Belgium, Luxembourg & Netherlands: Incentives are burgeoning

Location: Europe 2012

While the Netherlands and Luxembourg remain modest in their efforts to attract foreign film shoots, incentives are burgeoning in Belgium. Practical and financial aid for visiting crews continues to develop, complementing coin available through the country’s tax shelter.

The tax shelter channels coin into film productions with European identity and a local co-producer. A proportion of the money must be spent on local costs, which can include Belgian cast, crew and other aspects of shooting, although in practice the finance structure suits post-production best. Abundance of coin has done wonders for the country’s animators and post houses.

Offices across the country will help find locations, fix permits and organize shoots. Three regional offices in Wallonia collaborate through Wallonie-Tournages, while in Flanders five city film offices — Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Ostend and Mechelen — collaborate through Location Flanders. The capital, Brussels, is officially bilingual and has its own independent film office.

Productions shooting in Wallonia can apply for funds from government agency Wallimage. Bids can rise to €400,000 ($530,577), given as a combination of loan (up to 40% of the total) and equity. Productions must commit to spend at least $331,468 in the region as well as meeting a number of other requirements. Most foreign productions engage a local producing partner.

A similar scheme exists for productions split between Brussels and Wallonia, where the maximum bid is $265,174 and at least $132,579 must be invested in each region.

Wallonia puts $4.64 million a year into these schemes, Brussels $1.33 million. Local and French co-productions dominate, but films from further afield such as Ken Loach’s “Looking for Eric” and Ari Folman’s forthcoming animation “The Congress” have also cashed in.

Not to be left out, Flanders this year proposed its own $6.63 million incentive scheme for visiting productions, intended to work closely with Location Flanders. Called Screen Flanders, it will provide foreign producers with an advance of up to $530,577, repayable from net revenue. An equivalent amount or more must be invested locally.

Fiction, documentary and animated features can all apply, but there will be a minimum production budget to ensure only bigger fish are caught. If approved by regulators, Screen Flanders could open for business in the second half of 2012.

In the Netherlands, there are no national incentives to shoot and no coordinated location support, although the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam have dedicated film offices to smooth the way with locations, permits and services. Neither offers financial incentives, with Rotterdam recently deciding to close a system of interest-free loans under city austerity measures.

Luxembourg does little to attract foreign productions, but those willing to take on a local partner can tap tax incentives via the Film Fund Luxembourg. These offset a proportion of production costs incurred in the Grand Duchy, or indeed anywhere in the European Union.

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