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Creative Europe - Single Project Development Spotlight: Planet Korda Pictures
28 May 2020 : Nathan Griffin
Planet Korda's selected project Mother's Little Secret.
In the first of a series of interviews, IFTN will be speaking with the four selected Irish benefices of Creative Europe’s latest Single Project Development funding round to give our readers some insight into the selected Irish companies and their projects, as well as, the merits of the schemes and some tips on the application process and how best to formulate a successful pitch.

We spoke with director Jeremiah Cullinane, co-founder of Planet Korda Pictures, an Irish-based film production company operating out of Dublin and Paris, which was formed back in 2005 by Irish director Jeremiah Cullinane and Italian writer and producer Bartolomeo Dibenedetto.

While there is often some Irish connection with its projects, the company tends to look beyond the borders of Ireland for material and has extensive experience and contacts throughout Europe. As a result of this, there is a natural affinity for the company to work with European coproduction partners. Artistically, the company is interested in visually engaging, thoughtful, and provocative documentaries, which offer a different perspective and challenge accepted ideas.

It is worth noting that the Single Project Development scheme is very competitive with the last selection rate for this deadline standing at 24%.  However, Ireland received support for 4 projects - the same number as the UK. The only small country to receive more awards than Ireland was Sweden receiving support for 5 projects.

IFTN: What can you tell me about your selected project?

“It’s a feature documentary in the form of an island-hopping road movie, from Ireland to Norway back to the Shetlands and then on to the Færoes and Iceland, retracing the steps of an Irish princess sold into slavery in the 10th century, according to the Icelandic Laxdaele Saga. It employs a somewhat experimental format involving fictional elements as it attempts to find meaning behind recent genetic discoveries revealing the surprising proportion of Irish and Scottish women among the settling populations of the Nordic islands.”

IFTN: Where did the idea for this project come from and why did you feel it was suitable for CE Single Project Funding?

“A simple fact, that a friend whispered into my ear, and a 2018 scientific paper from Iceland, from the deCODE Genetic laboratory, indicating that analysis of mitochondrial DNA shows over 65% of the initial Icelandic female population were from Ireland or Scotland. On its own, this remained simply an interesting factoid, but when I discovered the literature from the sagas and the mythologies and the substantial body of work on Gaelic influence in Iceland, I realised there was potential for a project that could mix together several disparate disciplines in an interesting way.”

IFTN: For those that may not be familiar with the fund. Can you talk me through the application process, and what you felt was key to the selection of your entry?

“The application does seem daunting at first, but like most things, you can work your way through it with patience. A lot of the first part is about the applicant company, its legal and financial status, etc. There are eligibility requirements, such as having produced something that has been distributed. But the scoring system is quite transparent. You try to score a maximum number of points out of 100.

“55 points are available for the artistic quality of the project itself, and the rest is for quality of the development strategy (10), “European and international distribution and marketing strategy” (25), and “Quality of the financing strategy and feasibility potential of the project” (10). An extra 5 points are available for young audience projects. The minimum threshold this round was 83 points. So, clearly, even with scoring maximum points for the quality of your project, there has to be a well-thought-out development, distribution, and marketing strategy on a European level in order to get over the line.

“The readers who are adjudicating these are quite experienced, so they know how to discern between solid strategy and speculative aspiration. Having co-production partners from other countries helps a lot, as do any signs of interest or commitment from other funders or especially broadcasters (backed up by letters of interest/commitment). In our case, there is a clear and organic European dimension to the story; we have co-producers from four other territories, and development finance in place from our national film fund, Screen Ireland.

“I don’t think there was one single key, but we scored highly in each of the 4 categories as outlined above. This is the 5th time we have been selected for finance by Creative Europe/MEDIA (development and TV broadcasting combined), and our first couple of times were unsuccessful, so there is also a certain amount of experience in completing the application. Don’t give up after the first time.

“Plan in advance and don't hesitate to draw upon the expertise and experience of the Creative Europe reps in Ireland - Eibhlín Ní Mhunghaile in Galway and Orla Clancy in Dublin - as they know the process inside out and are willing to help.”

IFTN: European Co-Production is a fundamental aspect of this initiative. Who are you collaborating with and how did this partnership come about?

“Our co-producers are ProFilm in Reykjavik, Tinde Film in Molde (Norway), Kyk Pictures in the Færoes, and the situation in Scotland at the moment is a bit fluid. Each co-producer will approach their own national broadcaster and national or regional film fund. The artistic and technical crew will also reflect the input of each co-producer. As mentioned, Screen Ireland has committed development finance and we hope to get TG4 involved.”

“Through our previous co-productions, we have built a network of partners and friends around Europe, so we can easily “ask around” who might be interested in such a project. The European Documentary Network (EDN) also helped us, as did the Scottish Documentary Institute. Many other significant contacts were made last September at the Nordisk Panorama Forum in Malmö.”

IFTN: What are the benefits of securing the CE funding?

“Aside from the obvious? Development funding is very scarce these days and yet Creative Europe can offer almost twice Screen Ireland’s maximum offer for documentaries. So for a project like ours with lots of research involving travel and a weighty development budget, it’s incredibly valuable. It’s also a grant, so not repayable, no equity involved. Beyond that, it’s an important endorsement of the project on a high level, so it makes it easier to approach other partners having that endorsement. People take more notice of the project.”

IFTN: What are your ambitions for this project?

“A good festival career, limited theatrical release if possible in the co-production territories, and a healthy broadcasting run.”

The next Single Project Development Deadline is dependent on the implementation of the 2021 - 2027 Creative Europe MEDIA programme. Readers can sign up to Creative Europe Ireland MEDIA Industry Newsletter if you would like to keep informed about MEDIA funding deadlines, markets, and training initiatives. 

Click here for more information about the Single Project Funding.

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