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Czech producers forced to wait for funds

Government fails to bridge funding gap

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — Czech producers will be forced to wait for up to a year for coin after the introduction of a new film finance law.

The long-awaited reform to the funding formula for the Czech Cinematography Fund imposes a 2% levy on commercial TV advertising revenue and a 1% tax on box office take. This coin, which replaces funding from pubcaster Czech TV, is expected to total $15 million a year.

But revenue will not be audited until early next year, and funds will not start flowing until spring at the earliest.

That leaves producers with a problem this year as the government has only provided $2.5 million of stop-gap funding.

“It was a badly drafted law and we knew that,” said Pavel Strnad, former president of the Audiovisual Producers’ Assn., who has led the campaign. “We knew about the funding gap and officials promised to come up with a system to address that, but did not. Although the new system is welcome, the devil is in the detail.”

Pavel Cechak, a producer at director David Ondricek’s Lucky Man Films, said the company managed to secure funding of $350,000 for Petr Zelenka’s “Lost in Munich” just before the crunch.

But many producers were being given token payments of just 1 koruna (5¢) from the fund, and a commitment in writing to future funding, Cechak said.

“The paper promises payment next year, but cannot be used as collateral to raise a loan; it means many projects are going to be stalled this year,” he said.

Ondricek’s detective thriller “In the Shadow of the Horse,” set in 1950s Prague, also got in under the wire and is now in post with a September release slated.

Czech film bizzers, including Jan Sverak, the new topper of APA, admit that funding for local films is at its lowest point in years, but the org’s exec director, Helena Uldrichova, predicts that coin from private broadcasters will offset the loss of Czech TV coin next year.

“I don’t know of any other such fund that’s financed only from private bodies.” She also noted that private broadcasters are not exactly forthcoming with verifiable data about their sales revenues.

(Will Tizard in Karlovy Vary contributed to this report.)

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