Government seeks to attract foreign shoots

After at least a decade of lobbying, the Czech government has approved an incentive plan for foreign film shoots that would refund 20% of their expenses.

Czech film bizzers, who have been warning of business lost to Hungary because of its own 20% incentives, were ecstatic Wednesday in Prague.

“It’s taken a while to align support,” said producer Matthew Stillman, whose facilities company, Stillking, has been a key voice in the call for subsidies. “This will put Prague back on the map.”

Foreign shoots, which brought in millions in the 1990s, were buoyed more recently by “Casino Royale” and “Wanted,” but have dropped to a trickle in the past year. Such productions fell off by 50% from 2003 to 2008 and were in sharp decline well before the global recession hit a year ago.

Though the incentives must be approved by Parliament, the government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer has unanimously backed the plan, incorporating it into the coming year’s budget, which begins a review next Wednesday.

The incentives must also be cleared by the European Commission, but approval is expected because they are based on the EU formula already in use by Hungary, Germany and that is about to come into force in France.

Czech Film Commission head Ludmila Claussova called the move a breakthrough, adding that it should help revive local production, involving thousands of jobs. The move “sends a clear message that they consider the Czech film industry an important part of the economy,” Claussova added.

The sweeteners, based on a proposal from the Culture Ministry, would free up 400 million Czech crowns ($23 million), for which production companies could apply on a first-come, first-serve basis starting in January.

To qualify for funds, producers would have to shoot in the Czech Republic and meet other criteria specified by the EU based on a “culture” point scale that includes factors such as make-up of crews, script and local partners.

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