantic Drawl: Accents for Filmmaking," a panel hosted by The Hollywood Reporter as part of the EFM Industry Debates.

General consensus was that patience and a thick skin are a necessity for Europeans working with or within the studio system since, as Constantin Films' Robert Kulzer pointed out: "It takes them 10 years to not make a film, and when they decide to make one, they write the script during preproduction."

A more optimistic tone was adopted by Yellow Bird Prods.' Soren Staermose, who is currently negotiating with Sony Pictures on a U.S. version of the Swedish company's hugely successful Millennium trilogy. A view, one might add, not completely shared by his business partner Ole Sondberg, who quipped about the planned collaboration: "We'll scream and shout and maybe they will listen sometimes."

Another important theme was the impact of the worldwide recession on the interaction between American and European partners, most succinctly put by German director Christian Alvert, who said that, of the three projects he's currently circling, "All three are asking: Can we do it in Germany?"

But all panelists seemed to agree on one key approach when trying to tackle the all-important North American market: Go with the studios and try to secure one of the precious few slots in their distribution pipeline. Even H2O Motion Pictures' Mark Horowitz, the panel's most vocal advocate for making "organic" independent films, could not avoid pointing out a simple truth. When selling foreign rights for English-language films to European distributors, "The question is always: Who is the star? Who is the director? Who is the U.S. studio?"

The panel was moderated by THR German bureau chief Scott Roxborough.