Although the financial crisis worsened in Europe this year, a bright spot emerging is the region’s film financing. I’m told that European investors who have become increasingly skittish about putting money into the markets are more seriously eyeing film investment as a safer bet. At the same time, producers and studios want to let outsiders in to mitigate risk. In recent high-profile deals, France’s StudioCanal which is riding high with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy among other projects has signed a $200 million slate financing pact with London-based private fund Anton Capital Entertanment. But on a down note for France, the end of the year has been marked by upset in the post-production sector with the financial turmoil at Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Industries and the future of dozens of films in jeopardy. The next year will see much hand-wringing over a sector that has moved to digital at a breakneck – some would say reckless – pace. Buyers were in fine fettle at the Cannes Film Festival with many deals concluded and a sense that smart money and realistic prices have returned. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Cannes’ persona non grata Lars von Trier and his controversial “Nazi” remarks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cannes this year saw the debut of such award darlings as The Artist and Palme d’Or winner Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life. Cannes programmer Thierry Frémaux in 2012 faces the daunting challenge of coming up with a better selection than his 2011 vintage which found favor with the typically harsh Riviera audience.
In Germany in December, the oft-morphing Senator entered a long-term strategic partnership with Ryan Kavanaugh’s Relativity which also took a significant stake in the producer-distributor. In other German news, there were troubles at Degeto, the film acquisition arm of broadcaster ARD whose chief, Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan, was let go in November following revelations that the company had overspent its budget. German independent producers were particularly anguished given Degeto’s position as a prime co-production partner. The situation remains somewhat tenuous and will likely be a hot topic at the Berlin Film Fest in February.