Czech prexy axes film incentives

Vaclav Klaus claims biz lacks 'creative invention'

PRAGUE — Czech film bizzers are scrambling to assure foreign producers that the country’s incentives are alive and well, despite an unexpected veto by the president, Vaclav Klaus, on Monday.

Ever the free-market tubthumper, Klaus abruptly announced his sabotage of the sweeteners, which constitute the local industry’s prize effort to attract foreign coin, arguing that cinema is no different from other industries and deserves no special treatment.

Each summer Klaus is feted by local industryites at the Karlovy Vary film fest, but on Monday he claimed that Czech films, which also benefit from the incentives system, are doing poorly because of a lack of “creative invention” rather than poor funding.

Helmer Jan Sverak, who won an Oscar with “Kolya,” responded archly, thanking Klaus for his film criticism, but pointing out that Ingmar Bergman, whom the president once cited as an exemplar Czechs should follow, also depended on state funding.

Local industryites are hopeful parliament will override the veto, just as they did in 2006 when Klaus also vetoed film coin.

But the move hardly helps the Czech Republic’s competitive edge, with Sverak arguing that his country is behind every other European Union nation in film support.

The Czech Audiovisual Producers Assn., which Sverak heads, has been working to shore up the Czech incentives system, which provides some $15.9 million in rebates for production spends. Unlike similar systems in Hungary and Germany, the annual Czech funding amount is fixed and invariably runs out during the first few months of the year.

The government of Prime Minister Petr Necas has so far rebuffed a plea from the Culture Ministry to up the funding by $5.3 million, despite industry analysis that indicates the incentives boost the local film economy.

The film law that was nixed on Monday would not haved lifted the spending cap, but would have improved the system of payments, which at present is overly restrictive.

Klaus steps down at the end of the year.

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