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Interview with Olivier Noman about international co-production of animated movies

Olivier Noman kindly shared his co-production experiences during seminar of co-production in animation industry in Prague (Czech Republic), organized by the Association of Czech Animated Film (ASAF).He is freelance consultant in business matters and also working in Studio 100 Animation and we talked about main pillar of co-production.

Hi Olivier, could you, please, tell us what does it mean co-production in animation industry? Are there any special rules? What does the co-production bring?

Hi Karolina! A distinction can be made between official and non official co-production, depending on potential co-production treaty between countries.  A co-production  agreement can also refer to the ‘European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production’. Despite all these frameworks and regulations, there are no real special rules for animation.

The specificity of the animation is more commercial than legal. It is a genre which travels more easily than live action or documentaries as you do not face the problems of stars or bankable actors. Meeting the interests of broadcasters or platforms in several countries is obviously a good starting point for a co-production.

What co-production can bring to you can really be summarized in one word: partnership. In an ideal world each part of the co-production should bring the competitive advantages of its company and country, and parties should share their complementary skills at all levels: content, technique, financing and exploatation.

You have been part of many successful animated projects like Maya the Bee or many TV series. How did you participate in them?

I have been involved in a lot of animated TV series, either in co-production or not. Being in the industry for more than 20 years, I hold different positions such as legal and business affairs, head of a production studio or executive producer.

Where did you learn all this? Have you taught yourself or did anyone teach you everything?

Unfortunately there is no school for learning how to produce or co-produce. You can enter this industry by one way and to learn the other facets of the business through experience and projects. Meeting the right people at the right moment can help. So the answer is both: learning by yourself and listening to experienced people.

What is the main problem for Czech animators/producers by your opinion?

Certainly the lack of financial ressources, mainly the public ones. It would certainly be a boost for the animation producers if local broadcasters’ investment and public grants could be reinforced. Harvie and the Magic Museum’s production story based on significant private investment is impressive, but I do not believe that it could be duplicated on all Czech projects.

Can talented young artist – animator make co-production with any foreign association even he or she is a student?

With the exception of short films, I do not think it is possible for a student to co-produce a TV series or a feature film. Producer is a profession in itself requiring different skills (creative, legal, financial, negotiation,…). If as artist – animator you feel the entrepreneurial flame in you it is of course possible to become a producer, with some experience and hiring in your team people having the complementary expertise.

And what about feature films? Does any production team need any financial contract or any letter of intent with a Czech association or can try to make a deal with foreign studios without Czech support?

A co-production is a balance between two or three  partners. If one of the partners brings significantly less investment than the other(s) it will result in an unbalanced partnership where he will lose potentially a lot of prerogatives and where his role in the project will be strongly reduced (not to mention the share of the profits). Of course you can value the artistic creation and your time but it will difficult to compete with the other(s) partner(s) raising susbtantial funds for the projects. Therefore the more financial support you can get from your country the stronger you will be in the negotiation with your co-producer(s).

You talked about co-production pitfalls in seminar, but could you tell us what is the biggest challenge in co-production and what to pay attention to? 

To put it simply and not to to go into many details I would say that the main challenge is to find a co-producer with whom you will find the optimal mutual understanding not only in terms of content and financial negotiation but also in terms of human relationship.

What kind of motto do you have in your professional life?

Enjoying while working or working while enjoying.

And the question to the end. How does  your typical working day look like? 

There is no typical working day and that is a privilege.

Thank you for your answers! 

Author: Karolína Čížková, animuj.cz/en

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