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International Documentary Market - Production of European Documentaries

Industry Report: Documentary

Annette Scheurich • Producer

- The role of ARTE in the financing of documentaries in Europe. Panorama of the financing possibilities in Germany

How many films does Marco Polo produce per year?
That depends on what volume we have. There are years when we produce eight or nine, currently it is four a year. It could be anything from four to ten films.

Does the current numbers have anything to do with the economic recession?
No, it has to do with the resources that we have; we are not a big company, and it depends on what sort of calendar I can get for what sort of films, so we only employ two to four people, and the rest are freelancers. Whatever we cannot get done with four people in the office we don’t do it, so that’s the limit that we try to keep.

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What criteria does a project have to meet in order for you to back it up?
It needs to be sold, once we get funding we are going to make it. But we specialise in wild life, natural history, science, adventure, that sort of thing. I don’t do social documentary, that it is not our marquee.

Do you have an annual production budget?
It goes from five hundred to two million €, depending on what sort of project we produce.

In terms of co-productions, do you do any with European countries?
I mainly do my co-productions with ARTE and German broadcasters, but some of them are commissions too. We have a strategy, to try to do it for two thirds of the budget, and we co-finance the rest, keep most of the international rates and then try to exploit the material.

Could you tell me what are the most relevant funding sources for documentary in Germany?
The most relevant is probably ARTE, because even if you have got a public broadcaster, they co-fund their documentaries with ARTE’s money. ARTE has been a crucial factor for making documentaries. There are other funding bodies, but that is a different matter because you have to apply for MEDIA money, for funding money and so on. If you are talking about theatrical then yes, these funding bodies are the most important, but nevertheless you still need some sort of outlet in the broadcasting world.

Documentary Campus, 23 & 24 May 2009
Faster, Keener, Leaner, Meaner: Survival of the Fittest in Factual
Manchester, UK

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