Co-productiontreaties between governments are not a catch-all solution to creatingcross-national films, delegates to Screen International's NewFrontiers conference in London were warned.

Many nations have bilateral agreements which allow film-makers from partner countries to access local tax breaks. Many more are likely to be signed with the emerging film powers like Russia, China and India.

But they do not automatically translate into major advantages to producers, warned Sylvain Bursztejn, producer with RosemFilms, which has co-produced six films in China.

"France hadno treaty with China which has meant we were not tied to rules about what must beshot where."

Instead the producer needed to find private backing which proved easier than might be expected. "There is so much money there in private hands.In two weeks, we found $2m for one film."

"There'sinvestment because they know that there's so much interest in films that theywill make money."

The lack of a formal treaty made for a more straightforward operation.

"Co-production treaties can be a bit of a smokescreen," suggests Peter Fudakowski, president and CEO of Premiere Productions and producer of Oscar winner Tsotsi.

"It's really just about who is giving the money and on what terms. It is important to keep control."

Formal treaties allow film-makers from participant countries to access tax breaks, but that could not be the primary consideration for producers, speakers suggested.

Whether helped or hindered by formal treaties, the key to makinginternational co-productions work was a matter of genuine collaborationbetween equal partners, suggested Parminder Vir, a consultant with IngeniousWorld Cinema.

"It's not about giving product to India but working with India."

"It shouldbe cross-cultural rather than crossover," she said - not a compromise picture to meet an illusory global audience but universal stories told with local voices.

The future of any local film industry would rely on the growth of indigenous film-making, she suggests.

In practical terms, successful co-production requires an understanding of local cultures and ways of working that may be very differentfrom home.

Ashvin Kumar, of Alipur Films, who is directing his first feature, a $2m thriller called The Forest in India says communication and local customs can be problematic for the uninitiated.

Most of the speakers agreed that local knowledge was absolutely essential and that a local producer was vital.

The same story emerged from all the speakers - the emerging film powers were picking up the skills quickly to match their facilities.

Theelephant in the room in the cases of India and China remains piracy, which isrampant. It skews the economics of film-making and real partnership, speakers suggested.

Nonetheless,for all the challenges, co-production was at the centre of any globalindependent film expansion, said keynote Martin Katz, President/Founder ofProspero Pictures.

Katz, whosecredits include such global hits as Hotel Rwanda and Spider, said we were entering a new era for the film industry worldwide, which would be as profound as the changes which have transformed TV production over recent years.

"There was a time when $100m films could only be made in the US but now they get made all over the world. But it's important not to see films as simple exports but as building skills and creating local production activity."