Industryites turn to other hard-up nations for advice

The collapse of the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou — the latest twist in the Greek euro debt crisis — doesn’t seem to faze local film industryites.

But they’re long used to scant resources and political stalemates, say producers gathered for the 52nd Thessaloniki Film Festival this week in the seaside city.

Greek film professionals are continuing to muddle through as they have for the last year, seeking solutions from other small nations who have experience in doing without.

The Greek Film Center is focusing on paying debts, and won’t be a major coin resource any time soon, according to new fund exec Grigoris Karandinakis.

Producers in Romania, where public funding for filmmakers rarely meets obligations, have learned to court private sponsors, said Alexandru Soloman of HiFilm, who’s won attention for the documentary “Kapitalism: Our Improved Formula.”

“If we go with the regular program, we’re lost,” she advised Greek colleagues. “Get creative.”

Some $2.7 million in annual state support is available in Romania, Soloman said, down from $8.7 million just three years ago. And it only covers half of the local spend on productions — just 10% in the case of docus — and is often late. The Romanian Cinema Fund this year waited until September to announce a call for submissions.

With subsidies so unreliable, Romanian filmmakers push projects on their own. Palm d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”) and helmer Catalin Mitulescu have both formed their own distribution shingles, said Soloman.

That’s an example the Israel Film Fund also encourages, per Katriel Schory, prexy of the org. He points out that the makers of Ari Folman’s Israeli hit “Waltz With Bashir” did their own distribution with cash from Isreal’s $7.5 million annual film fund, which devotes 15% of its money to promotion.

Schory says funds must help emerging filmmakers learn the biz while working closely with the local industry and remaining non-partisan to avoid getting caught up in political regimes. Israel’s film fund keeps its creds intact by having a board made up of 60% film professionals and making its disbursement process thoroughly transparent, he added.

The Greek Film Center has $3.4 million in annual coin but local producers complain they have seen little of that for the last year following austerity measures implemented as part of the country’s first attempt to deal with its massive debts.

Karandinakis wants to pay out funds already promised but not yet disbursed, he said, while also trying to build auds through more digital distribution, working with film clubs, offering discounts and partnering with regional governments to screen more local pics as Israel has done.

Still, he cautions, whatever becomes of the national crisis, the next few years won’t be easy, with ticket sales down 15%-20% from last year, which means less coin going into the Greek Film Center kitty.

Meanwhile, as Athens politicians scramble to form a new government and EU officials fret over the chaos that’s undermining the latest debt deal, the crisis continues to spread to other sectors including Greek public TV, another important resource for film producers.

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