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Non-EC Swiss pix face crisis

When Swiss voters said no to Europe on Dec. 6, choosing to remain outside the European Economic Space, they were also nixing the film industry’s participation in the MEDIA ’95 programs.

“For the industry here, it’s catastrophic,” believes Christian Zeender, head of the Federal Film Office and dispenser of state funds to Swiss filmmakers.

Zeender is an outspoken supporter of MEDIA as a means to help Swiss producers find production coin, and a way to receive promotion and distribution support.

A number of people in the Swiss film community also reacted strongly, telling Variety they were “still (in) shock” and expected the difficult production scene to get even worse.

Switzerland will remain a member of two other international programs, Eurimages and Eureka Audiovisual.

But its “trial membership” in MEDIA, for which Switzerland paid $ 1 million for half a year, expires Dec. 31.

To make matters worse, the money spent on MEDIA dues, says Zeender, will no longer be available to the film industry because it’s being taken out of his department’s budget.

One way out

Switzerland’s only recourse will be bilateral treaties with other European countries to maintain nationality benefits in the case of co-productions.

However, there is the chance, as many Swiss are hoping, that MEDIA finds the will and the way to bend the rules and keep Switzerland in important programs like Efdo, Script, Eave and Euro Aim.

At press time, there was no official spokesman available for the MEDIA program.

But a source within the organization said: “We are still discussing the situation, though at this stage there is no question (that we will not change)the rules to accommodate Switzerland.”

“Switzerland is full of co-productions,” noted producer Ruth Waldburger.

Her Vega Film banner co-produced Jean-Luc Godard’s “Helas pour Moi,” Gianni Amelio’s “The Stolen Children” and Theo Angelopoulos’ “The Suspended Step of the Stork.”

Vega successfully applied for Efdo and Script loans under Switzerland’s old agreement.

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