Soft money expands in Europe

Government funds coupled with the Media Program mean good deals

Europe’s soft money sources remain the gold standard for independent filmmakers, with more country incentives coming online.

Germany remains one of the most attractive places to shoot on the continent — its enticing regional funds, coupled with a buoyant national one, make for a good deal.

The $80 million-a-year German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) subsidizes costs for productions where at least 25% of the production costs are spent in the territory, or 20% if they are higher than $27 million (20 million). Regional funds, such as Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, which plowed $32 million (24 million) into film funding in 2009, also add up. Each pic can recoup anywhere from 100,000- 600,000 in production money from Medienboard, provided it is a German co-production. “You, My Joy,” a Ukraine-German co-production in competition at Cannes this year, received $200,000 (150,000) from the Medienboard fund while South African-German co-production “Life Above All” benefited from a $268,000 (200,000) grant from Medienboard. U.K. producers like Chris Curling of Zephyr Films, whose 2009 pic “The Last Station” capitalized on the fund, speak highly of the benefits of shooting in the territory.

There’s a different variety of support in Germany to access tax credits,” says Curling. “Plus the crew level of technical craft pride is incredibly high.”

Eastern Europe remains a hotspot for independent producers, offering cheap places to shoot, backed up by good tax credits and excellent soft money. Hungary allows a 20% tax rebate provided by the Hungarian Motion Picture Act. Producer Uberto Pasolini have taken advantage by shooting Robert Pattinson starrer “Bel Ami” in the region.

Croatia just stepped up its co-production funding through the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) and now offers 10% of a film’s overall budget. Previously, the fund offered anywhere from $27,000 to $81,000 per project. The territory is also set to add tax credits of up to 25% later in the year. Bulgaria could also vote into law tax credits of up to 30% this year while the Czech Republic is set to follow the long-standing Hungarian tax credits and offer a 20% tax rebate through the country’s culture ministry.

Spain is also alluring to indie filmmakers. Producers can receive a tax credit of up to 18% through an An economic interest group.

Regional funds like the Valencian Audiovisiual Institute offer an attractive incentive, worth $26 million with $10.3 million on in 2010 and 2011 with a $5.3m cap on each project. At least one-third of the film must be shot in the Valencia region.

Spain actually has a good mix of different kinds of incentives that, when put together, can give a high percentage of soft money,” says Curling. “You can certainly get 25%-30% of your budget there.”

The European Union’s Media Program, launched in 2007, has become a funding powerhouse across Europe. It’s Brussels-based series of programs offering support in development, distribution, marketing and training. Media will inject an overall $1 billion into all EU government production funds — around 138 million per year — until 2013. F&ME producer Mike Downey, who has been able to create a rolling development fund of more than $670,000 through the program, says Media has been “marvellous” in helping get projects off of the ground. “We love it because it awards people who run sound businesses and have a track record for excellence,” he says.