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Czech cinema’s caretaker

Interim official champions local film biz

It took the collapse of a government and the appointment of a man of culture to get the new Czech film incentive plan through a parliamentary vote.

Now, nearly six months later, film professionals in the central European country are awaiting the green light from European Union officials in Brussels to usher in a new financial wave for Czech filmmakers and international co-producers who choose to shoot in the country.

Vaclav Riedlbauch, a musician-composer who has been general manager of the Czech Philharmonic orchestra since 2001, expected to be in office as a minister in a caretaker government for just a few months after a coalition government collapsed in disarray last April. But he’s still there — new parliamentary elections are not scheduled until late May this year — and he never expected to be in office to see the film incentives plan that includes a 20 percent tax rebate on films shot in the Czech Republic come to fruition.

“I knew that I did not have much time and so decided that getting the film law passed must be a priority,” Riedlbauch, 62, told Variety.

He is in Berlin as part of his country’s delegation supporting “Kawasaki’s Rose,” the new film by Czech directors Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchovsky that opened the Berlinale’s Panorama Special on Friday.

With a caretaker government largely made up of business people and others like him drawn from the worlds of culture and industry, Riedlbauch said he felt there was an opening that had not existed in years of political wrangling over a new film law long sought after by producers and filmmakers.

“I saw an opportunity not so much simply to bring in a new law but to look at the whole concept of cultural support. It was not really so specifically about funding but to put on the agenda the idea that culture deserves support.”

Riedlbauch is now keen to push a plan to extend state funding for domestic production that is currently paid for out of a levy on Czech public television advertising. That source of funding is due to end when Czech television switches from analog to digital, but Riedlbauch hopes to secure agreement for other sources to continue the support given in the past three years to Czech filmmakers.

In the meantime, with approval of the new film law expected from Brussels next month, Riedlbauch is looking forward to a “new wave” for Czech filmmakers, foreign co-producers and the country’s leading studio complexes.

“There are already a number of countries in Europe that have film-incentive laws; we are glad that we are now on verge of joining that path,” Riedlbauch said.

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