Germany: Generous film subsidy programs lures filmmakers

Location: Europe 2012 - Germany

Germany’s generous film subsidy programs have made the country a favorite co-production destination for international producers.

The Federal Film Board (FFA) boosted its overall film support by nearly $10.5 million this year to some $53.5 million, most of it for feature and documentary production.

With an annual budget of $133.4 million, the FFA also supports distribs, exhibs, festivals and educational endeavors. Financing is allotted to previous recipients who have met certain commercial and critical criteria as well as in the form of a conditionally repayable, interest-free loan, depending on the project and on certain criteria. Funding can reach up to $1.3 million per film.

In addition, the office of the federal culture commissioner offers grants totaling $90 million a year in production and script development coin, including nearly $80 million for the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) rebate incentive that provides projects shooting in Germany with a 20% refund on local spend.

Of the 13 films supported by the DFFF so far this year, four are international co-productions, including Brian De Palma’s “Passion” and Bille August’s “Night Train to Lisbon.”

Similar to the FFA, the regional subsidy offices require that part of the production or post take part in their home states or regions. The largest of the regional subsidy orgs is North Rhine-Westphalia’s Filmstiftung NRW with production and development coin totaling $40.1 million, followed by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg with $26.8 million and Bavaria’s FFF Bayern with $26.6 million.

Studios & facilities

MMC: Cologne’s MMC, which has hosted such recent international productions as Sandra Nettelbeck’s “Mr. Morgan’s Last Love” and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” has undergone major structural changes in recent months and is currently for sale. The European Commission is forcing state-owned bank Sparkasse Koeln-Bonn, MMC’s owner, to sell the facility by the end of the year. In addition, MMC closed part of its facilities in one part of Cologne while beefing up its main Coloneum studio. MMC also works closely with the Filmstiftung NRW in neighboring Dusseldorf, which reps the biggest regional subsidy org among Germany’s 16 federal states and the second largest in Europe.

Pinewood Studios Berlin Film Services: Among Germany’s newest players is Pinewood Studio Berlin Film Services, which launched in 2010. The joint venture between Pinewood Studios and Studio Hamburg just boarded its first production, “Filth,” Jon S. Baird’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s bestseller.

Babelsberg: Studio Babelsberg near Berlin remains Germany’s most well-known studio facility and is an active co-producer and service provider.

Post & vfx

This year’s Oscar win for Frankfurt-based Pixomondo for its work on “Hugo” has solidified the fast-growing company’s reputation as a major global player.

The attention hasn’t hurt fellow German firms like Rise, Trixter and Scanline, all of which have answered the call of Hollywood and the booming international demand for big-budget vfx.

Founded in 2001 by CEO Thilo Kuther, Pixomondo has since gone global with studios in Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Los Angeles, Burbank, London, Shanghai, Beijing and Toronto, and it’s now opening a new shop in Baton Rouge, La.

The studio has worked on such recent and upcoming productions as “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Game of Thrones,” “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” as well as smaller local pics, such as the UFA Cinema comedy “Jesus Loves Me.”

Likewise, Berlin-based Rise, founded in 2007 , has risen quickly and operates studios in Berlin, Cologne, Halle and Vienna. It’s contributed vfx to “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “X-Men: First Class.”

Munich-based Trixter opened a studio facility in Los Angeles last year in addition to its offices in Berlin and Toronto. The company also worked on “Captain America” and “X-Men” as well as “Journey 2” and “The Raven.”

Fellow Munich group Scanline VFX operates facilities in Dusseldorf and Los Angeles and opened a new studio in Vancouver last year. In addition to work on local productions, the company’s growing list of credits includes “Battleship,” “Immortals” and “Super 8.”

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