Czech cinema cries out for more state support
by Sakis Kontos
With a foreign language Oscar for Kolya under its belt and two other very strong nominations in the last 10 years, Czech cinema should be perceived as a mature, growing industry, with tax incentives already in place. Not the case, say Czech film-makers calling the new law for the support of cinema a "half measure". At the end of April Czech film-makers had no less than 62 projects in the works – 33 in script final draft stage, 14 in production and 15 in post-production. While to external observers this is a sign of a booming industry the film-makers themselves think the opposite is true. Half a dozen of the 33 projects might never make it to the big screen out of lack of securing financing; others will be made only as low budget films. In all "money" or rather the lack of it is still the keyword when it comes to Czech film making, 16 years on since the fall of communism.
The State Fund for the support and development of Czech cinema allocated just over 2,5 million € in financing 90 film and documentary projects since March 2004, with the average support per film ranging from a mere 25 to a less than impressive 75,000 €.
The Czech Film Commission, a body found to support the interests of the cinema producers, has been pressing the Czech government for a solution for some time but the government’s recent law proposal it was not what they expected. It dictates that television, cinema theatres and distributors alike have to forfeit a three percent of their earnings towards the purse of the State Fund for the support and development of Czech cinema. It will then allocate the money among the film-makers with priority given to the artistic, less commercial projects. "It’s not perfect [law] but I suggest we live with it now and see how we can improve it in the future" said Jan Jira, a member of the "Fund" in a discussion during the recent Finale Plzen Festival.
But the law, still in its second reading in parliament, instead of silencing the critics has fuelled controversy and has literally divided the film community in the country by encountering either strong support or strong opposition – the latter largely coming from those who would have to allocate the percentage. "This is bad law-making. The state shouldn’t be throwing the towel to somebody else [to solve the problems of film financing]. What they propose is an indirect tax, not a solution" argues Pavel Borowiec of the DVD Group.cz, an association for the support of the people in the DVD production, sales and distribution market.
Ironically, film-makers, the ones who are to benefit from the extra cash, also believe that the new law is a half measure. Says veteran Juraj Herz: "I’ve worked in France and in Germany, I’m a member of the German directors’ association and I can say that in so-called Western Europe it is the state that heavily finances film production and, if you ask me, the same has to happen here by means of pressing hard on the government…"
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