In Sarajevo, three representatives of the National Film Fund discuss the current co-production landscape

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– Executives from BFI, Italian Ministry of Culture and Turkish TRT were on call to discuss international collaboration

Hayet Benkara, Faruk Güven and Neil Peplow during the panel

As a conference moderator Hayet Benkara aptly started off by saying, “OK, co-productions — they’ve been going on for a while, nothing new there.” But the New Co-Production Powerhouses panel at CineLink Industry Days in Sarajevo proved that there was still a lot to discuss on this issue, and allowed panelists and the public to share their experiences of the various changes in the industry, to both positive and negative, in recent years. After presentations on procedure and recent data from all participants, the hour-long conference became a lively exchange about cultural identity, ways of collaborating and the sometimes bureaucratic and slow nature of setting up financing.

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Chaired by Benkara, a film industry consultant and former head of industry for the Toronto International Film Festival, the panel consisted of Iole Maria Giannattasiothe General Directorate of Cinema, Italian Ministry of Culture; Neil Peplow, Head of Industry and International at the BFI; and Faruk Guvendirector of TRT Sinema, the cinema branch of the Turkish national broadcaster.

The discussion began with each panelist sharing the good amount of co-production funding available in their funds, to help international and domestic productions. Giannattasio revealed that his prize pool was €750 million for the current year, making him “one of the biggest film funds in Europe, with a budget that is growing year on year”. Peplow highlighted a sense of continuity after the Brexit process, with its pilot year of the UK Global Screen Fund set up to help UK producers do business overseas. Güven highlighted the recent success of Klondike [+see also:
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(a competitive title in Sarajevo this year), this year’s Palme d’Or triangle of sadness [+see also:
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and Quo Vadis, Aida? [+see also:
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as well as defining the conditions for Turkish projects to obtain additional international funding.

On the topic of curation and selection, airtime was given to the influence of streaming platforms and precedents for which some nations make good co-production partners. Peplow has clearly exposed the disproportionate presence of streamers within the UK industry and its dominance over UK independent cinema. For Peplow, this also has consequences for the final product, and the subtlety of what we watch influences us. He cited the example of Netflix’s teen show Sex education – “It looks like something set in America, which somehow landed in Wales.” He expanded on that observation, to point out that the BFI’s mandate is to represent how the UK is today, and how that also correlates to market value, highlighting the unlikely success of the Cornish fishing village drama. Bait [+see also:
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. Giannattasio echoed this, stating that “we need to protect intellectual property ownership for our producers. And we need a plurality of voices, not just from a very strong commissioner. We must support projects that may not be realized.

The turnaround and the effectiveness of the financing process became apparent once the discussion was open to questions. A comment from a French producer in the audience expressed concern about the disconnect between accepting a project and being able to quickly move into main production. Still, the three main panelists made it clear that the process can be quick, with Güven starting by saying “in a month we can get the deal done, then there’s a payment system.” Both Peplow and Giannattasio echoed a wait time of around three months to hear the results once their half-year calls close, with the former admitting: “We copied a lot of what Italy did.”

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