Italian producers are distancing themselves from the inflammatory comments made by Gianni Massaro about Eurimages when he announced his shock resignation as president of the Fund last week.

Massaro left his position two months before the end of his non-renewable 2-year term, blaming crippling bureaucracy as well as behind-the-scenes feuds between Eurimages and the Council of Europe, which runs the Fund.

However, Amedeo Pagani, head of Rome's Classic Films, who recently received a Eurimages grant for three films as a co-producer, said: "Italy must continue to support Eurimages. The type of declarations Massaro came out with at the press conference is certainly of no help in bringing about any improvements"

"It is natural for there to be some small problems as Eurimages has to grow with the European Union. But everyone is and should be working to resolve them. There has always been complete transparency at Eurimages, and the organisation has been of great help to European co-producers over the years. It is the first organisation at a European level to support quality European cinema. It is extremely important culturally as well as politically.

"We should be helping it, not destroying it. Personally, I don't understand what Massaro was trying to achieve by resigning two months before his term was up" he said.

Andrea Occhipinti, head of Rome production and distribution company Lucky Red, says his experience with Eurimages also has been very positive. "My experience was very smooth. Eurimages is very well informed, they know each territory very well. The first time I worked with them they already knew exactly who I was, and all about my company. I thought they were great".

During the press conference he held in Rome last week, Massaro also heavily criticised the Council's "decision to re-elect Eurimages's executive secretary, Renate Roginas, without consulting at any stage with the Fund's Committee" He also pointed at what he called a "cloudy" pre-selection of projects for funding by the Secretariat.

Under existing rules, Eurimages Executive Secretariat pre-selects projects, manages fund allocation and answers directly to the general secretary of the Council of Europe, while Eurimages's Committee makes the final decision on which films will receive funding.

Roginas told she did not wish to enter in a petty tit-for-tat argument with Massaro. However, she released a press statement, saying:

"Common rules, objectivity and transparency are the sole criteria for managing the Eurimages Fund. Decisions for funding projects are taken by representatives of the 27 member countries. Since taking over as executive secretary two years ago, one of my major objectives was to improve the transparency of the Secretariat's analysis of submitted film projects".

Nevertheless, while all producers agree on the exceptional value of Eurimages and its well-oiled funding wheels - it currently allocates $18.5m (Euros 19m) in funds to international co-productions each year - many also sigh heavily when asked about the Fund's red tape. The application procedure is widely considered complicated and often means presenting 200 pages of documents in addition to the film's script.

Says Veteran Rome producer Leo Pescarolo, a minority co-producer on Bakhtiar Khudojnazarov's Civil Life which recently received $653,200 (Euros 670 000) from Eurimages: "I have always worked with Eurimages. It's true, there is too much bureaucracy. I understand it's not easy for them to avoid it. But if they can solve that problem, the rest is absolutely perfect".