International Film Execs Talk Co-Producing During, And After, COVID – Cannes

We Are UK Film hosted a Cannes Market panel today with participants from far and wide speaking about their experiences on international co-productions amid the coronavirus pandemic, and what the future holds for projects that were suspended as well as the disparity in government aid that has been made available.

Producer and former Protagonist Pictures CEO Mike Goodridge recounted how his next film, Oscar nominee Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle Of Sadness, was shut down with about 37% of shooting complete when the crisis hit.

The “massive” independent production, with a budget of about 13M euros, has participation from BBC Films and the BFI as well as Swedish, French and U.S. input. Goodridge called it “a masterpiece of European financing… I’m kind of in awe there are so many partners on this film,” but noted that’s reflected in the story. The English-language film is set on a cruise liner in the world of fashion, and also on a desert island. Production is expected to return to Sweden this month while it will later move to Greece.

COVID had an impact on the budget, acknowledged Goodridge who said, “This is where Ruben got resourceful. You have to change the way you’re going to make the film, you have to re-start pre-production which is a costly process. There was a considerable uptick in the budget, but there are so many public partners on this project that have been supportive as are our private equity partners, our bond company, our bank. Nobody is doing this deliberately, so everybody is pulling together to get the best possible result.”

Triangle Of Sadness was covered for COVID under a pre-existing insurance contract, though other panelists agreed that currently it’s nigh on impossible to secure new insurance that factors in coronavirus.

Claudia Steffen, Managing Director at Germany’s Pandora Film Produktion noted, however, that the local industry has been lobbying for the government to step in on insurance and is expected to have a fund in place to cover 30% of budgets for corona damages.

The government had already been reactive by covering 60% of pay for workers during the crisis, but that came with complications. “When you’re doing a co-production and some of the crew is employed in the UK, they don’t get anything. But German and French crew are getting very high support.” Going forward, this is a situation that won’t be so easy to get around. “I cannot have actors with no security and actors who are completely secure. There are big discussions in how to handle a co-production: are only German costs covered?”

Matthew Metcalfe, of New Zealand’s GFC Films is starting a UK co-production next week and noted that’s down to “long relationships where there’s trust. Co-productions are about relationships, about trust, about getting to know people. It’s not enough to find a partner in another country; they should be mutually beneficial. It’s important to have an appreciation of that country and want to work with them.”

Wildgaze Films co-owner Finola Dwyer said she believes the “signs are good for co-productions” going forward. “Change creates opportunity… We still dont know what the future holds, but it feels like it’s moving into a more manageable phase.”

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