Country Focus: Belgium
Belgium 2005 - Flemish Film and TV Fund
by Chantal Gras
16/03/2005 - The Flemish Film and TV Fund : independence and flexibility!
To help the film industry of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium gather momentum (for films are well distributed but only in half of Belgium and the Netherlands), the Flemish government recently (2002) decided to create an independant structure rather than have a cinema section within the Culture Department, as had been the case for many years.
It is difficult to determine what the challenge is for Flemish films, since they cannot expect to reach the European level, let alone the international scene, unless they are foreign co-productions. Today, the budget of the Flemish Film and TV Fund (Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF)) amounts to €12.5M. All the money comes from the Flemish government, and not, for instance, from cable-channels (even though Flanders gets as much cable-TV as Wallonie). Nearly 80% of this budget is invested in production, all categories included (fiction only gets €4.5M a year). Four types of support are provided to script-writing, project development, production, and promotion. This allows the Felmish government to support from 4 to 8 fiction features per year. This year, it funded not only Dominique Deruddere’s latest film, The Wedding Party [trailer], but it also helped release first films : The Intruder, by Frank Van Mechelen and Someone Else’s Happyness by Fien Troch.
What is original about the Flemish film fund is its absolute independence to choose any partner. No minister’s approval is needed, nor is there a selection committee made of members chosen by the public authorities, as there is in the French part of Belgium and most European countries. The fund itself did create a committee of professionals (experts) but its function is only to advise the director of the Film Centre, not to decide. After receiving their advice, the director puts forward ideas before the Management Board which makes the final decisions. This whole procedure is flexible and it accelerates the decision-making process. For the head manager, Luckas Vander Taelen, a former journalist and European deputee, commercial film in Flanders is a relative notion : 'One must be realistic : a Flemish film cannot be expected to make considerable profits. However, putting the emphasis on culture should not keep us from taking interest in the good management of our productions. Our Management Board, which consists more in financial experts than in cultural people, is very careful in this respect. Yet, we are not like Wallimage. in Wallonie which only considers economic factors. A Belgian movie in French language filming, say, in Anvers, would not necessarily get our funding ipso facto. We need to find the project really involves Flanders in terms of technical staff, cast, etc.' However, at the moment, the political authorities consider creating a specifically economic fund like Wallimage. One way to start it would be to merge several small local funds which already exist in a number of Flemish cities. In the meantime, even ‘bi-communitary’ Belgian productions have to comply with a certain degree of Flemish involvement to get Flemish money ; it was the case for Ultranova [trailer, film focus] by Bouli Lanners, Friday or Another Day (about Robinson Crusoe) by Yvan Lemoine, and Bunker Paradise [trailer, film focus] by Stephane Liberski….
The Flemish Fund has recently taken responsibility for Flanders Image, the Flemish film promotion unit which operates in the national and the international markets and festivals, such the Film Festival and the MIP in Cannes, the Berlinale, and obviously the Rotterdam Film Festival.
A small part of the budget (€1M) is still kept for formation by means of worshops and allowances for students, but this fund is definitely more in favour of international collaborations seen as the best way for young filmmakers to get real experience. The fourth part of the fund, however modest it is, goes to audiovisual research : it helps financing a couple of practical reports, such as the study recently conducted on animation cinema, thanks to the Anvers University.
The VAF is still new, but it can already boast a good production, De Zaak Alzheimer [trailer] (The Memory of a Killer) by Erik Van Looy , adapted from Jef Geeraerts’ novel. The rights were even bought by Focus Features for an American remake...