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Andrew G. Vajna • Hungarian Film Commissioner

"We are alive and well"

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- A meeting with the current main man of a Hungarian industry that has seen financial difficulty during the past couple of years

Andrew G. Vajna • Hungarian Film Commissioner

Producer in the US for 30 years (with, among others, the Rambo trilogy, Terminator 3 and 4, and Angel Heart under his belt, as well as Nixon), but also regularly in his native country (Children of Glory), last January Andrew G. Vajna was nominated to reorganise public support for cinema, a nomination that had worried many Magyar filmmakers (news and the article).

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Cineuropa : Film production has been slowing down in Hungary over the past couple of years. Will the recent establishment of the National Film Fund set the machine in motion again?
Andrew G. Vajna: We have done a lot in ten months. We have worked on a new method of support for productions that I believe will be very efficient, and we have secured independent financing for the Film Fund, which will be directly supplemented by some of the revenues from the Lottery, which avoids appealing to the State budget. With the €13.3m in 2012, we will fund eight to ten films, including co-productions. Our system is inspired by the British model, which has allowed the production of what are without doubt some of the best films in Europe. We hope that by borrowing their ideas, it will bring good results.

Have you solved the financial problems inherited from the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary (MMKA), which you closed down last summer?
We have come a long way in tackling the problems of debts with the banks and we are in the process of doing so with producers, which is harder because they don't always recognise the validity of the contracts that they have signed. But the main thing is that a new framework is now in place. Professionals submit their screenplays and we have an exchange with them: we are in full swing and ready for action. At the moment we are examining 70 screenplays. We have only taken decisions at the stage of development, but next year, some of these projects will be turned into productions.

The National Film Fund will also operate as an international seller? Why is this?

This will be an opportunity offered to producers who do not have international contacts: the National Film Fund will be able to get involved to help them when it comes to festivals and distributors. We want to be sure that the films that we will support have a high visibility, that they will interest the festivals to the extent that they have a real chance. And that the films with commercial aims also achieve a high visibility in Hungary, but that equally they are sold internationally.

The National Film Fund will demand to have the 'final cut' for some of the films it will support. What does that mean exactly?
Support for production could amount to 150 million forints per film (around 500 000 Euros). This support will be given without any conditions: we approve the screenplay, they make the film and we will simply strictly supervise productions expenditures to make sure that the money given has been well spent on screen. However, if we get a request for funding above 150 million, we become co-producers of the film. And as co-producer, we will have the same rights as any co-producer and we will insist on being involved in the process of making the film.

Many Hungarian filmmakers, particularly Béla Tarr, are afraid of seeing public funding steer away from arthouse films, a fear fuelled among other things by your profile as producer. What do you say to them?
It's a really ridiculous fear. The committee, which is going to decide on the allocation of funding is made up of five decision-makers, all Hungarian, and I'm only one voice out of five. The other four have in the past been associated as much with arthouse films as with commercial films. I think the committee will be capable of deciding what the right combination of films is for the National Film Fund to support.

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