D Network, an alliance of seven young European independent producers formed in 1995, is set to expand its business following a meeting in London last month.
According to Jens Meurer, D Network member and founder of Egoli Films in Germany, the first move is the sharing of facilities between members. ‘We will form our own subtitling company,’ he says. ‘It is a way of saving money ourselves and also providing a service that might be attractive to other independent producers.’
A second, more ambitious plan is to employ someone to set up a distribution arm for D Network. ‘We are looking to do that sooner rather than later – though we want to ensure that our existing relationships with distributors don’t lapse,’ says Meurer. ‘We also believe there is a lot of production by smaller companies that is not represented by distributors. We have to be quite selective, but the aim is definitely to represent other people’s projects.’
The third plan is to form a development fund between the producers, though this is being approached cautiously. ‘We’ve always done well by not moving too quickly,’ stresses Meurer.
The group is also investigating the potential of web television – an area being closely monitored by D Network’s Irish member Paradox Pictures which launched Ireland Film and Television Net onto the Internet.
Born of eave (European Audio-Visual Entrepreneurs), a European Union Media Programme scheme designed to introduce relative newcomers to each other and advise them on the intricacies of international production finance, the original D Networkers formed an alliance to pool information and ideas.
What began as an informal talk shop has become a highly sophisticated tool for getting coproduction and co-financing off the ground. This summer, for example, France’s arte will broadcast three-and-a-half hours by different producers in the group on the theme of Saturday Night Across Europe.
Today, D Network has a permanent employee, Friederike Freier, who coordinates the publication of a program catalogue and the running of a tape library. In addition, D Network ensures that it is always represented by member producers at key festivals and markets.
Says Gwynneth Lloyd of London-based Sweet Child Films: ‘None of us had big plans at the start about what D Network might turn out to be. But it seemed natural to inform each other about the projects we had in development, changes in staff at broadcasters and the sort of programmes they were looking for.’
One of the additional advantages is the publicity generated for members. ‘It has raised awareness for us as individuals,’ says Lloyd. ‘A lot of people have been trying to set up coproduction groupings and most don’t work. So they are curious to see one that continues to grow.’
An added benefit has been D Network’s ability to put its producers in touch with possible sources of international funds. The group boast contacts in Germany, the u.k., Holland, Ireland, Belgium and Norway.
In some cases, D Network companies act as local sales representatives for projects introduced to them by overseas partners. In others, they produce customized versions. ‘D Network’s Belgian producer Inti Films produced a documentary series called Nazareth,’ says Meurer, ‘and I am producing a German version of it.’ In another instance, Dutch producer Lemming Films’ Klatsch, has Inti as the coproduction partner.
According to Lloyd at least six projects have benefitted from such international co-operation. Both Lloyd and Heino Deckert at Germany’s Ma.Ja.De Films are trying to raise funds for a doc which originated with Norway’s Motlys.
Egoli is in discussions with a major European producer about a merger, and has worked with partners such as Channel 4 and bbc in the u.k. and Gaumont in France. The other members have equally single-minded strategies but, says Lloyd, still benefit from the moral support. ‘Production can be a lonely business and it is good to pick up the phone to talk over your problems with someone who has been in the same position.’
Also in Upfront:
-Discovery goes local with new Eastern European producer fund
-CNN puts Perspectives on indie documentary production
-WGBH launches distribution arm.