Swiss bank on film industry growth

Gov't offers coin for foreign distribs, local projects

While Swiss cinema hasn’t been able to match the huge success of 2006, when hit comedy “Die Herbstzeitlosen” (Late Bloomers) and drama “Vitus” dominated the local B.O., there is still plenty of hope riding on the country’s new crop of homegrown pics and co-productions.

The market share of Swiss films hit 10% in 2006, but 2007 saw a drop in the domestic share to 5.6%.

The Swiss government is actively looking to improve the box office prospects of local productions at home and abroad. In addition to a planned increase of $1.8 million a year in the amount of subsidy coin available for script development, promotional org Swiss Films and the Swiss Federal Office of Culture launched a $285,000-a-year subsidy program in 2007 to encourage foreign distribs to carry more Swiss fare.

Foreign distribs can apply to Swiss Film for up to $35,000 in support for the release of Swiss movies. Initiative was a big help to “Late Bloomers” in Germany, where it went out via X Verleih, and “Vitus” in France, where it was released by Ocean Films.

“The export of Swiss film has been greatly stimulated by the distribution initiative, especially in countries where Swiss films had not been traditionally shown, such as Spain, Brazil, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.,” says Micha Schiwow, Swiss Films head.

The local biz is pinning its hopes on strong players like Ursula Meier’s drama “Home.” Pic’s proved a strong seller for Paris-based Memento Films Intl.

Also making waves is Silvio Soldini’s “Giorni e nuvole” (Days and Clouds), a Swiss-Italian co-production distributed internationally by Adriana Chiesa Enterprises that has sold to the U.S. (Film Movement), Germany (Movienet Filmverleih) and Italy (Warner Bros.).

Denis Rabaglia’s coming-of-age romance “Marcello Marcello” is generating similar buzz. Pic, set in 1956 on the picturesque Italian island of Amatrello, follows the efforts of a young man to woo the daughter of the local mayor; Senator film picked up the movie for Germany; Munich-based Telepool is handling sales.

“We are expecting a stronger performance from local films in the latter part of the year as we didn’t have that many releases in the first part of 2008,” Schiwow notes.

One of the year’s strongest releases so far was Micha Lewinsky’s “Der Freund” (The Friend). The film won this year’s Swiss Film Award and went on to screen at film festivals in Shanghai, Brussels and Munich. Swiss production shingle Langfilm is handling world sales.

And the government is also encouraging co-productions. To be eligible for public funding, a film must have a Swiss producer as a partner who will then apply for state coin. Currently, the maximum subsidy amount allowed per film is about $900,000 and cannot exceed 50% of the Swiss partner’s production costs.

Switzerland lags behind more generous neighbors like Luxembourg and Germany in terms of financial incentives for foreign filmmakers, a result of the country’s complicated tax system.

Yet officials are eager to assist productions looking to shoot in the country, from helping to find Swiss co-production partners to organizing filming permits.

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