Also German-Polish co-production treaty in the works.

Three German funds – the German Federal Film Board (FFA), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM) – have joined forces with the Russia Cinema Fund (RCF) to launch an agreement to encourage the joint development of projects by German and Russian film projects.

The accord with the official but rather unwieldy title of “Agreement on the Organisation of Activity On Development of Co-Production Projects between Germany and Russia”  was signed on Tuesday morning (June 28) at this week’s Moscow Co-Production Forum by the FFA’s CEO Peter Dinges, Medienboard’s co-managing director Kirsten Niehuus, MDM’s CEO Manfred Schmidt and RCF CEO Sergei Tolstikov .

According to the agreement, the programme has been set up “to support the development of projects with the intention to increase the number of German and Russian co-productions between Russian and German producers.”  It will provide up to €150,000 a year for the co-development of film projects, with the FFA and the RCF each contributing €50,000 and Medienboard and MDM €25,000 each.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily in Moscow, Manfred Schmidt  – whose contract as MDM’s CEO was extended by another five years last week – said that the agreement would “enable projects between German and Russian producers, directors and screenwriters to be developed at from an earlier stage, which could have chance of finding interest with audiences in both Germany and Russia as well as elsewhere in Europe.”

“It will be interesting for producers through this agreement to get feedback from four film funding institutions at such an early stage,” Schmidt said.

The FFA’s Peter Dinges added that his funding body’s involvement in this co-development fund was “a really new, but important step” for the FFA since this funding category has not existed in its guidelines before.

Dinges pointed out that the German-Russian initiative was the first one in the area of development for the FFA and had come ahead of similar plans to extend the German-French “mini-traite” coproduction agreement to also include support for development.

Meanwhile, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg’s Kirsten Niehuus told ScreenDaily that this latest initiative had been “thanks to the work of the German-Russian Film Academy which was founded two years ago. It would be great if this could now be crowned  with the signing of the German-Russian co-production treaty. In the meantime, this agreement provides a platform where we can discuss co-productions.”

She added the deadline for the first applications would be November 1.

Elena Romanova, head of RCF’s international department, pointed out that the joint venture with Germany made perfect sense given the “historical relationship” of co-productions between Russia and Germany. Germany was the leading foreign partner for co-productions with Russia between 2006-2010, leading the field with participation in 11 of the 46 minor or major co-productions during this period, followed by France (9), Ukraine (8), Kazakhstan (7) and Italy (4), among others.

“Co-production is one of the key lines of activity for our department, and co-development is important to start working together at the earliest stage,” Romanova said. “We hope it will help to create mutual projects that will be successful in these two countries.”

In a first reaction to the signing of the agreement, Russian producer Kira Saksaganskaya of Rockfilms Studio said: “this is one of the happiest days of working in the industry. We have so many plans to work together with German partners and there are many German producers wanting to work with us.”

One of her current projects with a German partner attached, Film Base Berlin, is Alexey Uchitel’s next fature The Stockholm Syndrome (working title).

She explained that the agreement opened new possibilities for the Russia Cinema Fund because it had concentrated on production funding until now. “In fact, we have never had development funding available in Russia,” Saksaganskaya said.

This is the third co-development venture initiated by German film funds with foreign partners. In 2005, the German-Polish Co-Development Fund (DPCF) was established with an annual budget of up to €150,000 by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, MDM and Polish Film Institute (PISF) to foster increased co-production activity between Polish producers and producers from Central Germany and Berlin-Brandenburg.

To date, 15 projects were supported with amounts ranging between €15,000 - €45,000, including Johannes Schmid’s Wintervater and Adam Gusowski and Piotr Mordel’s documentary comedy 80 Tage.

Moreover, this year’s Berlinale saw the Medienboard and FilmFörderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein collaborate with Turkey’s Ministry for Culture and Tourism and Istanbul Film Festival’s “Meetings on the Bridge” co-production market to launch a German-Turkish Co-Production Development Fund (GTCDF).

Up to €150,000 are being made available each year to support the joint development of projects by German and Turkish producers. In April, the first seven projects, including new films by Seyfi Teoman, Hüseyin Karabey, Semih Kalpanoglu and Asli Özge, were supported with amounts ranging between €10,000-€20,000.

This latest German-Russian initiative comes as efforts are still underway behind the scenes to finally be in a position to sign an official co-production treaty between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Germany’s State Minister for Culture Bernd Neumann and his Polish opposite number Bogdan Zdrojewski announced during the 11th German-Polish Governmental Consultations in Warsaw last week that they are looking to conclude a German-Polish co-production treaty as part of a common desire for closer collaboration in the field of culture.

In addition, greater cooperation between the two neighbours is being explored in the area of film education.