Country Focus: Belgium
Belgium - Wallimage, regionalisation and internationalisation of Belgian cinema (March 2005)
by Vitor Pinto
16/03/2005 - Regionalisation and internationalisation of Belgian cinema
In Belgium- a country gathering three linguistic communities- the government of the Walloon Region and its Ministry of Economy decided to create in 2001 Wallimage, the institution in charge of regional fund investment for audiovisuals in the Walloon Region.
Belgian film production –mainly based on major or minor co-productions with countries such as France, Luxemburg or the Netherlands, mainly supported by the French Community Cinema and Audiovisual Centre and by the Vlaams Audiovisueel Fond- now counts with a new source of investment aiming to develop the audiovisual sector in the Walloon Region. Such objective is pursued through financing films and supporting service societies in the audiovisual industry that are established in the region.
With a total sum of 2,5 million euros for the year 2004, this « regional mission » spirit did not prevent its director, Philippe Reynaert, from considering a more international future for Wallimage. Not only have co-productions- noticeably with France- been encouraged – Le Couperet [trailer], the latest film by Costa-Gavras, recently released in Belgium and France is the 30th feature film supported by the Walloon Fund- but Wallimage has also played a significant role in the creation of a coordination of European regional funds, Cine-Regio, established in the context of the Interreg IIIC program of the European Union.
Financing audiovisual works and service societies
The Le financing of independent audiovisual works is structured in two parts, one as a loan, the other one as a stake in production, the importance of which is calculated according to the audovisual expenses voted in the Walloon Region. These two parts of the Fund cover at least 100% of the audiovisual expenses engaged in the Walloon Region for setting up the planned projects and is limited to 500,000 Euros per project..
The benefitting societies have to present a legal status different from a radio broadcaster’s. They also have to be established in the Walloon Region and their managers, as well as most of their administrators, have to be Belgian or European citizens. The societies may also submit a project as delegate, associate or executive producers on behalf of a producer from another region. The status of Wallimage also foresees that a project may be the result of an association of several producers based in the Walloon Region, provided they are represented by one single producer at the Fund.
The Director and the board of Wallimage choose projects according to 4 basic criteria : the impact on the audiovisual sector of the region, the viabillity of the project and the return upon investment for the Fund, the producer and his team’s credibility and finally the budget credits available. The board of directors meets four times a year to evaluate the projects submitted.
A project may only be submitted once. A second application is only possible provided new elements are introduced.
Respecting such criteria, some thirty films (fiction and documentaries) have benefitted from some financial support thanks to the Walloon Fund. Among these works, there is a feature film awarded in Cannes, The Sun directed by Luc et Jean-Pierre Dardennes (BF 7 M out of a total budget of BF107 M), Love me if you dare by Yann Samuell (371.840€ out of a total budget of 5.334.099€), The Rashevski’s Tango by Sam Gabarski (285.078€ out of a total budget of 2.715.727€), J'ai toujours voulu être un sainte by Geneviève Mersch (148.736€ out of a total budget of 2.036.513€), or No Big Deal by Bernard Rapp (350.000€ out of a total budget of 4.534.316€), of which part of the shooting, initially to take place in the North of France, was set in the Walloon Region thanks to the funding of Wallimage.
The elaboration and follow-up of the global strategy, organized by the institution, is supervised by a College composed of 6 members from the industry, named for a period of two years by the board of directors.
Le financing of service societies from the Walloon audiovisual consists of a stake in the capital of the societies and of loans to such societies.The objective is to contribute to the development of several societies in the region and to prevent human capital and talents from leaving the region. In order to benefit from financial support, the societies, which must have their head office and operating office in the Walloon Region, must be independent from radio-broadcasting institutions.
This second axis of investment of the Walloon Fund has already supported several companies, such as Cine-Services, a company from Namur, lending filming material to professionals, or ApiStudios, a mixing studio created in Mons.
When assuming the direction of Wallimage, Philippe Reynaert set up a coordination strategy applying to several regional funds existing in Europe. Under the protection of the INTERREG IIIC program, five funds - Film Fonds Wien (Austria), MFG Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Rotterdam Fonds voor de
Film en Audiovisuele media (the Netherlands), La Provincia di Lecce (Italy) and Wallimage as lead partner – have created the European Coordination of Regional Funds for audiovisual investment (ECRIF-AV). In order to open up the network to other members, the 5 founders have established Cine-Regio, an international association based in Lièges, and officially presented in Mons in february 2004.
Currently counting 13 members, Cine-Regio wishes to strengthen the exchange of good practise among its members and to become an indispensable partner to the European Institutions for future decisions in the field of audiovisual funding. The association also aims to serve as a database for regions wishing to develop more funding and projects.
The new projects, presented at the European Commission to obtain a new Interreg IIIC subsidy, also have other objectives, such as encouraging co-production projects thanks to the organisation of meetings between producers and representatives of the regional funds, the systematic promotion of the films supported by the regional funds (in the press and at festivals), and the creation of a new sponsoring system to guide the creation of new regional funds.