Weak dollar attracting European productions

Who needs regional subsidies and government film funds when you can have bargain productions in the U.S.?

The weakening greenback may be causing pain for some, but it’s also creating unprecedented opportunities for European filmmakers who dream of shooting on the streets of Brooklyn or in the red deserts of Arizona.

With planeloads of Europeans landing daily in New York to take advantage of dirt-cheap prices, Debbie Elbin tells filmmakers, “You’ve come to shop, now stay and shoot.”

Elbin has just launched PS:USA, a New York-based production services company that will primarily consult with Germans and other Europeans on the various state filming incentives, which, Elbin points out, remain largely unknown to foreign producers.

Elbin, a transatlantic production expert who most recently served as a consultant on Warner Bros.’ “Speed Racer,” which shot at Studio Babelsberg last year, said German productions have a tough time breaking out globally because they are too dependent on local subsidies and funding support, much of which carries cultural requirements.

While many foreign filmmakers fear the high cost of union rates in the U.S., Elbin points out: “You can shoot non-union in the States. You can talk to the unions (to negotiate deals). It’s no big deal. It’s just that people don’t know that.”

Likewise, the many generous incentives available around the U.S. remain largely a mystery to foreign filmmakers.

“There are over 40 states offering incentives. In Massachusetts you can get up to 25% and you have mountains, beaches and Boston.

“The states all have their own rules and regulations and you can mix and match. Cultural content is a zero issue. It’s all about local spend, whether it’s feature film, TV, documentary, animation, Internet. The only thing you can’t get incentives for is pornography.”

Elbin has worked as a television producer for Columbia TriStar, Warner Bros., NBC and Disney and also produced German TV series at Columbia Tristar Intl. in Cologne as well as UFA, where she served as a producer on RTL Television’s hit soap “Good Times, Bad Times.”

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