, coinciding with converging trends in technology and content.  C. Hoskins and S. McFadyen of the University of Alberta have identified eight potential benefits motivating co-production:
• Pooling of financial resources
• Access to foreign government’s incentives and subsidies
• Access to partner’s market
• Access to third-country market
• Learning from partner
• Risk reduction
• Cheaper inputs in partner’s country
• Desired foreign locations

Current trends in co-production in selected countries/regions:

Canada continues to be one of the most proficient co-producers, with over 55 coproduction agreements world-wide, making an average of 60 co-productions of film and TV projects per year in bi-lateral, tri-lateral and multi-lateral formats (Telefilm Canada).

In Europe, most co-productions are governed by the 1994 European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production.  Established in 1988, Eurimage is the Council of Europe fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works.  The majority (almost 90%) of the Fund’s resources – which originate from member States’ contributions – goes to supporting co-production. A number of these have received prestigious awards (Oscars, Palme d’Or, Golden Lion, etc.)  EURIMAG has supported 1383 European co-productions for a total amount of approximately 417 million Euros.

Ibermedia is a co-production film fund sponsored by Spain, Portugal, and thirteen member countries in Latin America. Its purpose is to promote the development of projects directed towards the Ibero-American market. Funded primarily by and housed in Spain, Ibermedia receives contributions from each member country to comprise an Ibero-American audiovisual fund. In addition, co-producing with Spain is believed to give Latin American countries a gateway to European markets.  Beneficiaries are limited to independent production companies in countries that are members of the Ibermedia Program.  Co-productions must be among at least three countries. This triangulation not only ensures distribution and exhibition in these countries, but also creates linkages and networks between producer groups and professionals. Repayable loans are allocated to each co-producer on the basis of their financial contribution in the co-production.

In addition to the Ibermedia Program, various Latin American countries have individually undertaken initiatives to promote co-productions such as the recent announcement by Ancine of 2 public calls (editais) for co-productions by Brasil specifically with Portugal and Uruguay.

The US has no co-production treaties.  However, American companies often enter into international co-ventures as the third-party in treaty co-productions in order to access the markets and incentives of the other partners.

However, there is a new awareness in the US regarding the importance of international audiovisual co-productions. The Independent Filmmakers Project – IFP (New York) offers the No Borders International Co-Production Market as an opportunity for producers from US and other countries to meet industry professionals.  IFP is the oldest and largest organization of independent filmmakers in the US. It has supported the production of 7,000 films and provided resources to more than 20,000 filmmakers and represents 10,000 filmmakers in New York City and around the world.  IFP also operates the International Alliance Program with partners in various regions of the world, and the Latin American Training Center – LATC latamtrainingcenter.com acts as the official partner for Latin America.

In addition in June 2010, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) held the first International Film Co-Production Showcase (CoProShow), together with the annual Produced By Conference (PBC) in Los Angeles. The objective of the CoProShow was to provide a unique opportunity for international producers to dialogue openly with north-American producers.  Expanded from last year’s International Film Co-Production Showcase (CoProShow), the new 2011 ProShow now accepts submissions for both international and domestic projects.

The internal contradiction of the International Co-production

It is clear that an audiovisual content production developed through a co-production treaty between two or more countries receives two or more “nationalities” and may benefit from national incentives for the production, distribution and exhibition in the corresponding countries.

In addition, co-productions have the potential to offer value-added to the globalization process through the diversification and hybridization of cultures. As expressed by Graham Murdock, University of Bergen, Norway, co-productions can address new politics of identity, providing a public sphere where ideas and opinions circulate freely.

But this potential may not be fully realized because of the way many co-productions are organized. Today the economic reality is that co-productions are used predominantly to compete in a global market and, therefore, focus on popular narratives that sell audiences to advertisers.  In many cases, they do not reflect local cultural expressions or current political and economic changes. According to Joseph Straubhaar, University of Texas, they often simulate Hollywood-type productions which have been generalized and adapted to a global model for commercial media.

Historically, co-productions were aimed at promoting collaboration between countries with small production industries which could then pool resources and receive greater exposure for their cultural expressions. Today, co-productions focus more on popular genres, such as crime fiction, and dramatic comedy such as “Un cuento chino” (Argentina/España), “Garcia” (Brasil/Colombia , “El mural de Siqueiros” (México/Argentina).

Consequently, co-productions are a significant trend in international television and film production, but may not promote local cultural expressions and diversity.   Chris Barker at the University of Wollongong (Australia) indicates that new media formats are linked to increasing market fragmentation due to new technologies, such as satellite, cable and streaming via internet, and the resulting demand for new programs; declining public funding for production; and an increasing emphasis on commercial television which places advertising and a global promo-culture in the forefront of its activities. Examples are “Epitafios” (HBO Latinoamerica) “Los Simuladores” (Sony Pìctures Television, “The Amazing Race” (Disney Media Networks Latin America), “Mental” (Fox Telecolombia), the first English-language series produced in a Latin American country for the US market.

On the other hand, there are now new and significant opportunities to consolidate the above trends though multi-platform content markets such as the RioContentMarket promoted by the Brazilian Independent Television Producers Association (ABPI-TV) for the first time in March 2011. This unique type of market offers the audiovisual content producer a variety of business opportunities for realizing projects, with or without co-production, and simultaneously promotes sharing creative talent though debates and panels on such relevant subjects as: “Narratives and global audiences – why do stories travel?”

*Steve Solot
Latin American Training Center – LATC
Centro Latinoamericano de Treinamento e Assessoria Audiovisual
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, latamtrainingcenter.com

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