Producers eye Czech Film Center

Country one of the few European spots with no film office

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Irritated by the government’s lack of action, producers are to open a Czech Film Center on Sept. 2 to promote local pics and help the international industry converging on Prague.

The plan was unveiled at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on Thusday. The Czech Republic still has no audiovisual law ten years after its split with the Slovak Republic, let alone a film office. “We are one of the few countries in Europe where this doesn’t exist,” said Pavel Strnad, the new prexy of the Assoc. of Film and Television Producers (APA).

Funding comes from APA as well as film fests including Karlovy Vary.

Czech films took 20% of admissions and 29% of the box office in 2001. “2002 probably won’t be as strong,” Strnad said. Turnover of companies producing Czech films dropped by $2 million last year, to just under $10 million.

Lobbying the parliament for tax incentives to keep Prague’s film biz growing is next on the agenda for local producers. Today Daily Variety co-hosts Eurowood, a panel on financing options in Central Europe. The panel is co-sponsored by Linklater’s law firm and Prague Studios.

Industry insiders hold out hope that the new governemnt, which was appointed this week, will be more open to supporting the film industry.

Meanwhile, a slew of Central European countries are set to join the European Union’s Audiovisual Eureka Media Plus funding program this year, with others waiting in the wings.

Jacques Delmoly, head of Audiovisual Eureka’s media program, made the announcement during the org.’s annual meeting on Thursday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which closes Sunday.

Estonia, Latvia and Poland have already joined and are eligible for 2002 funding programs. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are expected to sign on before the July 31 deadline for 2002 eligibility. Waiting in the wings are Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovenia, with Hungary also a possible candidate.

Delmoly said the $400 million available in the five-year funding program is due to increase with the addition of up to 13 new member countries, although he declined to speculate by how much.

The two-day round table described conditions for use of Media Plus funds, which can be used for development, cinema distribution and television production.

According to an Audiovisual Eureka representative, the org. opened membership to non-EU countries because individuals were using loopholes, such as dual nationality, to fund projects outside member territories.

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