Many films come together through the collaboration of several producers. Such collaboration can be between producers from the same country or region, or between filmmakers from different countries.
A specific form of collaboration is the co-production. A big part of non-US films in fact consists of co-productions, especially if the film is produced for international markets. Often this is noticeable as the story takes place across two or more countries, because several languages are spoken, or we recognize actors from different nationalities.
In this article, we will discuss the types of co-productions, how co-production works, what co-production treaties mean, which requirements are applicable for co-productions, the factors to determine co-production partners, and the benefits of setting up a co-production.
A co-production can be seen as a joint venture between two or more different production companies for the purpose of producing a film (or in a broader sense, an audiovisual project including also television series, animation projects, and video games).
A co-production can be national – between production companies from the same country – or international, whereby producers from two or more countries team up to co-produce.
Co-production as a production format has been around for a while and may even date back to post-WW2 Europe or earlier.
International film co-production became common in the 50s, 60s, and 70s between mostly Italian, Spanish, and French production companies. Most of the “Spaghetti-western” and “sword and sandal” movies were in fact Spanish-Italian co-productions.
There are several ways to classify international co-productions.
From a single producer’s perspective, the co-production can be considered a majority, a minority, or a parity co-production (UNESCO Institute for Statistics).
Another distinction is introduced by Parc: a corporation-led co-production and a state-led co-production.
In practice, I interpret this for all practical purposes, as the distinction between:
Another way of defining co-productions is by making a distinction between an official and a non-official co-production. The difference is whether or not there is a formal inter-government agreement between the countries of the co-producers.
Thus, official co-productions are made possible by agreements between countries. Generally speaking, co-production agreements seek to achieve economic, cultural, and diplomatic goals. For filmmakers, the key attraction of a treaty co-production is that it qualifies as a national production in each of the partner nations and therewith, the production can access multiple benefits that are available to the local film industry in each country.
As stated above, international co-productions also occur outside the framework of official co-productions, for example with countries that do not have an agreement in place, or projects that do not satisfy official co-production criteria.
An official treaty co-production is a partnership between two production partners that adhere to national or regional government-funded co-production requirements in order to receive the benefits of national status in the countries of both producing partners.
Many countries have bi-lateral or multi-lateral co-production agreements.
Cross-border co-production treaties are multi-party agreements between several countries, often all member countries of an international or intergovernmental organization.
Examples of cross-border co-production treaties are:
A film will need to meet certain requirements in order to be acknowledged as an (official) co-production. Such requirements vary per country, region, treaty, or cross border organization, and it is often a mixture of:
As per Stephen Follows’ research, there are many potential factors that affect whether filmmakers from one country are likely to team up with those of another country.
These factors include:
Some nations are much more likely to create co-productions than others. For example, of the top film-producing nations, Belgium has the highest rates of co-productions, with 72% of their films also being from another country.
The countries with the lowest levels of co-productions include India (3%), the Philippines (4%), and Indonesia (6%).
Another example of natural co-production partner choice based on language and historic and cultural ties, is shown by the foreign sources of co-production in Colombia assessed over a number of years: Spain: 61%, Argentina: 8%, Mexico: 7%, Panama: 7%, France: 4% - 83% or more of such sources are from other Spanish speaking countries.
The co-production framework can offer multiple benefits to producers.
The following are the most notable:
We discussed sorts of co-productions, how co-production functions, bilateral and cross-border co-production treaties, requirements for co-productions, factors to match co-production partners, and benefits of co-production.
Co-productions have been and will continue to be important, and for some counties, even essential instrument for content creation, as part of national production infrastructures.
Without a doubt, international co-production will remain an attractive way of cross-border collaboration and financing of film projects.
Should you like to know more about co-productions, feel free to reach out!
I have been working in film and TV since 2007. Through my consultancy firms XamanHaC and Zannoni Media Advisors, I have been involved as consultant and representative for amongst others Fintage House and Visualnet. For Fintage I negotiate agreements for films and television series, and am involved in business development and relationship management specifically in the US, Latin America and Spain. For Visualnet I expand their business globally and specifically in the US, and work on business development and client prospection.
My focus is business & legal affairs, business development and prospection, and production, distribution and financing in and from Latin America. I have given presentations, workshops and seminars at universities across the globe and at events such as the yearly conference of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers in the US (NALIP), the Winston Baker Film Finance Conferences, the Rio Film Market, the Bogota Audiovisual Market (BAM), and at the Rio Film Market and LATC Program in Los Angeles. Born in the Netherlands and a Dutch-Italian citizen, I am fluent in English, Spanish, Dutch and Italian, and basic in German.
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