'Quantum' shoot spurs local business

BERLIN — James Bond has not only fired up the global box office, he’s also galvanized Austria, where local film officials hope the success of “Quantum of Solace” will lead to the creation of more film incentives in the country.

While “Quantum” did not receive any Austrian funding, the huge production spent x3.1 million ($3.9 million) in just eight days of shooting in the city of Bregenz, a financial boost that hasn’t gone unnoticed by officials in the surrounding state of Vorarlberg.

In one of the pic’s most thrilling scenes, Bond climbs atop the giant eye overlooking the huge stage outside the stunning Bregenz Festival House on the shore of Lake Constance to spy on a group of villains attending an open-air production of “Tosca,” and later has to blast his way out of the ultramodern venue.

It’s not surprising, then, that the high-octane actioner has reinvigorated efforts by industry reps to finally secure a funding scheme comparable with those in more competitive neighboring countries.

“The film generated substantial revenue in the region,” says Austrian Film Commissioner Arie Bohrer, who heads Location Austria in Vienna. “Not only that, this production will continue to provide financial and touristic advantages.”

Local film commissions and regional tourism boards have long depended on one another and are now joining forces to push for not only greater regional incentives but also a federal-level tax rebate or fund similar to the hugely successful model in neighboring Germany in the hopes of luring more international productions to the country.

While Austria has some federal-level funding initiatives, those are aimed at local producers and carry strict cultural requirements. Only three of the country’s nine states have real film subsidy boards: Styria, Tyrol and Vienna.

Yet Bond fever, coupled with concern about Hungary’s 20% tax rebate, low production costs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Germany’s $75 million-a-year Federal Film Fund, which has attracted such high-profile production as “Valkyrie,” “Speed Racer” and “The Reader,” has state officials in Austria desperate for an investment vehicle of their own.

Bohrer is pushing for an Austrian fund of around $35 million a year.

“We have producers eager to work with international partners, highly trained crews and excellent infrastructure,” says Bohrer, who was in talks with the federal government on a proposal when the ruling coalition collapsed this summer. The two centrist parties are expected to form a new government soon.

For the country’s tourism industry, film has proved a valuable commodity: About 300,000 visitors a year come to Austria to take part in “The Sound of Music” tour in Salzburg, while more than a million fans flock every year to Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna, where the popular “Sissi” pics were filmed. Vienna also boasts tours based on “The Third Man” and even has a “Third Man” museum.

At the regional level, officials in the state of Salzburg have been quick to get in on the act by helping fund Dominic Sena’s supernatural thriller “Season of the Witch,” starring Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman. It’s the first time a Hollywood production has been granted funding in Austria.

The pic, which is currently shooting in the country, received only modest coin from state business promotion office Salzburg Agentur, but it helped convince producers to shoot there rather than in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which had also been under consideration, and the investment resulted in a 350% return in terms of production spend in the region.

Looking beyond the country’s borders, Bohrer sees great possibilities to not just compete but also cooperate with neighboring countries.

As president of the European Film Commission Network, which launched last year, Bohrer is uniquely positioned to work with European partners in hosting major international productions.

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