Czech film fund slashed

Funds cut to only 25% of current levels

A massive Czech film funding cut by the state has cast a shadow over the country’s biggest annual celebration of movie making, much of it local.

“What we all feared has happened,” announced Tomas Baldynsky, head of the nine-member commission that supervises the Czech Cinematography Fund, speaking at a Karlovy Vary film fest press conference Saturday.

Next year’s coffers will be cut to only 25 percent of current levels, he said, because of state budget slashing.

Fund, along with pubcaster Czech TV, is a key source of production coin for scores of Czech producers. One of them, Pavel Strnad, whose shingle Negativ recently received some $282,000 for the new Bohdan Slama film “Country Teacher,” said a key problem is that the fund has been badly managed until now. “Things are not planned for the future.”

Baldynsky, a journalist who in the last few months has tried to reform the dysfunctional funding system, officially part of the Czech Ministry of Culture, said producers sought $15.2 million in support this year for 120 projects, of which about 60 won funding, to the total tune of $3 million. Much of that was possible because the state kicked in an extra $4.7 million last year, doubling the fund, a commitment they will not be renewing.

That leaves the fund with only revenue from the sale of Czech films the state owns copyright to, a source that is diminishing every year, even as the aging films themselves deteriorate. Efforts to remaster and digitalize the hundreds of films, increasing their value and marketability, have met with bureaucratic roadblocks, Baldynsky said.

In the future, even such Czech creative heroes as Jan Svankmajer, whose animated pic-in-progress, “Surviving Life,” won about $376,000 this year, or Oscar-nommed Jan Hrebejk, who got $235,000 for his new pic “OK By Me,” may come up dry unless coin sources can be made sustainable – and probably run independently from state control, according to local industryites.

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