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Dutch biz hopes for cash soon

Despite 'Black Book,' local biz struggling to survive

UTRECHT, the Netherlands — It is the best of times and the worst of times for the Dutch film industry.

Paul Verhoeven’s homecoming pic “Black Book” has triumphed at home and been sold to more than 160 territories worldwide, proving a Dutch-language production can aim high and hit the target.

But rather than jumping on Verhoeven’s coattails, much of the Dutch film industry is simply struggling to survive amid another major overhaul of state film aid.

Earlier this year, former state secretary for culture Medy van der Laan sounded the death knell for the much-maligned CV tax incentive scheme, announcing its demise on Jan. 1.

But to the surprise and delight of the film industry, she also said that the E20 million ($25.4 million) previously set aside each year to pay for the tax breaks would continue to be channeled into the film sector for another four years.

Industry and government are mulling plowing the lion’s share of that amount into a Danish-style matching fund. A question mark hangs over its start date, however, and many producers are facing a severe cash crunch.

“It’s now very hard to raise private capital with the CVs, so everyone is desperate for the matching fund to take off,” comments BosBros producer Michiel de Rooij, who’s also managing director of the Netherlands Assn. of Feature Film Producers and one of the architects of the matching fund scheme. “Labs and crews are also feeling the pinch.”

Currently, the main source of finance for Dutch producers is the Dutch Film Fund, which has some $8.9 million to mete out to arthouse fare and another $7.6 million for more mainstream productions.

Not surprisingly, the mood among local industryites at the Netherlands Film Festival, that ran Sept. 27-Oct. 6 in Utrecht, was far from ebullient.

“In past years, 23-28 Dutch features have been available for the festival, but this year there were just 17,” commented NFF director Doreen Boonekamp.

The NFF screens all Dutch features, docus, shorts and TV drama productions completed since the previous festival.

“At least 20 of the features we have promised funding to over the last three years have yet to be made. They’re having difficulty completing their financing,” revealed Netherlands Film Fund director Toine Berbers.

“The Dutch film industry is very vulnerable,” producer Stienette Bosklopper of Amsterdam-based Circe Films says.

Much rides on the introduction of the matching fund.

Under initial plans for the scheme, producers applying to the fund would have to have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years and released at least one feature film in Dutch theaters.

Most producers hope the fund will launch early next year — few are looking forward to another winter of uncertainty.

Under EU law, state funding of film productions cannot exceed 50%. The Netherlands may lobby for a special dispensation on the basis that a country its size cannot foster a film industry through commercial means alone.

“The situation is grim at the moment, but it will get better — there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Berbers says.

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