Federal program lures 'Ghost,' 'Basterds'

BERLIN — German subsidy coin, particularly the country’s E60 million ($84 million) -a-year Federal Film Fund (DFFF), has served as a lucrative magnet for a slew of recent international productions, including Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and Roman Polanski’s upcoming “The Ghost.”

The fund, coupled with some $302 million in other federal and regional production and development subsidies, has not only continued to buoy Germany’s own film industry at a time when producers around the world are seeing financing sources dry up but also encouraged local producers to shoot at home rather than abroad.

Local films, with lower budgets, get a lot less than the millions big international productions get (“Basterds” got $9.5 million while “Ghost” received $4.9 million). In the first six months of the year, the fund spent nearly $25 million to back 23 films, among them 10 international productions, and fund topper Christine Berg points out the sum has helped generate $142 million in production spend that has benefited the local industry.

The biggest allocation to a German production so far this year has gone to Leander Haussmann’s upcoming comedy caper “Dinosaurier” (Dinosaurs), about group of feisty senior citizens who take on corrupt investment bankers in an effort to thwart a dodgy real estate development scheme.

Produced by Constantin Film and inspired by the 1975 German comedy “Lina Braake,” “Dinosaurier” stars the director’s father, Ezard Haussmann, Eva Maria Hagen and Daniel Bruehl.

“Receiving DFFF funding was vital for shooting this picture in Germany,” says Constantin exec Martin Moszkowicz, who oversees film and TV production and theatrical distribution and marketing at the group. Moszkowicz says that without the fund’s coin, large portions of the film would have been shot in Prague.

Indeed, Constantin has dramatically increased the number of films it shoots in Germany as a result of the fund’s introduction in 2007, Moszkowicz adds.

“Pre-DFFF, we shot approximately 80% of our pictures outside of Germany — today we shoot 80% in Germany.”

The fund helped Uwe Boll bring his latest project, “Max Schmeling,” to his native Germany. Boll has shot most of his recent films in Canada and the biopic on the legendary German pugilist, which stars Teutonic boxing idol Henry Maske, is his first German-language film in years. Pic, which shot in Zagreb, Croatia and in the German state of Hesse, just received $463,000 from the fund on top of more than $900,000 from regional funder Hessen-Invest Film.

Other upcoming local pics that have benefited from Federal Film Fund financing include:

  • Juraj Herz’s World War II drama “Habermann’s Mill,” although entirely shot in the Czech Republic, has received most of its funding from federal and regional subsidies, including nearly $840,000 from the state of Bavaria’s FilmFernsehFonds Bayern (FFF) and nearly $300,000 from the DFFF; it also picked up Austrian and Czech coin. Pic will post in Munich and Cologne. Producer Karel Dirka of Munich-based Art-Oko Film says the funding will still help offset plenty of costs. “It certainly helps. We get 20% back of our production costs in Germany.”

  • “Same Same But Different,” which stars David Kross in Detlev Buck’s love story set in Cambodia, nabbed $529,535 (in addition to more than $1.3 million in additional funding).

  • “Liebe Mauer,” Peter Timm’s romantic comedy set during the fall of the Berlin Wall, picked up $1 million from the DFFF plus $2.1 million from additional subsidies.

  • “Zweiohrkueken,” Til Schweiger’s followup to his hit romantic comedy “Keinohrhasen” (Rabbit Without Ears) nabbed $1.2 million from the DFFF.

  • “Boxhagener Platz,” set in 1968 East Berlin, Matti Geschonneck’s comedy centers around a family that gets mixed up in the murder of an obnoxious local fish seller. Pic is supported by $815,261 in DFFF coin in addition to local subsidy financing.

Bernd Neumann, Germany’s commissioner for culture and media and the DFFF’s architect, stresses that the fund’s success lies not only in attracting big international projects, but also in strengthening German producers and keeping German productions in the country.

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