Austria fund eyes a piece of the action

Film officials inspired by Germany's DFFF

BERLIN — The huge success of Germany’s $85-million-a-year Federal Film Fund (DFFF) has not gone unnoticed in neighboring Austria, where film commission officials have long been pushing for a similar scheme to boost the local industry.

The powers that be have heeded the call, and are now setting up an Austrian fund patterned on the German model to be launched later this year.

Austrian finance minister and vice chancellor Josef Proell has said the initiative has the full support of his office — and widespread backing from the country’s coalition government.

Like the German fund, the Austrian model will likely provide up to a 20% rebate of production costs for projects shot in the country.

While local producers are calling for a total volume of E20 million ($28.3 million), the government has yet to decide on the exact amount.

The planned fund couldn’t come at a better time for the local industry, which has been rattled by a growing financial crisis at TV giant ORF. Facing sinking ad revenue and increasing competition from commercial rivals, the pubcaster is on the verge of losing its role as the film industry’s main production partner.

For local producers, a new film fund would mean a welcomed fortification of the industry. At the same time, the initiative could increase financing opportunities for cash-strapped overseas producers.

Recent high-profile international productions that have shot in the country, such as “Quantum of Solace” and Dominic Sena’s medieval thriller “Season of the Witch,” have helped galvanize support for greater production initiatives.

In Germany, the Federal Film Fund, introduced in 2007, has helped make the country a hugely popular location for domestic and international productions, including such recent films as Roman Polanski’s upcoming “The Ghost,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist” as well as Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winner “The White Ribbon.”

Through 2007 and 2008, the DFFF sponsored a total of 198 productions with some $167 million (more than half of that went to 71 international productions). The investment resulted in more than $1 billion in production spending in Germany alone — six times that of the initial funding amount. The Austrians are hoping for similar results.

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