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Fund announcement comes with mixed news

BERLIN — While the German government is digging deep into its pockets to fund local film production to the tune of an extra $231 million over the next three years, the small print is still to be announced.

Culture Minister Bernd Naumann gave delegates good and bad news, speaking at the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg’s annual confab on Wednesday.

Under good: It’s real money — not a tax rebate, a writeoff or sale-and-leaseback scheme but cash that could finance up to 20% of a film’s budget. Foreign producers can apply so long as they have a local partner.

Under bad: TV movies are excluded; only theatrical features are eligible.

All other details are still under discussion, won’t be unveiled until sometime in September and are subject to EU approval.

Those taking part in the ensuing panel discussion generally gave the news a warm welcome.

Georgia Tornow, topper of producers org Film20, was “very grateful something is happening at last. It’s a chance for Germany to be competitive again with other countries.”

X-Filme topper Stefan Arndt, while also looking forward to becoming more international, cautioned that broadcasters would most likely cut their co-production contributions by the 20% they expect films to get from the government.

Studio Babelsberg head Cark Woebcken said he would “have preferred a legislative solution, something tax-related like in the U.K. and Hungary to create a medium- or long-term solution.”

Peter Dinges, head of government subsidy body the FFA, said with films eligible for up to a 50% subsidy (20% from the new scheme, 30% from other public sources), “There will be a need for quality criteria after the first 20%.” He forecast changes in the way the FFA works.

Hubertus Meyer-Burckhardt, CEO of Polyphon Film, reminded delegates that cinema is only one outlet and, by implication, of the scheme’s limitation.

Eberhard Junkersdorf, CEO of Neue Bioskop Film, asked: “What in this context is a theatrical film anyway? When does a film become one?”

Running this year from Aug. 30-Sept. 9, the Berlin Brandenburg Media Week sees more than 10,000 delegates converging on the German capital for a raft of seminars covering everything from future trends to mobile TV, radio and videogames. Event runs parallel to the Intl. Consumer Electronics Exhibition.

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