Country Focus: Germany
Germany 2007 - Dinges & Berg (FFA): "An attractive fund for foreign producers"
by Martin Blaney – German Films
25/01/2007 - Germany's State Minister for Culture Bernd Neumann was true to his word when he promised that the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) would receive the greenlight from the European Commission in time to start as planned on January 1 this year.
60 million Euros are being made available annually over the next three years from the federal government budget in the form of non-recourse, non-repayable, non-recoupable subsidies on part of the so-called "German spends" for theatrical feature films with total production costs of at least 1 million Euros, documentaries with costs of at least 200,000 Euros, and animation films costing at least 3 million Euros.
Administration of the fund is being handled by the German Federal Film Board (FFA). Cineuropa.org spoke with the project manager Christine Berg and FFA CEO Peter Dinges about the nuts and bolts of the new incentive scheme. (The guidelines in English can be downloaded from the FFA)
Who can qualify for this funding?
Dinges: All German producers who have their company headquarters in Germany as well as foreign companies who have a registered office or a subsidiary in Germany. The prerequisite for funding is that they fulfill the necessary criteria.
Berg: In principle, there are three key criteria for this funding: 1) the applicant himself must fulfill certain criteria; 2) the project must fulfill specific criteria; and 3) one must pass the cultural test. When you come to us, it is important that one can furnish proof of at least 75% of the financing and that the shooting has not yet begun. A basic precondition for all of those intending to submit an application is that they come to us at a really early stage and be advised by us – so that we know when which projects will be coming.
Dinges: We will have to get used to having an automatic system here in the German scene which gives the producers the freedom, but also the responsibility, to determine themselves whether they qualify, how high this claim [for funding] will be, and when they want to make this claim. This personal responsibility opens up completely new possibilities for the producers and that is something that not only we have to get used to. It is a new challenge for the production landscape in Germany, but also in Europe wherever German producers work with European colleagues.
What criteria must a project fulfill to receive funding?
Berg: A minimum of 25% of the production costs must be spent in Germany – that is the entrance ticket to being able to apply for the funding.
The basic formula is: you receive 20% of the German recognized production costs, i.e. what is spent here minus those costs which we cannot recognize. The costs which cannot be recognized include pre-costs, financing costs, contingency reserve. It is also important to know that one cannot apply for more than 20% of 80% of the total production costs. You can receive up to 4 million Euros per film project, but this can be increased to 10 million Euros in exceptional cases.
Dinges: When speaking about projects which are geared to the cinema, we can only do this using certain criteria such as being able to provide evidence of a binding, unconditional distribution agreement and adhering to minimum obligations for the distributor, i.e. a fiction film or animation film must be released with at least 30 prints in Germany, a project which receives less than 320,000 Euros funding on at least 15 prints, a debut film of the producer with at least 10 prints, and 4 prints for a documentary.
Do you think the DFFF will be interesting for producers outside of Germany?
Berg: I think this fund is extremely attractive for foreign producers because they are not dependent here on decisions taken by committees on whether they like a project or not. The producers really have the chance of getting the money if they decide to shoot in Germany and spend a certain amount here, if they find a German co-producer and fulfill the necessary criteria – then they will be sure to get this money.
What do you expect this fund will do for Germany as a production hub?
Dinges: Naturally, to begin with, we want to help boost the international competitiveness of the German film industry, and help keep the filmmakers and creative potential working in this country. But it is not just about this: we also want to see Germany being developed further as a center of film production and film culture. This can only happen if we strengthen the existing situation for German producers and make Germany attractive for new producers as well.
Berg: When you look at the cultural test you can see that we have placed particular emphasis on studios being used and on awarding additional points for using post-production facilities here. We want to create an even higher level of know-how and that's something you can often reach by attracting international co-productions. In the cultural test, you can see that there is an openness to Europe because you get extra points for 'stars' behind the camera who are not just from Germany, but from all over Europe. So, for example, if I hire someone from England who has won a prize, I would get additional points in the test.
What would be the situation for German films shooting outside of Germany, can they benefit from the DFFF?
Berg: Firstly, of course, you have the recognized costs from the shoot in Germany. In addition, when exterior shooting is necessary abroad, then part of the costs which would be recognized in Germany such as the director's fee or equipment can be accepted. 30% of the total shooting days can be recognized to qualify for the funding.
Following your information roadshows throughout Germany and conversations with producers, what was the industry's reaction so far to the incentive?
Berg: People were extremely inquisitive and we had the ‘crème de la crème’ of producers at every event. The feedback was very useful to discover the gaps and snags in the system. In the area of animation, for example, there was the question: 'what does the beginning of shooting mean?’ We saw that we had to do some fine-tuning. But it was really good that State Minister Bernd Neumann brought experts around a table to reflect together about what and how things would make the most sense.
Have the first applications arrived?
Dinges: Yes, many producers had put back the shooting until 2007 which was to be expected when it was announced that the DFFF would begin this year. What has not happened is a great flood of applications which is something people had been afraid of. I think that has been a consequence of our communication policy because we have managed to make it plausible to the producers in Germany that, for a start, there will be enough money at least for the first, and probably, the second year. And we were also able to make them understand that it really is a sensible idea to liaise with us on the concrete timeframes for the application.