March 14, 2015
SXSW 2015

How to Finance Your Next Film with European Co-Production Funds

If you’re a US-based filmmaker, you may not have considered co-production funding before because there are zero co-production treaties between the USA and Europe.

(In comparison, Canada has 50. Thanks American studio system!) However, with a tiny bit of creativity, you can actually tap into hundreds of European film funds who actually want to invest in your movie. 

On the SXSW panel USA/Europe Co-production and Funding Opportunities, three top Scandinavian film commissioners sat down to let American filmmakers know what we can do ourselves to get much needed funding from European co-productions, and No Film School was there to pass the info on to you.

In the United States, you most likely view film commissions as places that can scout locations for you in their state. But in Europe, film commissioners have a different role: help you get funding by matchmaking you with a European co-producer. Commissioners Ingrid Rudefors, Mikael Svensson, and Truls Kontny explained how getting co-production money just starts with a phone call to their office. As government paid commissioners, they are in charge of guiding you through the process, and hopefully matchmaking you with a European producer, free of charge! Once you have a European producer on your team, you’ll be eligible for both national and regional film funds in each EU country.

What do you need to get paired up with a European co-producer, and ultimately, European co-production funding?

  • A European element, or an element specific to that country. This can mean anything from locations filmed in that country, to an editor or part of post-production being sourced from the EU.
  • A small percentage of your budget already raised. While not all the panelists agreed on this, it can be helpful to get a EU partner on board — especially if you are a newer director.

Still not sure if you fit this model? Here are three examples of projects that were made possible by co-production funds.

Bluebird

This Swedish and American co-production started with a partnership between Kyle Martin and Erika Wasserman at IFP. Based on their professional respect for each other’s work, Erika came on the project as a co-producer and was able to find money from the National Film Fund of Sweden to account for part of their budget. The production hired a talented editor from Sweden and completed part of their post-production in the country.

Sunshine Superman

At a networking event in LA, the American producers of this project approached Norwegian film commissioners about their wish to make a film where the producer would return to a place in Norway where her husband did his last base jump. There were able to get 40% of the film’s funding from Norwegian co-production, and they filmed about 50% of the film in the country.

Lilyhammer

The project started with two writers in Norway who wanted to get the Sopranos actor Frank Tagliano on board. Once they did, the series was funded by a Norwegian producer, and aired on Norwegian television before Netflix bought the first season and came on as co-producer for subsequent seasons.

Where do you start? European film commissions are a network of over 100 regional and national offices, so figure out where you might be looking to start geographically, and pick up the phone! From there, with no commission and completely free of charge, European film commissioners will work on your behalf to set you up with the right collaborators.

Some final notes to keep in mind if you are thinking of approaching a film commission in the EU with your project:

  • Some countries may have specific needs to be met (like Germany & France, who require 25% of the film to be shot in-country).
  • Productions in the EU must be union, and range from $2-4 million or less.
  • It takes time to build trust and the right relationship with your European counterparts, not to mention some film funds have specific timelines that must be adhered to.

If you are thinking of starting down the road to co-production funding, best of luck! If you have experience working with co-production funds in Europe or elsewhere, we’d love to hear what you have learned.     

Your Comment

23 Comments

I'm italian filmmaker interested in coproductions.

March 14, 2015 at 9:40PM, Edited March 14, 9:40PM

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hello. I am a film producer and I would like to get some information about film making in Europe, Please do me a favor and share some information with me. we can aslo think about producing a movie. I am From Iran. my email is :
farhad_star24@yahoo.com

August 31, 2015 at 8:48AM

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Hi. I'm interested in talking to you. I have a production partner who was associate producer on a best picture nominee. Please email me. Theunopeneddoor@yahoo.com

January 2, 2016 at 2:43AM

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50% Financing Secured w/ 50% Financing Remaining (Let's Co-Produce)
Distribution In Place & Ready To Rock & Roll !!!!!!!!!

Good Afternoon,

My name is Tirrick Obadiah Smith and I am an American film producer, director, writer, casting director, etc. & looking to partner up with a professional, creative, hard-working and dedicated producer who is ready to take our careers to their ultimate levels. Please contact me at: StandingOvationsEntertainment@gmail.com for further details and information. Let's make history!!!!!!!!!

Hourglass: A Terrifying Psycho Thriller Feature Film

Thank you,

Tirrick Obadiah Smith

May 26, 2017 at 5:55PM

0
Reply
avatar
Tirrick Obadiah Smith
Producer/Director/Writer/Casting Director/Etc.
1

I'm a German producer an the notes at the end are not quite right: Germany doesn't require 25% to be shot in-country, however, if you want to access the tax rebate fund DFFF you need to spend 25% of your budget in Germany. It's probably tricky to reach that amount on post production alone, so some shooting days (for instance interiord, or a green screen stage) might help with that, specifically since the tax rebatd also accounts for all foreign personell working in Germany (so you also get 20% cash back on the salaries of all your non-German crew for the days spend in Germany).

Also, there have been non-Union US-German co-productions with lower budgets. For instance the $1.5mn horror comedy STUNG with Lance Henriksen, about to premiere at Tribeca this year, was US-German and shot in and around Berlin.

March 15, 2015 at 4:47AM

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Rob
74

Thank you for the clarification, Rob.

March 17, 2015 at 1:09AM

1
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avatar
Oakley Anderson-Moore
Writer
Director/Shooter/Editor

Rob, I am Writer/Director looking to shoot my next film in Germany. You sound like you know what you're talking about. I wonder if you wouldn't mind taking some time out of your schedule to clear up some questions for me. Many thanks, Alex. alexross71gmail.com

March 20, 2015 at 3:00PM

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Alex Ross
Writer/Director
154

I am a producer based in Norway, an US expatriate.
In 2016 Norway anticipates the implementation of a tax incentive, however the details are not yet finalized.
Currently, there are two, primary financing sources for co-productions in Norway:
1) regional film funds and centers that offer support through public money ("soft money" ), and invest equity (to be recouped w/ interest, usually pari-passu). With regional funding, there is often a combination of invest equity and soft money. Regions look for return on their investment, and equally prioritized is the potential for the project to promote region, its talent and film workers;
2) national support from the Norwegian Film Institute, which follows a set of rules and criteria (see http://www.nfi.no/english/funding/co-production for details).
The amount of spend is not stipulated for regions or national support, however a producer should be prepared to spend a minimum of 100% of financing, and aim for 200% spend to make a compelling argument for support.

March 15, 2015 at 8:05AM

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David Leader
producer
74

I am having a great time working on a production with a director friend in Hungary so I am very interested in European co-productions. I have a project that is based on a Norwegian legend and so at least half of it would take place in Norway if not more. David, you definitely seem like a talented producer who knows what he's talking about. I'd love to talk with you further for some advice. If you would be interested, my email is lcruell@aol.com, please feel free to contact me anytime. Best, L.C. Cruell

April 6, 2015 at 10:59PM

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L.C. Cruell
Writer/Director
74

hello. would you give me some information about film producing in your country?

my email is :

farhad_star24@yahoo.com
contact me dear.

August 31, 2015 at 8:50AM

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I'm not saying this wasn't a fair thing to try for American filmmakers at all, but the overall tone of this article leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because, in a way, it's beating around the bush. What I'm trying to say is this: You guys will sure get more out of this than the German filming community will ever get.

Federal German film commissions have continuously been under fire from various serious media outlets (most notably "Die Welt") and even the German Taxpayers Federation for investing a huge amount of their altogether 310.000.000 € budget into either German productions that do not need funding at all because of the big names attached to them, or into what were basically American big budget studio productions that were simply shot in Germany (8 Million € went to "Monument's Men", see http://www.mz-web.de/mitteldeutschland/george-clooneys--monuments-men--s...). I'm getting a vibe of disregard for the local film communities from this article that I'd love to exclude from the discussion but simply can't.

March 15, 2015 at 12:10PM, Edited March 15, 12:10PM

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Of course this opinion is just from a German perspective and does not want to extend to to other European film comissions. But German film funding spends huge amounts for sure and is pretty messed up at times.

March 15, 2015 at 12:12PM

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Honestly, I can understand the frustration. It's unfortunate the federal German commissions don't put more money in smaller German films. However, there's not a disregard for local film intended in this article. EU countries regularly co-produce films from all over the world with ease, except in the US where the politics of the big studios have prevented treaties making this possible from happening. This is a work-around for independent films. The film commissioners on the panel are from Scandinavian countries, and they did stress that one of the goals of this kind of matchmaking is to foster genuine professional relationships between independent filmmakers in both places, which I'd like to think supports two local film communities at the same time.

March 17, 2015 at 1:22AM

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Reply
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Oakley Anderson-Moore
Writer
Director/Shooter/Editor

The same can be said for the various state funding mechanisms within the United States. Here in Dallas, the city/state film apparatus is largely designed to lure large, Hollywood productions to the area rather than an attempt to nurture and promote local talent.

March 20, 2015 at 3:01PM

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Ryan Paige
Writer
225

Frederico, I have a project that I am interested in getting co producers on. Please email me at leonard@sweetunknownstudios.com

March 16, 2015 at 1:07PM

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The world is upside down:
European filmmakers migrate to the US, because the financing system in Europe is a big mafia-familia-thing, and their talent don't deserve any funding or recognition unless you become a member of their private club and follow the rules.
And filmmakers from US look for financing options abroad because they are too many talented of them and there is no money for everyone.
In any case, it is hard at both sides of the Atlantic for most of us.

March 16, 2015 at 1:19PM

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Reply
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Jupiter de la Bâtardise
writer/filmmaker
149

Get in touch with me, I'm a Luxembourg-based producer seeking projects at the moment. www.isprod.lu

March 20, 2015 at 3:17AM

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Reply
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Adolf El Assal
Writer / Director / Producer
173

Hi Adolf, I am a writer/Director looking to shoot my next film in Europe, a low to mid budget thriller. Let me know if you might be interested in taking a look. Thanks. Alex.

alexross71@gmail.com

March 20, 2015 at 3:04PM

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Alex Ross
Writer/Director
154

Hi , I am a Dutch Director and Filmmaker and i'm looking for a producer for my next project.
This is my first Narrative Film about an art robbery vimeo.com/96680174
I can work with and without budget !

March 21, 2015 at 5:40AM

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Reply
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Mouse Verburgh
Director / Editor
79

hello. would you give me some information about film producing in your country?

my email is :

farhad_star24@yahoo.com

August 31, 2015 at 8:51AM

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FYI, "Frank Tagliano" is the name of the character in the show, not an actor. The actor's name is Steven Van Zandt.

July 17, 2015 at 5:00PM

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Hey gang,

I'm a writer/director from Los Angeles am looking to shoot my next project (a short narrative) on location Bonn, Germany (or even Cologne). If anyone has any specific experience or information on applying for regional film funds for Germany, it would be greatly appreciated - thanks!

May 18, 2016 at 8:21PM, Edited May 18, 8:23PM

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Very interesting article. We have our film in development and a Columbian producer on board for this English/Spanish language production. We are looking for a European based production company here in the EU to help.

Please get in touch if anyone has any leads for us! Thanks!

sean@arathra.com

May 25, 2016 at 3:55PM

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Reply
avatar
Sean Sutton
Actor/Screenwriter/Director
1

Great little article.
I'm an Icelandic producer, ivansamuel.is. One of our projects (Awaken The Giant Within) is set in US. So it's basically a US indie film produced by a European (Icelandic) company. In Iceland some of the talents have to be Icelandic or part of the project shot in Iceland. In this case some of it might be shot in Iceland but most of it will be shot in the states. Anyways, it was nice to find this article. I have been interested for a while about the whole concept of US indie low budget filmmaking meets European film fund ;)

May 30, 2016 at 3:58PM, Edited May 30, 3:58PM

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IS
8

I'm a famous person in surveillance circles due to having global influence of magic and holy power, like a pope. I've been referred to in many movies and songs over the past 20 years, such as Ultraviolet, Season of the Witch, the recent Hansel and Gretel, the glitch in Wreck It Ralph, and lots more. Hozier's Take Me To Church and Aerosmith's Walk On The Water. I am a potentially lucrative subject to make a film about.

August 31, 2016 at 5:15PM

1
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Hey there...I am an Armenian film producer and would like to find European partner for a film coproduction
If any of you are interested this is my email miqopet@gmail.com

March 30, 2017 at 11:00AM, Edited March 30, 11:00AM

0
Reply
Miqo
Producer, Script writer
10

50% Financing Secured w/ 50% Financing Remaining (Let's Co-Produce)
Distribution In Place & Ready To Rock & Roll !!!!!!!!!

Good Afternoon,

My name is Tirrick Obadiah Smith and I am an American film producer, director, writer, casting director, etc. & looking to partner up with a professional, creative, hard-working and dedicated producer who is ready to take our careers to their ultimate levels. Please contact me at: StandingOvationsEntertainment@gmail.com for further details and information. Let's make history!!!!!!!!!

Hourglass: A Terrifying Psycho Thriller Feature Film

Thank you,

Tirrick Obadiah Smith

May 26, 2017 at 6:04PM

0
Reply
avatar
Tirrick Obadiah Smith
Producer/Director/Writer/Casting Director/Etc.
1