Czech org running without any gov't funding

PRAGUE — After a record $300 million in spending on film production in 2003, the new year kicked off with the opening of the first Czech Film Commission.

While other national film commissioners could be forgiven for envying the Czechs’ thriving local and international industry, this operation is up and running without a koruna (a penny) of government funding.

The Czech association of producers, APA, joined forces with Czech distributors and exhibitors a year earlier to co-fund an umbrella Czech Film Chamber, encompassing local film promotion and the European Union-connected Media Desk. The new film commission, which is wholly financed by APA, is the latest addition to the chamber.

APA president Pavel Strnad said the industry is prepared to do whatever is necessary to be competitive. “The most important thing is there will be an office to service foreign producers seeking information on filming in the Czech Republic.”

According to managing director Ludmila Klausova, the film commission will provide information (eventually via a production guide) on regulation, permits, locations and other topics.

Also on the agenda are lobbying efforts aimed at the city of Prague on location issues, and at government reps on encouraging a healthy film industry.

Klausova will introduce the new film commission at the Berlin film market next month.

New pics will join a current crop that includes “A v P” and an Italian TV version of “Wuthering Heights,” both now shooting, as well as Roman Polanski’s upcoming “Oliver Twist.” Other likely productions include a German TV film for ZDF set in Prague and a Universal/NBC series based on bigscreener “Van Helsing.”

By contrast, local production is facing a steep decline after a boom year that saw a 13% rise in Czech box office based on the popularity of local films — they took some 30% of the $40 million B.O. Meanwhile, public monies, particularly from pubcaster Czech TV, have been cut for the time being.

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