Country Focus: Czech Republic
State fund desperately seeking council members
by Theodore Schwinke
23/02/2009 - The lower house of the Czech Parliament has chosen three new members to sit on the council that administrates the state fund which provides essential financing for Czech film. But deputies must fill at least four more seats on the council by the end of March in order to keep the funds flowing.
Joining the State Fund for the Support and Development of Czech Cinematography are film historian Tereza Dvorakova, dramaturg Jiri Kubicek, and film distributor and pedagogue Milica Pechankova.
According to Czech law, the council should have 13 members. For the last year and a half, however, it has made do with only seven. As council members mandates have expired, Parliament has failed to fill the empty seats. The mandates of the seven existing members run out March 31.
Without new members, the council would not be able to make funding decisions. “Czech film would find itself in a stalemate, paradoxically, just when the fund has more money than ever,” council president Miroslav Zelinsky told journalists. “There would be no support to festivals or for the digitalization of cinemas, which this year we want to supply with CZK 40m (€1.4m) in software and hardware,” he said.
The state fund distributed CZK 306.5m (€10.6m) in subsidies in 2008 and will likely give out a similar amount this year. The fund is fed by proceeds from the sale of classic Czech films and a tax on cinema admission and recently has reached record levels. The Czech government has contributed an additional CZK 200m (€6.9m) direct from the state budget. The fund is also receiving proceeds from the sale of advertising on public broadcaster Ceska Televize.
In three years the council has decided on 600 projects — half of those in just the last year. In addition to supporting production, promotion and distribution, the fund helps finance script development and technical improvements in cinemas.