President rewards quality pix

Philippines gives tax incentives in hopes of producing films

MANILA — The Philippines is lagging far behind its Asian neighbors when it comes to producing internationally viable movies that would give the local cinema industry a much-needed shot in the arm.

Dismayed at being overtaken by countries whose cinema histories began later than the nation’s own, local lawmakers passed a bill that would make sure filmmakers would be motivated to produce quality films via tax incentives.

Even President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has gotten into the act. In late July the president announced she would extend financial support to Filipino moviemakers who could make films that would, for one, compete with foreign films for the Filipino moviegoers’ attention. She said the pic biz was an important industry to cultivate, not only because it brings in money, but also because it expresses the Filipino soul.

“The time has come,” she said, “for globalizing the distribution of Filipino films by elevating their artistic and technical excellence.”

To entice talented but currently cash-strapped directors and producers to take on the government’s challenge, Macapagal Arroyo created a Presidential Award.

Each month, the president now gives a cash incentive of P500,000 ($9,800) to selected directors or Filipino film producers. To qualify, the production must be all Filipino in crew and content. The film itself must be firstrun and not a reissue. Cultural themes are encouraged.

If no film is good enough when measured against the criteria of artistic and technical excellence (40%), commercial viability and global appeal (25%), innovativeness and creativity (10%) and Filipino cultural and historical values (5%), the Screening Committee can recommend that the award not be given.

The president said she instituted the awards so more filmmakers will be encouraged to do more films locally. Right now, several filmmakers have taken their production and art to foreign lands.

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