Jerome Clement, (pictured) head of Arte, the Franco-German cultural channel, has plenty to crow about as he makes an annual good-will mission to the Berlinale. Arte was an investor in no less than twenty festival films, including four in main competition.
These are Wolfgang Becker's already hot Good Bye Lenin!, Moussa Sene Absa's Madame Brouette, Hans Christian Schmid's Lichter and Patrice Chereau's Son Frere.
With Michel Reilhac, his head of cinema from Arte France, Clement reminds film-makers that this is one TV channel that is not cutting either its commitment to cinema, nor the amount of cash it has available for film investment. With other broadcasters across Europe slashing their film budgets, that makes the group an increasingly sought after haven of financial stability. "Artists need reassurance," Clement told Screen International, "we are here to give that"
But being in demand allows Arte to be choosier about what it commits to. Reilhac says the channel nowadays receives some 600 scripts and projects a year in search of funding - a figure possibly double that of two years ago - and that only 3% are likely to succeed.
With some Euros 7.8m a year for film investment, Arte deliberately restricts itself to a maximum of twenty projects a year, selected four at a time from five short-lists. "We do this in order to maintain a reasonably significant level of investment in each. The average works out at Euros 350,000 combining the broadcast rights and an equity investment of Euros 150,000," says Reilhac.
Both Clement and Reilhac are keen to stress just how open their coffers are to films of all nationalities - only one third of its funds are earmarked for French pictures - as long quality is maintained. "We make auteur choices, but this is not a label for the films that others do not want," says Reilhac. Clement, though uses the example of Nicolas Philibert's acclaimed schoolhouse documentary Etre Et Avoir, which was turned down by all the other French broadcasters, was subsequently backed by Arte before notching up 600,000 spectators at the French box office. "We have the freedom to take the risks that other channels do not," says Clement.
It could repeat the feat at Cannes, where it could boast Lars Von Trier's Dogville, Michael Haneke's Le Temps Des Loups, Damien Odoul's Errance, Yesim Oustaglou's Waiting For The Clouds, Amos Gitai's Alila and the Quay Brothers The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes.