The popular image ofHollywood as an American superpower steamrolling over the interests ofEurope's local filmmaking industry with one-size-fits-all global products wasgiven a sharp rebuke yesterday by Warner Bros. top international executive.
Delivering the keynotespeech at Screen International's third annual European Film FinanceSummit in Berlin, Richard Fox, Warner's executive vice president ofinternational, painted his studio as an impassioned advocate of local-languagecinema.
International movies madewith foreign partners, the majority of them shot in local languages andintended primarily for local consumption, are a cornerstone of Warner'soverseas business plans, Fox told an audience of top European industryexecutives.
"Our role is to facilitate,not to dominate", declared Fox. "We ask you to relinquish your view of us as aglobal conqueror and see Warner Bros as genuinely interested in finding ways tohelp your films succeed. It's in our interests to make these movies work - notto re-tool the entire cultural appetites of the planet!"
According to Fox, Warnerplans to release as many 45 local films annually under the Warner label,working with local production outfits such as Germany's X-Filme or Italy'sCattleya. To date 90 local language films have been made this way, including Good-ByeLenin! and Hong Kong's Turn Left, Turn Right. "Our mandate has beento provide assistance, collaboration and support where it s needed, not toimpose our vision on our partners."
Warner is already actively involved in Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil Mexico and China;in addition, the studio is now weighing up plans to become involved inScandinavia, Eastern Europe and Korea as well.
"We never view locallanguage as a description that patronises or diminishes a production in anyway," said Fox, "If a film can succeed in its own market, we want to becomeinvolved, and if we can take it beyond those borders, that's an additionalbonus."
Such a stated policy, comingfrom someone who works within the world's largest global media conglomerate,contrasted markedly with some of the European viewpoints at yesterday's Summit.
Massimo Pacilio, chief ofItaly's Movieweb production outfit, suggested that Europe's hope of building asustainable industry lay not in local films but in teaming up to createEnglish-language films that took collective advantage of the continent'ssubsidy and soft money mechanisms.
Fox, on the other hand,questioned the one-size-fits-all approach.
"One thing that stands outis that something in a person's DNA seems to resist globalisation. You can'tlook at it any other way. We don't respond to cultural generalities aboutourselves. Emotionally, we may start out similar, but our experiences areshaped so differently that it's become imperative to respect the desire ofpeople to retain their local influences, preferences and behaviours.
"In making, marketing orreleasing a film, those who do not adapt to local tastes are doomed. And thefirst thing we have to be willing to do is abandon our assumptions.
"Filmmakers withinternational reputations have a delicate finesse at walking that fine linebetween the universal and the personal" added Fox, using Pedro Almodovar andJean-Pierre Jeunet as two examples who have worked with Warners. "And in abusiness sense, we have to do the same thing."
"I find that partnering withlocal filmmaking is a deeply satisfying way to confirm both these perceptions that we are all one, and that we are culturally still unique and probablydeeply rooted in wanting to remain that way."