Oscar-winner Thomas also says producers should get enhanced recoupment positions so they aren’t paupers; he says festival heads are more crucial contacts than studio heads.

Jeremy Thomas has called for the UK to re-enter Eurimages, the Council of Europe fund for the co-production, distribution and exhibition of European cinematographic works.

The Oscar-winning producer of films from The Last Emperor to Crash to 13 Assassins was the keynote speaker today at the launch of this year’s Film London Production Finance Market.

“Are we European filmmakers in Britain or are we islanders?” Thomas asked. “We need Eurimages.”

He described co-productions as “the essential and difficult face of making movies in 2010.”

The UK joined Eurimages in 1992 but withdrew in 1996. There have been periodic calls since then for the UK to re-enter the fold. But UK public funders have been critical of the politicking and horse-trading perceived to go on in Eurimages. The DCMS argued that Eurimages didn’t deliver good value for UK producers.

During the sale-and-leaseback financing era, Britain was immensely desirable as a co-production partner. With the introduction of the UK tax credit in 2005/2006, that changed dramatically. As Thomas noted, putting together coproductions has become increasingly tough for UK producers. His remarks today are now bound to re-ignite the debate about Britain and Eurimages.

The veteran producer also endorsed the calls from producers’ organisation Pact for UK producers to have enhanced recoupment positions from public investment in film.

“The producer needs some ability not to be a pauper,” Thomas said. “Pauper-producer is an oxymoron. There is this strange idea that a film producer is just like a service guy. He is not. He is an entrepreneur. He needs to be encouraged to be an entrepreneur. That is what nobody has understood.”

Thomas also called on independent producers to make more inventive use of the film festival system and “to play the festival game.”

“My relationships with heads of festivals are more important to me than heads of studios,” Thomas declared.

Festivals, he elaborated, are among the few events at which independent producers can compete on level terms with the majors. “For one day, you are the main event in the world of cinema,” he said. “The world press are there and the world’s distributors are there. If you have knowledge of how to promote your film, you can score a bull’s eye. You can get a film recognised worldwide.”

Thomas also revealed that he hasn’t given up yet on the long-gestating, much-delayed Terry Gilliam Don Quixote project. “I am going to stick forever with that project if I can,” Thomas said. “I believe 1000% in Terry Gilliam being the most unique and magnificent film personality and I know that people want to see his film.”

The fourth Production Finance Market continues tomorrow with more than 100 producers and financiers attending; it is presented in association with the BFI London Film Festival.