Czechs and balances

Nation competes with neighbors for foreign investment

Czech producers say foreign filmmakers have just six months to take advantage of the country’s new production incentives.

There is $24.5 million available this year under the 20% tax rebate scheme approved by the European Commission last month.

But under Czech government rules, the money must be spent within six months — putting producers under pressure to agree to co-productions or risk losing out on cash.

“We are hoping the new government will prolong it. We have to discuss how much will be allotted next year,” Pavel Strnad, head of Czech producers’ org APA, told Variety at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

“We think the amount available should be doubled or tripled so that we can get back to where we were in 2003,” Strnad said, referring to the boom year when $308 million was spent on domestic and foreign productions in the Czech Republic.

Spending dropped by 70% the following year when Hungary introduced a generous tax-back scheme and foreign producers followed the money.

Czech producers are now hoping all that could change.

Helena Ulrichova, executive director of APA, said that the day the new Czech incentives were approved more than 20 applications from foreigners hit Prague producers’ desks.

Those included a French production with Catherine Deneuve attached and a Danish one with Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale”), both budgeted at around $9.2 million.

Strnad urged foreign producers to look afresh at shooting in the Czech Republic.

APA estimates that Czech film companies have lost out on $153 million this year alone on productions that went to Hungary, Germany, the U.K. and Italy instead of Prague because the production incentives were not in place earlier.

Those projects included Hollywood’s “Captain America.”

“Hollywood spends $6 billion a year on foreign projects. That is a huge sum of money, and it has to be spent somewhere,” Ulrichova said.

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