Creative Europe: life hacks for participation

The EU Creative Europe programme with a budget of EUR 1.46 billion is intended for 7 years (from 2014 to 2020). The size of grants for cultural projects can range from EUR 100,000 to EUR 2 million. Ahead of the announcement of the next contests, read detailed advice on the terms of participation and about Ukrainian projects that have already received the funding.

Almost three years ago, Ukraine joined the European Union’s Creative Europe program aimed at supporting cultural and creative initiatives and production of audiovisual content. However, the cooperation in this area is slow-paced, and for many in Ukraine, this program remains a terra incognita. Last Friday, representatives of Creative Europe Desk Ukraine, which provides consultations to potential contestants, held an event telling about the projects this program supports and offering practical recommendations on how to apply. I thought that it won’t be a bad idea to remind you about how this program works and how it can benefit its participants, and therefore, wrote down everything I heard from the Desk’s Communications Manager Ksenia Kalyna and Project Manager Anna Turlo. Check it out right now.

What is Creative Europe?

Ukraine signed the agreement on joining Creative Europe on 19 November 2015. The program was launched in 2014, offering approximately EUR 1.46 billion in funding from the EU budget over a seven-year span, until 2020. Today, the program covers 28 EU member states and 12 partner states: Iceland, Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, FYR Macedonia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Tunisia. The United Kingdom remains the program’s member despite Brexit.

The program consists of three subprograms: Culture (31% of budget), Media (56%) and Cross-Sector (13%). The first of these subprograms encourages projects in the following four areas: literary translation, networking, cross-border cooperation and creation of European platforms. The second one encompasses 14 areas, the most delicious of which are coproduction and promotion of motion pictures. The third subprogram supports the network of Creative Europe Desks and offers funding to special audiovisual programs. For instance, a contest of projects related to transition to digital technologies is going to be announced within the Cross-Sectoral strand some time toward the end of this year.

Even though Ukraine has been a Creative Europe member for three years, the participation of our country in this program was limited due to the obsolete legislation that regulates media services. Ukraine is a full-fledged member of only the Culture subprogram (with all four areas being available). In the Media subprogram, participants from Ukraine are eligible for only 4 out of the 14 areas. The full-fledged participation in the Media subprogram would become possible after enactment of the law on audiovisual media services. According to the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, the Ukrainian government is obliged to harmonize the national legislation on media services with that of the EU within two years after the Association Agreement ratification date of 1 September 2017. By 1 September 2019, therefore, Ukraine must implement the EU Directive on audiovisual media services, which would take the shape of the Law of Ukraine on Audiovisual Media Services. Considering that there is no political will to pass this law before the presidential election (in the spring of 2019), that a parliamentary election is slated for the fall of 2019, which makes passage of any important law impossible before then, and that the EU program is intended to run until 2020, the prospects of our full membership don‘t look too rosy, to put it mildly, even though this year, Ukraine paid its first membership fee: the Ministry of Culture remitted almost 500 thousand euros agreed upon during the talks between the Cabinet of Ministers and the EU (the amount of membership fee depends on the country’s GDP, economic situation, population, and other factors). Before that, Ukraine’s membership fee was waived for two years.

What areas of Creative Europe are available to Ukraine?

As I said earlier, there are only four areas in the Media subprogram for which Ukraine is eligible:

Training. Trainings and courses in Management, New Technologies and Screenwriting. A Ukrainian organization may apply independently (without a partner in Europe), but these trainings should not be local as the preference would be given to English-language events (translations for the Ukrainian audience are welcomed). Duration: up to three years. A contest of projects is announced in January, this year’s deadline was 26 April, and the maximum grant amount is 60% of the project’s cost. Other expenses are usually covered with fees paid by attendees. Preference is given to projects trying to enlarge their audience, offering a transcript and the like.

Education in cinematography. Support is provided to projects in two areas: Film Literacy and Audience Development Using Innovative and Interactive Strategies and Technologies. The audience of these projects must be people under 19 years of age – not professionals but beginners. Three partners from three countries must be engaged in the project. A contest is announced in early January, and the deadline is March-April.

Festivals and fairs. Funding organization of platforms at the leading festivals and content markets (e.g. MIP TV, MIPCOM, Cannes Film Festival, Berlinale), meetings and forums devoted to joint production, conferences, and creation of databases and online instruments. A contest is announced in December, and the deadline is in February.

Support to festivals. For Ukraine, it means support of large film festivals only, whose program includes at least 100 full-length (or 400 short) films from at least 15 countries participating in the festival, and 50% of films must be in a foreign language. A contest is announced twice a year, in September with the November deadline for spring festivals and in April for autumn festivals. This year, several Ukrainian festivals applied but haven’t received funding.

After passage of the law on audiovisual media services, Ukraine would become eligible for the remaining 10 areas of the Media subprogram, offering financial support to development, production, distribution and promotion of audiovisual content (films, TV content and even video games):

support of “trade agents” (intermediaries engaged in audiovisual commerce: marketing and issuance of licenses to distributors and other buyers abroad);

Distribution: Automatic Scheme: promotion and support of transnational distribution of new European films by providing funding to distributors for the purpose of reinvestment in new non-national films and stimulating competitiveness of European films;

Distribution: Selection Scheme: promotion and support of transnational distribution of new European films by encouraging exhibition distribution;

TV projects: financial support to joint projects of at least three TV and radio companies from the program’s three member countries; up to 50% of the project’s total budget is allocated; the project’s maximum duration is 30 or 42 (for serials) months;

implementation of one project: support to projects having high artistic/creative value, propagating cultural diversity and implemented by one European audiovisual company;

audiovisual production: production supported according to the list of the program’s criteria;

support to online distribution: support to audience development projects using the latest technologies;

development of European video games: support to video game developers compliant with the program’s criteria;

international joint production funds: support to funds providing financing to joint production and distribution projects;

film networks: support to networks consisting of at least 100 film operators from at least 20 countries participating in the program.

Ukraine is also eligible for all four areas of the Culture subprogram:

European platforms. The project supports only existing (not newly-created) platforms “promoting emerging artists and stimulating a truly European programming of cultural and artistic work”. Up to 80% of the project’s total budget is allocated; the participants may be eligible for up to 500 thousand euros a year. The project’s maximum duration is 4 years.

European networks. Joint funding projects promoting professional improvement via joint activity, mutual learning from each other’s experience, exchange and the like. Up to 80% of the project’s total budget is allocated; the participants may be eligible for up to 250 thousand euros a year. The project’s maximum duration is 4 years.

European cooperation projects. This area has three subareas: small scale projects, large scale projects and cultural heritage protection projects. For small scale projects, at least three partners from three eligible countries are required (the Desk recommends finding the fourth partner “just in case”); funding is provided for up to 60% of the total budget; the maximum amount is 200 thousand euros per project; duration: up to 4 years. For large scale projects, at least six partners from six eligible countries are required; 50% of the total budget is funded up to the maximum amount of 2 million euros per project; the maximum duration is also 4 years.

Literary translations. Supporting initiatives for the translation and promotion of literary works across EU markets, with the aim of increasing access to and readership of high quality European literature. The costs of publication and advertising of literary works are also covered from this funding channel. Publishers may be eligible for funding of the translation, publication and promotion of a “package” of (at least 3 but not more than 10) literary works. The translation must be from or into the language of a EU member state or the program’s partner state. Translation and promotion of books by Ukrainian authors in the English, French, German or Spanish language and European literature in the Ukrainian language are welcomed. Translation of books by authors – recipients of the EU prize in literature is also welcomed. The project’s biggest advantage is that Ukrainian publishing houses may participate without a European partner.

Who has already become a Creative Europe participant from Ukraine?

Four Ukrainian projects received funding last year and one (out of 12 applicants) this year. These are: Territory of Inspiration, an art residence in Tustan, Lviv Oblast engaging communities in preservation and popularization of local heritage; Brave Kids, a children’s festival teaching various artisan trades (the events held this summer in Lviv were attended by children from Poland and India); Colab Quarter, a cultural laboratory creating (jointly with Spain, France and Japan) an educational space for artists; Ivan Honchar Museum’s Polyphony project (jointly with Hungarian and French partners) aimed at creating an interactive map of Ukrainian folklore music for the purpose of popularizing it; Isolation, a cultural platform for visual arts.

In addition, Astrolabe Publishing House in Lviv has won a “literary translations” contest and is set to translate European literature (in particular, Irish and Polish authors) into Ukrainian.

Ukraine can participate in audiovisual content production projects, albeit not as a full member. An example of this cooperation is the Ukrainian-Slovak film Mezha (“Boundary”). So, if a Ukrainian producer has an idea of a film and an interested partner from a program’s full member country, it is worth trying.

Numerous “buts” and European bureaucracy

Newly-established companies and organizations are ineligible for participation in the project; to apply, a legal entity must be at least two years old. An applicant is required to sign a declaration of integrity, declaring that it has not filed for bankruptcy. A newly-established organization can only be a partner for projects from other countries. That’s how the European Commission protects itself against financial risks.

If the project’s budget exceeds 75 thousand euros, an organization would be required to undergo an audit by an international company for the last two years. The program does not cover audit costs. If a grant is to be issued for a smaller amount, bank account statements for the last two years would be required.

After submitting an application, the applicant will be issued a 9-digit Participant Identification Code (PIC) that could be used to access the entire information regarding the organization and its application, which is stored for the duration of its participation in the program. An organization must take care of the “project’s matrix”, describing its idea down to the last detail. The application form consists of 30 pages containing specific questions and limitations on the number of characters; you will also be required to complete four annexes. You must be ready to provide a resume for every member of your team: the better a resume, the greater the chance to receive funding.

A Ukrainian organization can look for partners via the network of Creative Europe Desks. The best search engine is on the Creative Europe Desk UK website: complete a special form, and receive the full list of potential partners. Creative Europe Desk Ukraine offers only a search of countries. If a Ukrainian organization wants to become a partner of a European project, it must complete a form on the Creative Europe Desk Ukraine website, and after that, this form will be forwarded to Desks in all countries of Creative Europe program.

European support does not substitute other sources of financing. In order for a project to win and receive funds from Creative Europe (not exceeding 50-60% of the project’s budget), it must have other sources of financing as well, and the more the better. For instance, Astrolabe Publishing House received partial funding from Lviv Oblast State Administration; the Ukrainian Cultural Fund is also ready to provide support to projects from Creative Europe participating organizations.

If a joint project features several organizations from different countries, one of the participants may undertake a portion of financing. For example, British organizations often cover the project’s “off-contest” part. Partners sign an agreement stipulating the rights to a product, distribution of financing and so on. It is worth noting that the entire profit from a project (if any) must be reinvested in the project for the duration of program.

Usually, the program provides support to not more than 50-55 projects a year, although the number of applications is much larger (350 received last year). The largest number of applications is submitted from Italy (90), but only a very few of them receive funding. The UK and Slovenia submit less applications (45 and about 20, respectively), but the percentage of approved requests is much higher. When selecting partners, this factor may play an important role.

10 thousand experts participate in Creative Europe. Every application is assigned to two anonymous experts who assess its conformance with applicable requirements, evaluate the originality of idea, quality of content, action plan, proposals regarding popularization of the project’s results, organization of the team. Points are scored on the basis of a 100-point scale, with the emphasis placed upon the project’s importance for the European (not just Ukrainian) community: 30 points are allocated for that purpose, whereas, say, organization of the team can score the maximum of 10 points.

All applications, together with the score and expert comments, are then forwarded to Brussels for ranking according to the median score. If the opinions of two experts are fundamentally different, an application will be given to a third expert whose opinion would be decisive.

An application form must be completed in English and contain no errors. Besides a brilliant idea, you project can benefit from brief title, clear structure, businesslike style and logic of description, conformity of answers to questions, and demonstration of authors’ project thinking. Organizations that received grants under other programs in the past stand better chances for the positive outcome.

The winners will have to sign a framework agreement with an annex concerning their project. The amount of funding provided under the program will be disbursed in several tranches. After the first tranche (30%), a project will receive a coordinator in Brussels to oversee finances. Your organization must be prepared to submit a series of interim reports, and the last tranche (usually 10%) is disbursed after the final report. All expenses must be documented (simply put, you should keep every payment receipt). If experts find out that an organization underfinances its project from other sources, the amount of last tranche will be reduced.

I hope that the foregoing will be of use to you, while the limited term of Creative Europe program would finally make our MPs budge and expedite passage of the law on audiovisual media services.

The article was originally published on Mediananny