The first ever German-French Film Rendez-Vous was held at Lyon's Institut Lumiere on Nov 3 and 4.
The two day event, an initiative of the German-French Film Academy and organised by French export body Unifrance, was an opportunity for directors, producers, politicians and executives to discuss issues currently facing the two industries and ways to increase cooperation.
Culture ministers Christina Weiss (Germany) and Jean-Jacques Aillagon (France) used a round table event to declare their continuing defense of European cultural diversity and the need to better circulate European films from one country to another. "We must fight to ensure that culture is not a residual element but a central point of the Union," said Aillagon.
The issue of America's dominance at the European box-office was also a hot topic, commented on by everyone from French director Jean-Jacques Beineix to representatives of the US majors. Jose Covo of French distributor UFD which handles 20th Century Fox's films locally said, "Europe has an interest in uniting itself, we need European majors."
The German representatives were in an upbeat mood at the Rendez-Vous, largely thanks to the success of Wolfgang Becker's Goodbye Lenin!. The film has performed strongly in France - an unusual feat for a German film where even Tom Tykwer's international hit Run Lola Run was a disappointment. Goodbye Lenin! broke the one million admissions mark on Sunday (Nov 2). Another German hit, Sonke Wortmann's The Miracle Of Bern is also tipped to do strong business.
Germans are keen to capitalise on this momentum. Key issues in the discussions were the differences between funding in the two countries: France is heavily endowed by the state and slightly protectionist when it comes to providing aid to majority foreign productions, while Germany benefits from regional aid that outdistances France's by several million Euros annually.
The conference was heavily skewed to German interests, with the Germans taking to the floor much more often than the French.
One key German complaint was the lack of a stringent television quota system in Germany. Resoundingly, the German contingent made it plain that TV networks have far too much power in Germany, which means that local and European film quotas cannot be enforced. In France, each network is bound to invest a percentage of its revenues back into the system.
Stephan Hutter of distributor Prokino noted, "There are far fewer films now bought for prime time and if a film sells less than 300,000 tickets only the Third Channels buy them and at a very low price."
Peter Herrmann of MTM Filmproduktion added, "TV networks don't buy films, they are just a co-producer for a very small amount of money. But we have to be realistic, it won't change overnight."
There were also calls for a harmonisation of subsidy systems throughout Europe.
One German producer noted that France's points system is "a very big difficulty" for Germans. France's system of aid is based on a points system - the more films use French talent, language, locations and post facilities, the more points they garner and the more aid they are entitled to.
One German writer/producer told ScreenDaily.com that Germans are looking to shift the balance of co-productions back to Germany, "French films like Amelie which shot in Cologne benefit from our regional aid, but the film was not German at all."