The German government on Wednesday approved a 55% increase in film funding to €150 million ($161 million), marking a major victory for the country’s film industry as well as for German culture and media commissioner Monika Grütters.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet authorized a €50 million ($53.7 million) boost in the country’s German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) for 2018 to €125 million ($134 million) as well as €3 million ($3.22 million) more for separate culture film funding for smaller projects to €25 million ($26.8 million).
The increase follows a recent hike in this year’s DFFF pot of €25 million ($26.8 million) for a separate funding pool within the DFFF aimed specifically at international co-productions and big-budget domestic films. Next year, this second funding pool, dubbed DFFF II, will grow to €75 million ($80.5 million).
Grütters has also said she would seek more funding for local VFX companies — a move that would likely increase the number of international projects coming to Germany, which boasts a large number of leading firms in the field.
Grütters has won loud praise from the local industry for her efforts, particularly in overcoming resistance from Germany’s hard-nosed finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who just two years ago had planned to gut government film funding altogether, according to German daily Die Welt. Yet as the newspaper reported, for every million that the DFFF grants, the finance ministry collects between €2 and €4 million in taxes — money it would not get if those productions went to Britain or the Czech Republic.
“We are obviously not alone in our vision, you share it, and that is a wonderful message,” Alexander Thies, chairman of the German Producers Alliance, said to Grütters following her announcement to increase the DFFF’s coffers this year.
The DFFF can provide international coproductions a rebate of up to 20% if they spend at least 25% of their budget in Germany, making it an essential instrument in luring major projects such as Gore Verbinski’s “A Cure for Wellness,” Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War” and Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies.”
Yet despite the cheers from filmmakers, some high-profile TV producers appear to be feeling neglected.
In a recent interview with German daily Tagesspiegel, Nico Hofmann, co-CEO of leading TV production company UFA, said the company produces more than 50% of its major TV projects outside of Germany, primarily in the Czech Republic, due to a lack of funding for small-screen fare. UFA’s productions include such hits as “Deutschland 83” and the upcoming miniseries “Charité” and “The Same Sky.”
“UFA is spending about €10 million a year abroad instead of investing it in sustainable growth in Germany, in jobs and know-how,” Hofmann said. UFA is eager to produce more domestically, particularly in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, but to do that, something has to change in the country’s film support system, he added.