In a bid to stimulate co-production activity between the two countries, UK and French film support agencies The Film Council and the CNC are exploring ways of working together more closely.

The two bodies have met several times this year to discuss increased co-operation. At the Dinard Festival of British film last week, the two hosted an industry round table for French and British filmmakers and producers. Further meetings are planned to take place in London in January.

One of the ideas mooted at Dinard was the launch of an exchange programme between Film Council and CNC staff. Both bodies are also understood to be investigating the possibility of jointly investing in French and UK productions.

The latter idea follows on from the Film Council's $782,000 (£500,000) investment last year in Patrice Leconte's L'Homme Du Train - which was co-produced by Carl Clifton of UK production outfit Tubedale Films.

Initially scorned by much of the British press who said the Film Council should not be spending UK tax payers' money on a French film, the investment has become less controversial over time - partly because of the strong critical reception of L'Homme Du Train at the Venice Film Festival this year.

Many UK producers at Dinard last week also accepted that the investment had been a good way of putting down a marker to say that the UK production community is interested in co-operating further with France, one of the most significant European film players - especially one that has backed British filmmakers such as Mike Leigh.

The possibility of co-operating further on film funding also stems from the initiative which first formalised the alliance between the CNC and the Film Council - the decision to jointly fund six short films made by French and British film-makers. The project - called The Short Channel - was well received at Dinard and saw three UK and three French upcoming film directors pair off and each make a film from the same script.

Introducing the films at Dinard at the weekend, Paul Trijbits, head of the Film Council's New Cinema Fund, explained: "The philosophy was that for the countries in Europe which are responsible for much of the film industry, we are not very good at collaborating."

A Film Council spokesperson commented: "Trying to forge stronger co-operation is vital. We're trying really hard to meet European producers and get them to meet with UK producers."

The move also comes as the Film Council prepares to launch its specialised distribution circuit, which aims to help showcase a greater range of foreign language and arthouse film around UK cinemas. Earlier this week, the Film Council also announced that it was mulling plans to launch a festival of French film in the UK, similar to the Dinard Festival of British Film. (, 7 October)