IDFA Bertha Fund looks to fund fair co-productions via IBF Europe – International Co-production grant

    The IBF Europe – International Co-production grant caters to international documentary co-productions with at least one European and one non-European producer. The application deadline is April 1st.

    Today, the IDFA Bertha Fund launches a call for applications for the IBF Europe – International Co-production grant. Now in its fifth cycle, the grant builds on the Fund’s mandate of stimulating and empowering the creative documentary sector in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe, with funding contributions of up to €40,000 per co-production project.

    Success stories, past and present

    “The program has brought together producers from different regions working with talented filmmakers who tell stories that are relevant, sometimes urgent, and are an addition to the documentary field,” notes Isabel Arrate Fernandez, Managing Director of the IDFA Bertha Fund.

    The IBF Europe – International Co-production grant has facilitated notable success in recent years, with supported films that include Of Fathers and Sons (dir. Talal Derki, Germany, Syria, Lebanon, 2017), which premiered at IDFA before going on to secure the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance, and an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Other prominent films supported by the IBF grant include Kabul, City in the Wind (dir. Aboozar Amini, Netherlands, Afghanistan, Japan, Germany, 2018), the critically acclaimed Opening Film of IDFA 2018, and Talking about Trees (dir. Suhaib Gasmelbari, Sudan, Chad, France, 2019), set to premiere at Berlinale 2019.

    Critical co-producing

    The Fund’s call comes at a pivotal moment for the documentary industry, when building foundations for effective, equitable co-production practices is more critical than ever. As Arrate Fernandez notes, “co-producing involves many partners, in some cases with very different production situations, having to deal with different expectations, responsibilities and realities.” Co-producing can be a rocky path, but one that is increasingly essential for many documentaries to get made.

    Recent industry events have shone a light on the issue, propelling it to center stage within the documentary community. The inaugural Documentary Convention, organized by DOX BOX in April 2018 in Leipzig, was particularly seminal for its focus on the ethics of co-production via panels, presentations, and an expert group meeting. The 31st IDFA picked up where the Documentary Convention left, with a think tank and industry panel titled Code of Conduct: Towards an ethical way of co-producing.

    “These gatherings have shown that the subject requires much discussion and exchange of perspectives to deal with the issues of different production realities, economic inequalities, non-monetary investment, and artistic control versus financial control,” explains Arrate Fernandez.

    Finding common ground

    Amidst the need for such broader discussions, Arrate Fernandez notes there is nevertheless plenty to consider in the short term, as “the sessions at the Documentary Convention and IDFA have raised some questions that are relevant for all entering a co-production.”

    Among those questions, Arrate Fernandez elaborates, co-producing partners should ask themselves why they co-produce; is it for economic reasons, or is there a collaborative, artistic, or business goal? The IDFA Bertha Fund urges producers to consider their expectations from the co-production they are undertaking, and to share these with their co-producers. Meetings and open communication are key, between the producers entering into the co-production, but also between the co-producers and the filmmakers.

    On a broader level, co-producers should consider how much time and energy they have devoted to actually understanding the nature of the film they will now co-produce together. “To what extent did you discuss the artistic and productional landscape in the countries involved in the co-production?” Arrate Fernandez asks. To sum up, all co-producing parties need to inquire, “do you understand each other's situation?”

    One of the takeaways from previous IBF Europe cycles is that property, shares, and revenues are often divided according to how each producer contributes to the finance plan. The issue with such a model, Arrate Fernandez explains, is that the artistic and production work that was executed before the start of the co-production is often not quantified and, subsequently, is not taken into account. While there is no easy solution, Arrate Fernandez notes that this discussion requires an open mind from all parties involved in order to come to a fair agreement between co-producers

    Selecting high-quality co-productions

    For the IDFA Bertha Fund, these factors directly impact the selection committee’s decision process, and to whom funding is distributed. In assessing proposals for the IBF Europe International Co-production grant, a key piece of criteria is the quality of the co-production, says Arrate Fernandez. This is evaluated, among other ways, by how the applicant producer explains the collaboration between all parties involved in the project, and whether the above questions are thoroughly addressed.

    Read more about the IBF Europe – International Co-production grant, and how to apply, here. Applications are due April 1st, 2019.

    With thanks to all participants of the expert group Ethics of Co-production at the Documentary Convention 2018 and all participants of the Code of Conduct think thank at IDFA 2018.