In a world where borders are increasingly blurred and creative collaboration knows no geographic constraints, co-productions have risen to the forefront of the entertainment industry. Especially, because very few broadcasters can still afford high-end productions during these challenging financial times. And even the streamers are becoming more reserved and are leaning into co-productions. As Amanda Groom, Managing Director of The Bridge, a global content business incubator and production accelerator with particular strength in Asia, told me: “The streamers have altered their course on documentaries, this year not one documentary was bought at or after Sundance. As a result, focus is returning to the cornerstone role of PSB’s and co-production as a way of completing the funding jigsaw puzzle.”

So, co-productions are imperative today and these collaborative endeavors between production companies, broadcasters, and content creators offer a unique pathway to bring diverse voices and talents together, transcending cultural and geographical boundaries. However, they also involve a complex web of collaboration and coordination between different entities. Here are 5 key aspects that are crucial to successful co-productions.


Common Vision and Clear Communication

Aligning on a shared creative vision and common goals is vital. This ensures that all parties are working towards a unified outcome, despite potential differences in approaches. Also, establishing open and transparent communication channels is fundamental. This involves setting clear expectations, outlining responsibilities, and ensuring everyone involved understands the project’s objectives and constraints. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities among the co-producing entities is crucial, too. This includes delineating creative, financial, and logistical responsibilities to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

The New Pope / The Young Pope is a good example of a shared vision in co-productions. The collaboration involved multiple countries – Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium – showcasing a convergence of talents, resources, and cultural influences to create a unified creative vision. The storylines, themes, and visual style were aligned, showcasing a collective narrative without disparate elements often associated with diverse collaborations. Also, the successful continuation of the story from The Young Pope to The New Pope demonstrates ongoing collaboration and a sustained shared vision among the participating countries and creators.


Cultural Sensitivity and Adaptability

Co-productions often involve collaboration across different cultures. Understanding and respecting these cultural differences is vital for smooth collaboration. Flexibility and adaptability in accommodating diverse perspectives can enhance the creative process. As Amanda Groom put it: “When co-production works well it leads to a production greater than the sum of its parts. To achieve a great co-production takes trust, co-operation, and a genuine understanding and appreciation of other nations’ audiences.” She was recently involved in a wonderful example of a global co-production including extraordinary scope and scale, and all set in a war zone. The 6-part documentary brought together German, French, Australian and UK elements and includes Blue Ant as global distributor. Citizens at War: A Year in Ukraine was also showcased at MIPDOC’s Co-Pro Summit in April. The Australian, Ukrainian, and British co-production was executive produced by Chris Hilton, Tilman Remme, Victor Mirsky and Kateryna Vyshnevska and was commissioned by Germany’s ZDF.

“With a very short production schedule, I knew finding the right partners was crucial to bring this project together,” said Chris Hilton, CEO and executive producer at Tilt Media. “GTV Docs, Film.UA and ZDF enabled us to tell this critical story and award-winning German – British filmmaker, Tilman Remme is the ideal storyteller with his vast experience in films about the history of warfare.”


Problem-Solving and Conflict Resolution Skills

As with any collaborative venture, challenges are inevitable. Having robust problem-solving mechanisms and conflict resolution strategies in place can mitigate potential issues and keep the project on track. Co-Productions often face unique challenges, such as language barriers, different working styles, and varying production standards. Finding creative solutions to these challenges is an art, demanding innovation, and flexibility in problem-solving.

During the production of The Bridge (Bron/Broen), a Swedish-Danish co-production, several challenges arose due to the dual-country collaboration. Language differences, varying production standards, and logistical challenges posed obstacles. For instance, the bridge itself (the Øresund Bridge connecting Sweden and Denmark) was a central location in the series, but filming across the two countries presented logistical and legal complexities. To overcome these challenges, the production team demonstrated remarkable flexibility and problem-solving skills.


Innovation and Creativity in Collaboration

Co-productions often thrive on innovative approaches and creative collaborations. Encouraging and fostering an environment that promotes creative input from all parties involved can lead to unique and ground-breaking content and deals.

One great example for this is the New8 deal. Eight European public service broadcasters, from northern and western Europe, have teamed up to launch New8, a co-production and broadcast collaboration through which they will co-produce eight drama series annually. Building on content sharing agreements that have long been in place across the Nordic and Scandinavian territories, this new pact will widen to include German and Flemish/Dutch speaking countries. The participating broadcasters are ZDF (Germany), NPO (Netherlands), VRT (Belgium), SVT (Sweden), DR (Denmark), YLE (Finland), RUV (Iceland) and NRK (Norway).

“New8 is a unique achievement for European public service broadcasters and their audiences,” said NRK head of international financing Hans-Jørgen Osnes. “With such strong drama partners attached, New8 will be the largest drama collaboration in Europe. It will be extremely exciting to see it come to life and evolve.”


Flexible Commercial Models and Resource Management

Co-productions often have complex financial structures. Creating comprehensive legal agreements is essential to protect the interests of all parties involved. Clear contracts should cover financial agreements, rights, distribution, and other critical aspects of the production. However, a certain flexibility in budgeting and resource management is crucial to adapt to the varying financial capacities and requirements of the involved entities.

Negotiating different artistic visions while considering market demands and audience preferences requires finesse and a deep understanding of both artistic and commercial aspects. “Co-Production is an increasingly nuanced business, with series’ commercial terms being almost as unique as the programmes themselves. Costs for producers have been soaring for years, whilst many broadcaster licence fees have either remained static or are even diminishing. As a result, there are many new commercial models emerging as ways to create a full budget for TV production. At times it can feel like completing a finance plan is demanding a level of creativity similar to that required on screen!”, said Amanda Groom from The Bridge.

From thrilling international dramas to thought-provoking documentaries and animated adventures, co-productions have become the catalyst for a global renaissance in storytelling.

However, successful co-productions hinge on the ability of all involved parties to navigate complexities, embrace diversity, and work towards a unified vision while respecting the interests and strengths of each entity involved.

About Author

Sandra Lehner is a TV Futurist and the MD of Suncatcher Social, based in Lisbon. She is a frequent contributor to MIPBlog, and speaks regularly at MIPCOM. Newsletter: Website: LinkedIn:

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