Film Scene

The European Commission’s MEDIA Program Gives a Helping Hand to European Cinema

MEDIA-Logo; © EU-KommissionMEDIA-Logo; © EU-KommssionWe all know “Amelie of Montmartre”, we all travelled on the train through Norway with “O’Horten” and we all chuckled over “Welcome to the Land of Shtis” in Normandy. Without the EU’s MEDIA program, however, all these films might not actually have made it onto movie screens in Europe.

Since 1991 this support program has been sponsoring European film production by paying for the distribution costs. For the period 2007-2013 the European Union is supporting the European film industry with a total of 755 million euros. “The budget’s main focus, about 65 per cent, is on the distribution, rental and promotion of European films outside their home countries, not only in other European countries, but also world-wide,” says Cornelia Hammelmann, managing director of MEDIA Desk Deutschland, the Hamburg-based branch of the MEDIA program. The rest of the money goes towards funding the organisation of festivals (like the annual European Film Prize Awards), pilot schemes, workshops, as well as training courses for filmmakers.

Money well spent

Cinema; © EU-CommissionThe aim of this program is to create a strong European audio-visual sector that is able to reflect Europe’s cultural identity and its cultural legacy –as the official mission of the EU Commission puts it. The European film should be able to compete on a global level – and it seems to be succeeding in doing this more and more. Last year there were four films among the Oscar nominations that had been sponsored by the MEDIA program. The German-Austrian co-production “The Counterfeiters” won the Oscar for the best foreign-language film. This year “Slumdog Millionaire”, which walked off with eight Oscars, had also been funded with 830,000 euros from the MEDIA program. EU Media Commissar, Viviane Reding, also said proudly, “The success of this film is a clear indication that funding from the MEDIA program is money well spent.” A further seven films that had received funding amounting to three million euros had also been nominated for an Oscar.

The fact that MEDIA funding pays off is also confirmed by Cornelia Hammelmann. Every euro from the EU pot generates about six euros in private investment from the industry. “MEDIA attracts funding from other sources and is thus able to help filmmakers to stand up to the challenges of a fast-growing market with all its new technologies like video-on-demand and a permanent lack of private investment.”

Advice and Support

: EU Media Commissar, Viviane Reding, in Cannes; © EU-CommissionIn contrast to the film funding programs of the Council of Europe, MEDIA does not support the actual production of the film. “It is not easy to say what is actually the more creatively demanding aspect when making a film – the artistic work or the financing,” says MEDIA Desk. As is so often the case in the EU these days, it is usually several partners from different countries working together to file an application. Cornelia Hammelmann says, “We advise and support the filmmakers on how they should phrase their exposé, on how they can find partners and on how to draw up the papers for the project.” Inhibition thresholds are quite high when it comes to applying directly to Brussels.

When the applications go to Brussels, they are sent to the Educational, Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) where they are assessed by experts. Specific criteria are used for the evaluation whose aim is to ascertain the distribution potential for the European market. The agency’s recommendations are then submitted to the European Parliament for inspection. The final decision on the project is then taken by the Information Society and Media Directorate-General (INFSO) of the EU Commission.

Sounding out the film market

Films in the pipeline; © EU-CommissionThe MEDIA Desks serve as branches of the information network in the various European countries. They work in close collaboration with, what are called, MEDIA Antennas and these are to be found in three places in Germany (Düsseldorf, Berlin and Munich). They provide information on the wide range of funding possibilities within the EU. Advising people on how to apply is just one of the many jobs they do. They have a comprehensive archive of information on the film business and film politics of the particular European country they are located in, which is also used by journalists, academics and students; they have a website on which invitations to tender are published and on which all kinds of important information, including an extensive list of addresses, can be accessed.

“Above all we are able to help those who take the risk of venturing into Europe ,” says Director Hammelmann. Film producers, global distributors, rental companies and cinemas all need connections – and above all money, of course. “Anybody who is lucky enough to obtain funding from us, will have an easier time getting it from elsewhere, too.”

Volker Thomas
is a free-lance journalist in Berlin and Head of the Thomas Presse und PR Agency.

Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
July 2009

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