Local filmmakers carry on fund fight

Exhibs, distribs and terrestrial TV nets change tack

The general election in the Czech Republic in June produced a hung parliament, and while the stalemate between right and left has left many pieces of legislation in limbo, a bill triggering extra film coin may get the greenlight.

“It is likely that the new government will not be able to proceed with major reforms,” says Ondrej Trojan, producer of Jan Hrebejk’s “Beauty in Trouble,” “but as for state film subsidies, these kinds of issues could be solved quickly.”

After having lobbied for eight years to win a 2%-3% tax on the revenues of exhibs, distribs and terrestrial TV nets, which would have been channeled into local production, local bizzers saw their efforts tank in Parliament in late May.

Now they have changed tack and are asking that the state pour funds directly into the Czech Cinematography Fund, a source of production coin that at present has a meager $2.6 million.

Despite the effort that went into the failed tax plan, Czech film bizzers have not wasted time mourning its death. “This law that was rejected was not really the best possible solution,” says Jana Cernikova, head of the Czech Film Center.

When local producers first heard of the tax’s failure, they went on strike, closing down the Czech and Slovak stand at Cannes in an effort to shame the Culture Ministry. The industry-funded Film Center in Prague still says it will close at year-end if the state doesn’t come forward with funding.

Pavel Strnad, head of the Audiovisual Producers Assn., has appealed in the media for state help, arguing that 80% of the Czech film business is foreign production.

“Would you want to go to the movies only to see films imported from other countries, never your own?” he posed in an editorial. “Czech politicians apparently would.” His own 2005 pic, “Something Like Happiness,” which won seven Czech Lions and the San Sebastian main prize, relied on state funding, he added.

Trojan and Hrebejk had considered pulling their film from official competish at Karlovy Vary to protest the state’s inaction, but opted instead to let fest prexy Jiri Bartoska meet with ministry officials to work out a solution.

“From now on,” says Trojan, “we intend to deal only with the top decisionmakers.”

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