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New film funds gets up to ‘Speed’

Warner tentpole to receive $12.3 million

Germany’s new Federal Film Fund has allocated its biggest grant yet: Warner’s “Speed Racer” will receive E9 million ($12.3 million) toward its production in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. Pic is set to start shooting in June at Babelsberg Studios outside Berlin.

The live-action adaptation of Tatsuo Yoshida’s cult 1960s animated series may not fulfill all of the European cultural requirements that German and European officials have called for in films to be bankrolled by the new $80 million-a-year fund, but a project of its size certainly meets the needs of the local industry.

“It’s a great signal,” said Henning Molfenter, head of Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures, which is co-producing the film. “In addition to the revenue and the economic effect for Germany, the know-how transfer in the area of new technology is enormous. The German film industry will profit immensely from this.”

It’s the second Babelsberg production for producer Joel Silver and writer-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski following 2005’s “V for Vendetta,” which received some $800,000 from regional subsidy board Berlin-Brandenburg Medienboard.

Pic, which Warners is releasing May 9, 2008, day-and-date in most international markets, stars Emile Hirsch as Speed along with Christina Ricci, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon.

Peter Dinges, head of Germany’s Federal Film Board, which oversees the fund, is eager to attract major international production to Germany with the financing vehicle, introduced this year to help the local industry after the government cracked down on the now-defunct private tax-shelter film funds.

“Speed Racer” is the latest in a growing number of international productions to benefit from the fund.

Ole Christian Madsen’s Danish World War II drama “Flame & Citron,” starring “Casino Royale” villain Mads Mikkelsen, was the first international production allotted coin from the fund.

Pic, a fact-based gangster drama about two resistance fighters that is shooting in the Berlin and Brandenburg region as well as in Prague and Denmark, received some $460,000. Lars Bredo Rahbek and Morten Kaufmann of Nimbus Film and Stefan Schubert and Ralph Schwingel of Potsdam-based Wueste Film Ost Filmproduktion are producing along with Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures.

Also set to receive considerable funding from the pot is Michael Hoffman’s Leo Tolstoy biopic “The Last Station,” starring Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep.

Since its launch in January, the fund has helped bankroll 16 local productions with a total of $9 million.

The fund provides up to 20% of the budget for films that already have 75% of their budget in place and shoot in Germany.

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