"Co-production" is a broad term that may apply to any form of co-financing or financial, creative, and technical collaboration involved in the production of a film. Co-productions have been notable at various points throughout cinema history and have proven to be a crucial means of feature film production in the world. European countries especially have used co-production as a strategy for making films with relatively high budgets and greater access to more markets, but there is no nation that does not now engage in co-production of one sort or another. Co-productions thus represent a dominant trend in film production that is increasingly global in orientation—to the detriment, some argue, of nationally or locally relevant cinematic traditions and cultures.

Manjunath Pendakur has usefully identified four categories of co-production: (1) public- and private-sector co-productions in a given country; (2) public- and private-sector co-productions of different countries; (3) private capital from different countries; and (4) treaty co-productions (1990). While co-productions, then, need not involve the participation of more than one country, the majority of films made under this rubric are understood to do so; in this sense, most films that are considered co-productions are in fact international co-productions. While the factors that have given rise to this type of filmmaking are varied, the presence of Hollywood cinema—as a threat and competitor, or as a facilitator and mutually beneficial collaborator—is a common thread that weaves its way through the history of and debates concerning co-productions.

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