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Fund sparks German film business

High-profile movies take advantege of rebate

BERLIN — For the Teutonic film industry, the biggest hit of the year has turned out to be the government’s $80 million-a-year German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), which has bolstered a local and international production well beyond initial expectations.

The German Federal Film Board (FFA), which administers the fund, is reporting boffo effects for the nation’s film industry: This year, the fund has slated $75.3 million for a total of 81 projects that will generate a total economic effect of $500 million for the local industry.

The DFFF has already granted nearly $43 million to 47 international and domestic productions, with some $33 million lined up for a further 34 projects this year.

Introduced this year to help the local industry after the government cracked down on the now-defunct private tax-shelter film funds, the DFFF grants productions that shoot in Germany a 20% refund on local spend.

Among those already receiving the rebate are such high-profile international pics as Brian Singer’s WWII drama “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise, and the Wachowski brothers’ “Speed Racer.” The United Artists film, about German military hero Col. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg’s attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler, is receiving $6.5 million, while Warner Bros.’ live-action adaptation of Tatsuo Yoshida’s cult 1960s cartoon series is getting $12.3 million — so far the largest amount allocated any production.

Ole Christian Madsen’s Danish WWII drama “Flame & Citron,” starring “Casino Royale” villain Mads Mikkelsen, was the first international production allotted coin from the fund. The fact-based gangster drama about two resistance fighters shot in the Berlin and Brandenburg region and received some $460,000.

Also expected to benefit from the DFFF is Michael Hoffman’s “The Last Station,” an $18 million Leo Tolstoy biopic starring Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep.

FFA topper Peter Dinges is eager to attract major international production to Germany with the fund.

“We set out to improve the economic conditions of Germany’s film industry and at the same time create sustainable momentum in the country for film production,” says Dinges. “We achieved these goals much faster than we had hoped.”

The DFFF has made Germany a much more attractive location for high-profile international production, Dinges adds. “That would surely not have been possible in Germany without the incentive of the fund.”

Studio Babelsberg, located just outside Berlin, has seen its revenues skyrocket thanks in large part to DFFF-financed productions. The company is expecting revenue to reach nearly $140 million this year compared to only $22.4 million in 2006.

It’s co-producing “Valkyrie,” “Speed Racer” and “Flame & Citroen,” with a total of 11 productions shooting in its backlot and soundstages this year.

“Thanks to the successful introduction of the DFFF and as a result of the continuing trend to produce films internationally, we are expecting very positive business growth in the next few years,” says Studio Babelsberg topper Carl Woebcken.

Indeed, in addition to international productions, two local films financed through the DFFF also shot at the studio, Mike Eschmann’s military comedy “Ausbilder Schmidt” and Vanessa Jopp’s Christmas-themed family comedy “Meine schoene Bescherung.”

Also expected to lense at Babelsberg this year is Columbia Pictures thriller “The International,” directed by Tom Tykwer and starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts.

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