Polish Film Institute Supports Minority Co-Productions

Earlier this year, the Polish Film Institute launched a new envelope for minority co-productions. A special fund was formed and a separate assessment committee established, led by acclaimed film director Andrzej Jakimowski. In 2016 alone, the Polish Film Institute granted financial support to 15 minority co-productions, out of 44 submitted projects.

International festival and box-office potential

“Support for minority co-productions is one of the key policies of the Polish Film Institute in the area of international cooperation. When selecting projects for financing, we looked mainly at their production value and their potential both in terms of the international festival run, and box-office results. These 15 projects bring in a total of 22 co-production countries. The number of projects submitted for Andrzej Jakimowski’s assessment best reflects how Polish producers are able to attract filmmakers from around the world. Today, Polish producers collaborate with filmmakers from Iceland to Georgia and from France to Argentina,” says Magdalena Sroka, General Director of the Polish Film Institute.

“We granted financing to over a third of submitted projects. We mostly support young European cinema, with focus on cooperation with other film funds in our region, i.e. in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Ukraine. Of course, we do not neglect the major European markets, but close cooperation in the region may prove more effective in terms of reciprocity, which suggests financing Polish projects by international partners in the future,” says Robert Baliński, coordinator of the minority coproduction committee at the Polish Film Institute.

Young European cinema and high-profile projects

“We focus on high-profile projects, often with acclaimed directors attached; Claire Denis, Alexey German Jr., Sharunas Bartas, Jan Hrebejk and Diego Lerman are all filmmakers who are well-known on the international festival circuit, including Berlinale, Locarno, Sundance, Karlovy Vary, and Cannes. We also focus on long-term cooperation between Polish producers and dependable business partners, and on establishing lasting relationships between co-producers, which translates to mutual trust and improves the quality of the films.”

Significant Polish contribution

“The films that are being made have significant Polish contribution, often with no less than two department heads, be it a cinematographer, editor, or composer, in addition to shooting in Poland. This sends a strong message to the world: we have talented filmmakers who are able to communicate with artists from around the world and support them with their skill set,” says Baliński.

Financing minority coproductions is worth the effort; many public film financing bodies across Europe provide financing to international projects only when having a realistic possibility of reciprocity by the leading producer’s country of origin. Thanks to the minority coproduction envelope, producers of Polish films can apply to other national film funds and will be taken seriously; these film funds are aware that they are then eligible for support from the Polish Film Institute.

Expenses related to the minority coproduction fund are also partly offset thanks to Eurimages. In the last four sessions, a total of nine projects with Polish involvement received Eurimages support, for  a total amount of 1.5 million euros, six of which were projects supported by the minority committee. For many Polish producers, a good reputation with Eurimages can start with a high-quality minority coproduction.

In 2016, applications for the minority coproduction envelope were assessed by committee members Andrzej Jakimowski, Jakub Duszyński, and Jan Naszewski.

Polish producers’ opinion of committee members

“Both of our co-produced films touch upon difficult human stories. Radiogram is the story of a Bulgarian family in the hard days of 1970s communism. Scaffolding is the story of a young Israeli man looking for his place in the world. Both films are directed by first-time filmmakers. It was important to us to be assessed by a committee that will appreciate the sensibility and the potential of these films. As a director with incredible sensibility, Andrzej Jakimowski paints a very poetic picture in his films. These elements play a crucial part in our films. Other committee members are also specialists in world cinema. Jakub Duszyński, artistic director of Gutek Film, who brings the best of independent cinema from around the world to Polish screens, and Jan Naszewski, who handles world sales of arthouse films. We had no doubt that this committee would be our best choice,” says producer Stanisław Dziedzic in an interview for the Polish Film Institute.

 Experts in European and arthouse cinema

“It was important to us to be placed with a committee comprised of people who know and appreciate European cinema and arthouse films,” says producer Łukasz Dzięcioł of Opus Film, who applied for financing for Zwierzęta (Animals), a film by Greg Zgliński. Maria Blicharska and Monika Sajko-Gradowska, producers of Donten & Lacroix Films, who are currently working on the latest film by Lithuanian director Sharunas Bartas, agree: “Members of this committee appreciate auteur cinema; we respect the committee members and their work,” they said.

“This was the only committee dedicated to assessing minority coproductions. We don’t need to compete with strictly Polish productions, which understandably would usually be prioritised for financing when there wasn’t a separate envelope for minority coproductions. We were happy to hear that the committee recognised the high artistic value of our project,” said Małgorzata Staroń of Staron-Film, who is currently coproducing another project by Argentinian director Diego Lerman. “I trust all committee members; their comments are to the point, and they allow the producer to take an outsider’s view at their project,” says Agnieszka Kurzydło of MD4.

Building a partnership

“If we want Polish producers to receive financial support overseas for films by Polish directors, this film fund must be rational and diligent in financing production of films by international directors. The determining factors should not only be the artistic quality of the projects, but also the advantages to Poland from this subsidy, i.e. building lasting partnerships between producers and film funds from other countries, the prestige that comes with being involved in award-winning films, and participation of Polish filmmakers in interesting artistic projects. This requires experts with extensive international experience, and Andrzej Jakimowski’s committee was just that,” says Dariusz Jabłoński, producer of Dowłatow,  a film by Alexey German Jr.

“The opinion issued by the experts was professional; in our view, the committee factored in issues of significant importance for Polish involvement in minority coproductions. Thus confirming that establishing such a committee was the right call.”

 Permanent cooperation

Polish and international producers alike appreciate the opportunity to establish lasting partnerships with industry professionals. “Our latest film, which has just received support from Andrzej Jakimowski’s committee, is another film made by Opus Film with director Greg Zgliński. Although Zwierzęta (Animals) was always planned as a German-language film, we decided to come on board because we knew the director well and had had great experience with our earlier collaboration. The quality of the script also played a crucial part,” says Łukasz Dzięcioł.

“Alexey German Jr.’s Dowłatow is the latest in a series of films on which we collaborated with this exceptionally talented Russian director,” says Dariusz Jabłoński. “Last year, Under the Electric Clouds, a film on which we collaborated with TVP and SF Tor, received the Silver Bear in Berlin for artistic achievements. This film also marks yet another collaboration with producer Artem Vasiliev, with whom we are working now for the third time; Artem had also been our partner on Pokłosie (Aftermath), a Polish-Dutch-Russian-Slovak co-production,” says Jabłoński.

“We collaborated on Diego Lerman’s earlier film Refugiado. Cooperation was great, both on the artistic and the production side, which is why we decided to embark upon yet another project together. Now Campo Cine, the Argentinian leading producer, wants to apply for financing in Argentina for a film produced by Staron-Film,” says Małgorzata Staroń. Diego Lerman’s latest film, which she is coproducing, is currently in production.

 It was a dream

Klaudia Śmieja of Madants describes her collaboration with French director Claire Denis in the following words: “I first came across news of Claire Denis’ latest project while on the train from Cannes to Paris. Working with the director behind Trouble Every Day and Beau Travail was a dream come true. After returning to Poland, we wrote to Alcatraz Films, producers of the project, asking if there might be room for one more partner to come on board. There was no room for the next few months, until one February morning, when just before leaving for Berlinale we received word that if we’re still interested, they’re open to cooperation. Of course we were,” says the Madants producer who is currently developing five international coproductions thanks to the Polish Film Institute. “Of all the projects that received support this year, only High Life is still in pre. Last week we finished filming Pity, Undir trenu is currently close to picture lock-off. Ar Putam uz Lupam is most advanced; earlier this month composer Mikołaj Trzaska started the first recordings of the score.”

 A good and universal screenplay

Agnieszka Kurzydło of MD4 describes her motivation for coming on board of Jan Hrebejk’s latest film in the following words: “We were invited to come on board by Viktor Tauš, producer of the Garden Store trilogy and coproducer of Czerwony pająk (The Red Spider) and Czerwony kapitan (The Red Captain). We are coproducers on the entire trilogy, including Garden Store. Deserter and Garden Store. Suitor. We decided to come on board because we thought the script was great and very universal, and Czech cinema like Garden Store is well-liked by Polish audiences. The film also marks the feature debut by cinematographer Bartosz Cierlica.” According to the producer, Garden Store. Family Friend is currently in editing. Along with coproducer Chimney Polska, the creative team is working on special effects and complicated colour grading. Early next year, the producers are planning to record the score.

 Films at various stages of production

The latest film by Greg Zgliński is currently in post-production. “We are currently wrapping the final stages of production, and our release date is set for the first half of 2017. Our Swiss leading producer TeliFilm plans to release Zwierzęta (Animals) in the festival circuit.”

“Even before receiving word of the Polish Film Institute’s decision, we filmed in St. Petersburg, with cinematographer Łukasz Żal, camera operator Ernest Wilczyński, and gaffer Przemysław Sosnowski, as well as Polish actors Helena Sujecka, Michalina Olszańska, Hanna Śleszyńska and Piotr Gąsowski. We are currently finishing editing, and we are right on schedule,” says Dowłatow producer Dariusz Jabłoński.

“As far as Radiogram is concerned, the film is almost finished. Thanks to our Bulgarian producer, we recently managed to bring a new investor on board as coproducer — Bulgarian television. Early in November, we wrapped the Tel Aviv shoot of Scaffolding and moved into editing. Over the next few months, we will focus on picture and sound post-production, and we hope to have the film ready by May,” says Stanisław Dziedzic.

Meanwhile Szron, the latest film by director Sharunas Bartas, is currently moving into principal photography in the Ukraine. The film is coproduced by Maria Blicharska and Monika Sajko-Gradowska. According to the producer, this film, co-financed in the 3/2016 session of the Polish Film Institute, will feature Andrzej Chyra and Vanessa Paradis alongside Lithuanian actors.

 The Application Process in the Operational Programme for Film Production