Catalan Secession Move and Federal Takeover Costs Film Biz

Nobody knows anything,” screenwriter William Goldman famously said. He could have been talking about prospects for future film funding in Catalonia.

Ironically, movies going into production recently and this year have often benefited from refortified funding from Catalonia’s Catalan Institute of Cultural Cos., thanks to a regional levy on telecom revenues and new Strategic Audiovisual Plan funding regulations.

“It’s too early to assess results, but if our goals were to boost quality and cultural diversity, the bases were set,” says ICEC director Xavier Díaz.

Over 2017, ICEC plowed €17.2 million ($21.4 million) into cinema, animation and TV movies, almost $15 million coming from the telco levy. Subsidies went to 72 productions, 35 international co-productions in contrast to 19 in 2015. The average budget for Catalan features has increased to $2.1 million from $1.6 million in 2015. That, for the Catalan film industry, is the good news.

But there have been curveballs, to say the least.

Once the engine of film and TV investment in Catalonia, pubcaster TVC saw audience and advertising plunge during Spain’s double-dip recession.

Spain’s tax authorities are now claiming $207.6 million value added tax back payment from TVC. “This is a maneuver to liquidate TVC,” its director has declared.

As of late January, Spain’s Constitutional Court was blocking a possible move by Carles Puigdemont, now in Belgium, to be voted into power for a second term as president of Catalonia, after Puigdemont and pro-independence had won a snap Dec. 21 election but not a majority of votes in favor of exiting Spain. Spain’s central government already imposed direct rule on Catalonia on Oct. 27 after a pro-independence referendum.

Spain’s Constitutional Court cancelled the telco levy last July. Currently, Catalonia lacks a government to approve new film and TV subsidy adjudications. When it will have one is a large question indeed.

Past incentives are being honored. But the future, as another saying has it, is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery.

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