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Wanted: Fresh Insight on Coproduction

We've officially exhausted its novelty. We're even looking for new ways to write it. By way of lavish usage, literally thousands of times in the last year, we've made ourselves weary of the word itself: Coproduction. (Without the hyphen, you'll notice...
November 1, 1998

We’ve officially exhausted its novelty. We’re even looking for new ways to write it. By way of lavish usage, literally thousands of times in the last year, we’ve made ourselves weary of the word itself: Coproduction. (Without the hyphen, you’ll notice – a matter of heated debate over here).

I suppose it can’t be avoided. The conviction that international coproduction (Ack! See?) would be fundamental to the viability of cable’s global expansion was one of the tenets this magazine was built upon. Everyone! Repeat the mantra in unison! ‘Given global demand and budget limitations, international coproduction is essential.’

So I’m personally sick of the word, I admit it, but maybe it’s just that the short, cold days are making me cranky. International coproduction is indeed still The Big Thing, more necessary than ever, and the inherent financial and territorial acrobatics will undoubtedly continue to be a fixture on these pages. But, if only for the sake of avoiding the doldrums or preaching to the choir, I’m looking for fresh ways to approach it.

I might be accused of jumping the gun by some, but many producers and most broadcasters (and forward-thinking distributors) have become adept at the money-wrangling and rights-splitting built into the coproduction process. Advancing technology is pushing the process along as well. The last frontier, the eternal challenges, involve content treatment and development. Thankfully, there’s still heaps of room to explore that theme.

And so, this issue has a surplus of insights on the formidable task of sharing content across cultures and borders without watering it down or missing the editorial mark for some or all of the partnering broadcasters. In this brand-savvy era, coproduction is much preferred over acquisition for nova (pg. 45). The venerated science strand has little faith it could even hope to upkeep its valuable brand (or style, approach and tone) by picking up product already out on the market.

We’ve also received favorable feedback on our ‘case study’ approach, so on page 18 the managing director of TransAtlantic Film re-lives the first seasons of History’s Turning Points, a project where he gathered the money from (and, by default, the editorial opinions of) the Americans, French, Austrians and Spanish, among others. Given the whole spectrum of recorded history from which to choose, the partners managed to agree on only 13 of an anticipated 26 ‘turning points’ for the first season. It’s miraculous, most likely, that they found consensus on so many. Where once the ‘magic touch’ might have been an aptitude for fundraising, now a talented editorial mediator is worth his or her weight in gold.

Join me next month when I might just toss out another phrase I’m sick of. Maybe `globalization’ or `docu-soap’…

Mary Ellen Armstrong, Editor

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.

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