Written by Sébastien Lachaussée & Marta Monjanel
For several years, many impulses have been done to favour French German co-productions.
The first agreement regarding the cinema industry between France and Germany was signed on December 5th, 1974 and a second agreement concerning promotion of co-production projects was completed on February 5th, 1981. During the 80’s and 90’s, the number of French-German co-productions was little due to strict requirements. For this reason, on May, 17, 2001, France and Germany signed a new agreement called a “mini treaty” which cancelled all agreements previously signed and eased the terms of co-production. This mini treaty had a direct effect on the recent rise in French German co-productions. Indeed, from the year 2002, the number of co-productions between the two countries doubled, with an average of 10 films per year. In 2010, the number of movies co-produced by France and Germany reached its peak at 23 films.
The success of co-productions such as “The White Ribbon” by Michel Haneke, which received the award for best film at the Cannes Film festival, “Ghost writer” by Roman Polanski and “Melancholia” by Lars von Trier, encourage to advocate the association of these two countries on the audiovisual field.
I – The Subsidies proposed by the « mini treaty »
The main measure of this treaty was to grant supplementary subsidies through French and German funding (CNC and FFA), with an annual budget of 3 million euros per year, from the moment the movie has dual nationality.
Article 1 of the treaty specifies that all genre of full-length films are included, the only requirement is that the first showing has to be theatrical. The dual nationality is characterized by the interest taken to the two countries by the film; for example, various members of staff, technical or artistic have to have either French or German nationality or the script has to take place in France or Germany. It’s important to underline that movies financed by French and German establishments are not automatically considered as co-production, this was the case with the film “La Noce” by Pavel Lounguine considered as more of a partnership than a co-production because of the weak investment from the German producer. Indeed, the minimum participation required from the producer is 20% in order to ensure a financial balance between both countries.
Nevertheless article 3 of the treaty specifies that the minimum participation of 20% shall pass to 10% but Germany still doesn’t have legislated in this way.
Yearly, according to this agreement, each of organism which handle helping fund, has got one million five thousand euro which will be apportioned to the project of co-production. Nevertheless, the treaty fixes a maximum level of participation. The aid granted by the fund can’t be higher than 20% of the final cost of the movie. In consequence, the aid is proportional to the budget of the full-length film. But some exemptions to this maximum level are possible and are decided by the fund of the country of the producer who wants to get a higher aid than 20%. Originally, there were more French majority coproductions than German ones. However, since few years, the trend aims to be more equal between the two countries; indeed, in 2008, 6 coproductions were predominantly German against 8 coproductions predominantly French, thus, the gap closes. On average, since the signature of the treaty, around 8 full-length per year enjoy this aid. Concerning the budget of movies enjoying this aid, in practice, the tight budgets are favoured but the full-length movies are far away to be excluded.
To benefit by aid, producers have to receive the production’s approval (delivered by competent authority, in France it’s CNC, in Germany FFA), at the latest 4 months after the show of the movies in cinema.
In practice, the aid would be granted for its French part by the president of CNC and for its German part by the president of FFA after consultation of a Commission made up of 3 French members (producer, director, scriptwriter) and 3 German members.
The conditions to be eligible to receive this aid are numerous.
The movie has to be eligible to investment approval. Indeed, this approval has to be absolutely obtained in case of international co-production and has to be requested before the shooting.
As the investment agreement, the file for the aid has to be applied before the shooting by the French producer at CNC and by the German producer at FFA.
The requested amount can’t exceed 20% of the definitive budget of the movie. This amount is shared out by France and Germany according to their part invested in co-production.
The co-production between the both countries has to be concretized by a co-production’s contract between the both companies.
In practice, French producer shall address to the service of French German agreements of CNC a file constituted by a letter requesting the aid, co-production’s contract, the artistic contracts, all documents which justify the financing of the movie, the script in French and curriculum vitae of producer and director.
There is also a requirement less formal: the film has to be made thanks to an artistic common interest. Indeed, it’s necessary that by the script, the choice of actors or the place of shooting, the project of movie is soaked in dual French German culture, it can’t be a co-production only based on financing.
The commission meets 3 times in year and issues a positive or negative response for each project. The dates of meeting of Commission are open to the public near the secretariat of Service of support to the production and distribution of CNC.
Once the movie directed and distributed in cinema, the aid shall be paid back by producers on products resulting from the movie’s exploitation.
II – The development of the French German cooperation
As regards French German cinematographic co-production, the channel Arte plays an important role. Indeed, let’s remember that French channels have the duty to invest 3,2% of their turnover in a movie’s co-production (mostly in French language). The channel Arte, which by its European status is not forced to respect this quota, invested 3,5% of its turnover (7 million euros) in international co-production. In 1996, Arte, Arte France, WDR and ZDF (German channels) had signed a co-production’s cinematographic agreement which aimed to contribute to six movies directed by known directors. In consequence, all first or second films are excluded. To benefit from European aid, the movie has to be produced by a French or German producer. It’s also recommended (but not required) to use a distributor from each of those countries.
The film project has to have an international dimension through its production and its script in order to benefit of an international exploitation. Furthermore, the full-length movie has to get the European approval.
After a pre-selection, made with requirements cited above, a committee meets 5 times per year to decide of the 6 movies which will be produced by Arte, it’s important to note that unanimity of members is required. The contribution for a movie varies but the committee can allow a sum maximum of 600.000 euros shared out between France and Germany.
The French German cooperation is also noticed among directors in order to succeed the creation of a common subject in prestigious cinematographic school of Ludwigsbourg and of Femis in Paris, called the Masterclass Ludwigsbourg/ Paris. Since 2001, every year, 18 participants follow this formation’s program; the short-length films created will be presented on channel Arte. In 2003, the French German Academy of cinema has launched the Cinematographic Meetings. Every year, producers, distributors and professionals meet there to discuss the cooperation and present new projects.
Today, the French German co-production seems to have a flourishing future thanks to settlements which aimed to favour this development.