You would never guess from the level of international co-productions heading toward Poland that the country remains one of the few in this corner of Europe without cash-back incentives.
Agnieszka Odorowicz, topper at the Polish Film Institute, is justifiably bullish on the rising number of such joint projects — currently at around 40 per year — but has said the lack of sweeteners is an issue that needs to be addressed. But even without them, the institute’s work is clearly reaping rewards.
Since 2005, some 130 production companies have set up shop in Poland, many of them capitalizing on financial support from the PFI, which administers a film fund created through a tax on television, exhibitors and distribs passed a decade ago. More and more of these new players, the recipients of more than 500 film grants, are partnering with foreigners to the benefit of both parties. In 2014, the institute’s budget was $42 million for development, education, promotion and other programs.
Alvernia Studios is not waiting for legislation — last year it teamed up with Dutch producer San Fu Maltha’s Fu Works Prods. (“Iron Sky,” “Jade Warrior”) to launch a production incentives program to encourage international producers to take their projects to Poland.
The companies are looking to co-produce two to three pics a year, with budgets of up to €3 million ($4.01 million), contributing up to 50% through a services-based investment.
Headlining Alvernia’s slate is “Magnitude 9,” which it is producing with Brett Ratner’s RatPac. Pic, which is written and to be directed by Agnieszka Vosloo, is a modern version of “Madame Butterfly” — a tragic love story set against the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
Alvernia’s credits include Nicholas Jarecki’s “Arbitrage,” starring Richard Gere, and Jerzy Skolimowski’s “Essential Killing.”
Alvernia will provide line production services and handle Polish distribution rights for upcoming Bollywood comedy action film “Bangistan,” which will shoot principally in Krakow.
The film is to be directed by Karan Anshuman and will shoot for 40 days in and around the historical city.
The picture stars Riteish Deshmukh and Pulkit Samrat as two rival, blundering terrorists, and is produced by Indian studio Excel Entertainment (“Zindagi na milegi dobara,” “Rock On”), which previously shot its “Don 2” in Berlin.
The country’s film support system also provides for promotion of homegrown film abroad, to the tune of $3.4 million annually, helping some 300 Polish films travel to 200 international fests a year, according to PFI numbers.
At Cannes, Poland is repped by Critics’ Week entry “A Blue Room” (Niebieski Pokoj), a French-Polish animated mid-length feature by Tomasz Siwinski; and Aga Woszczynska’s short “Fragments,” which will bow in Directors’ Fortnight and was produced by the National Film School in Lodz in collaboration with AT Prods. and Before My Eyes.
Also as part of a global outreach strategy, the CentEast Market, which runs during the Warsaw Film Festival, sent 11 Polish works in progress to April’s Beijing film festival under the auspices of the China-Eastern Europe Film Promotion Project, which was launched last year. The market also hosted the screening of two award-winning films from the Warsaw fest: “Tangerines” by Zaza Urushadze and “The Geographer Drank His Globe Away,” by Alexander Veledinsky.
The country also hosts a surprising number of high-profile fests, which tend to act as an alternative distribution network in addition to fostering relationships.
Roman Gutek, a founder of one of the first major new-generation successes, New Horizons, says, “local authorities understand the importance of festivals and culture for the development of the local economy — and human creativity — and are willing to financially support their organization.” Such was the case when New Horizons launched in Wroclaw in 2001, leading to the founding of an arthouse distrib that still provides a useful model, Gutek believes.
The new School of Film Agents, which preemed last year as a boot camp for emerging bizzers, is only the latest innovation. It follows the growth of the American Film Festival, which brings promising U.S. filmmakers to Wroclaw to present works in progress, conferring upon the best project a package of prepaid work at Polish post houses.
Past winner “Hide Your Smiling Faces” by Daniel Carbone went on to arthouse success and is now doing brisk business on iTunes.
Other unconventional fests, such as Poznan’s Transatlantyk, which combines cinema, music, master classes and guest such as Yoko Ono; and Off Plus Camera, which doles out a generous prize of $100,000 from Krakow each May, inviting the winner to shoot next in Poland, are creating international buzz for Poland.
Camerimage, meanwhile, attracts world-class cinematography talents to Bydgoszcz, offering technical expertise via intensive workshops and panels to local filmmakers on a scale unmatched in the region — last year it honored the work of “Gravity” lenser Emmanuel Lubezki in its 3D catagory.