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International Film Congress at the 2005 Cologne Medien Forum

International Film Congress at the 2005 Cologne Medien Forum
06/30 – 07/05

The Largest European media conference, the Cologne Medien Forum in North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) has a comprehensive orientation providing updates on socio-economic related issues impacting the film and television industries and comprehensive screenings through the parallel Cologne Conference which feature the best television programs produced world wide in the previous year. Other equally important parts are the International Film Congress, and Co-Production meeting MADE IN NRW, as well as sections devoted to the training of media professionals, and to the development of print and other electronic media., Now in its 17th edition, the Medien Forum has been funded by North Rhine Westphalia’s state government with additional sponsorships from participating media companies. As distinct from other media events, the forum has been covering since its inception the relation between public policy and media development, as evidenced this year by the key note of the newly elected governor of NRW, Juergen Ruettker who reaffirmed the state’s commitment to support the expansion of media industries. Compared to the 2004 edition, the Medien Forum was better and more tightly organized . It attracted more than 7000 participants to all events, with the Cologne Conference as the most often chosen destination

The 2005 Film Congress included screenings, seminars, and the customary receptions. An extraordinary and reflexive French-German feature film CACHE by Michael Haneke, co-funded by the NRW Film Foundation, which had received the Cannes‘ director award, opened the conference. Other screenings included Lars van Trier’s MANDERLAY, a Rainer Werner Fassbinder special featuring a newly restored screen version of VERONICA VOSS, and the Spectrum Young Cinema series of new films by students from Cologne’s two film and media schools. Panels covered the impact of the rapid rise of DVD’s on marketing and distribution, an investigation of feature films having ideals going beyond the imagery, complemented by case studies of co-productions and screen writing workshops.

The International Film Congress and Co-Production Meeting were organized by the NRW Film Foundation. Established in 1991 by state agencies to facilitate repositioning of North Rhine Westphalia’s economy from an industrial manufacturing base to a service economy with a strong media and information sector, the Film Stiftung has become Europe’s second largest public funding source for film, television, and documentary productions, only surpassed by French agencies. Through 2004 the foundation has provided about $400 million in production support for 687 projects covering 377 feature films, 139 television projects, 127 documentaries, and 44 children’s films. The largest public and private German broadcasters such as WDR, ZDF, and RTL partner with NRW state agencies in arranging for the necessary funds, thus assuring a steady flow of product supply.

Since financial support from the foundation requires a German partner, the co-production meetings at the medien forum include pitching sessions, networking, and pre-arranged meetings between producers and funders. This year’s pitching involved film makers from six European countries presenting 26 international film and documentary productions, selected from 70 submissions. A responsive audience consisted of fellow producers, industry observers and, most important, potential funders. Since the co-production meeting had this year a narrow focus on German speaking European countries, only three productions selected from other areas that is Israel, Poland and Spain., According to the Film Foundation’s guidelines, productions must have artistic merit and commercial potential in order to be pitched to potential funders and partners. Further it is essential that some funding is already secured, ideally about 25-30% of the total production budget, a requirement also in place at Amsterdam’s documentary pitching sessions. The prospectus for the pitching session follows a standard format and includes synopsis, key production personnel, specification of genre, audience and other facts as well as relevant financial data and identification of project partners. If the proposal is accepted for the pitch and a German co-production partner found subsequently, a funding proposal can be submitted to the foundation.

As noted the Film Foundations conditions specify that the proposed project meets quality and commercial success standard. The applicant must cover with personal funds at least 5% of the production costs. Support from the foundation through interest free loans cannot exceed fifty percent of the total production costs and is expected to be paid back if the film is a commercial success. If the project is very artistic and difficult to handle commercially the foundation’s support level may go beyond 50%, though this happens but rarely. Further a sum corresponding to at least 150% of the loan must be spent in North Rhine Westphalia be it in the production or post-production phase. Though most of the projects funded are eurocentric, there have been numerous projects with non-European and US participation. For example, the NRW film foundation co-funded HEAVEN by Tom Twyker (Miramax), BOOKIES by Mark Iisley (International Arts Entertainment), INVESTIGATING SEX by Alan Rudolph (Surreal Productions) and TEZA by Haile Gerima (Kino and Negod-Gwad Productions.

Participation in the Medien Forum and the International Film Congress was enlightening and rather productive, facilitated by to the superb organization of the event and support from an informal yet most helpful Media Form and Film Congress Staff

Claus Mueller, New York Correspondent


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