LOS CABOS – Not only providing production subsidies on national films but development, training, marketing, and even distribution and international festival attendance, the national government agencies – think Telefilm Canada, France’s CNC – have morphed into the world’s new mini-studios.
Their budgets are even creeping into the league. In July, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff announced a RS1.2 billion ($450 million) package of incentives, channeled through Brazilian federal board Ancine, for the countries film and TV industry.
Public film and TV investment in Brazil and France , including crucial TV quotas, alone runs to over $1 billion.
Incredible but true, just what federal film boards do, and why and how they do it, has been the subject of little discussion. That is now changing. Launched by Simon Perry, president of management at the Ateliers du Cinéma Européen (ACE), a Paris-based producer network and think tank, and Katriel Schory, executive director of the Israel Film Fund, and one of the world’s most experienced and independent of agencies heads, Best Practice Exchange (BPX) sets out to establish dialogue between film agency chief executives over how to manage – both strategically and practically – the public funds at their disposal. After workshops in Israel (February 2013), Toronto (September 2013) and Berlin (February 2013), it holds its fourth meeting at Los Cabos this Friday.
BPX comes at a time when, as Perry writes in a lucid introduction to its rationale, “market evolutions have led to an unprecedented trough in the availability of market finance which has had to be filled by public support for film development, production, and in some cases distribution.
At the same time, “the increase in the amount of this support since the turn of the century has been dramatic.”
As an ever more internationally minded U.S. independent film industry faces exactly the same problem of market finance as international movie sectors, the film boards’ new funding agendas are of huge relevance worldwide.
Moderated by Jorge Sánchez, director of the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE), a round table on Thursday at Los Cabos Festival on co-production and public film funding, allowed some rapid conclusions on best policy implementation by agency heads in Mexico, Israel, Canada, Croatia and Colombia.
First, and most obviously, is that recent creation of tax and cash rebates for film financing in Mexico and Colombia are proving spectacularly successful.
Launched mid-last decade, Eficine tax coin, complemented by IMCINE investment in art and commercial films, has proved a game-changer in Mexico, galvanizing production levels, budgets, the breadth of movies produced out of Mexico, and the ability of producers to come to the table with significant muscle in international co-productions.
Tax incentives now represent 70% of state film investment in Mexico. That has movilized Mexico to reach 248 million ticket sales in 2013, Sanchez said.
Equally, up-and-running since late last year, Colombia’s new 20%-40% cash rebates on international shoots, drawing on a $12.5 million annual fund, has begun to attract high-profile international shoots, such as Netflix’s “Narcos,” helping to rebrand a country once written off as a conflict-zone narco central, and further its drive to become a Spanish-world content hub.
Decision on tax coin adjudication is not always simple. At the Los Cabos roundtable, Claudia Triana, the long-serving head of Proimagenes Colombia, said that Netflix’s application for a cash rebate on “Narcos,” finally adjudicated to the first two episodes of “Narcos” as TV movies (entire TV series cannot receive rebates) had provoked “quite a lot of discussion in the selection committee” given “Narcos’” subject matter.
Second, film agencies are broadening their agendas, and using ever more sophisticated criteria for incentive adjudications. Telefilm Canada, which handled a 2013-14 budget of C$92.2 million ($81.2 million), used to allot its funding to movies on a project-based approach, using commercial criteria, said Brigitte Monneau, head of international business development.
“All of what we do is orientated towards finding audiences everywhere demanding screen-based content produced by Canadians anytime, anywhere on any platform,” she said.
Telefilm Canada still gives 71% -C$65.1 million ($57.3 million) – of its government-sourced finance to production funding, on 91 films, including 13 co-productions, April 2013 to March 2014.
But it has moved from a project-based approach to a project and company-based approach and a national box-office based approach to a more comprehensive-based approach taking into consideration, when allotting funding, also cultural impact – how films perform at festivals – and industry impact, creating jobs and so on.
In another departure, Telefilm Canada has also created a micro-budget fund adjudicating grants to emerging talent, directing first features.
In a context of contracting market financing, companies are increasingly looking abroad to co-production. “Co-production is no panacea: Go into it eyes wide open,” said Schory. “Co-production is a marriage, “with all the consequences that word, added Hrvoje Hribar, chief executive of the Croatian Audiovisual Agency.
As broadcasters are increasingly fleeing from aid for national movies, said Schory, agencies are also plunging into distribution support. One instance: Mexico’s IMCINE, which from 2014, allots Pesos 50 million of its Eficine coin to distribution.
“Brazil’s Glauber Rocha said that film politics is the most complicated of politics,” Sanchez said. But for many of the world’s seemingly ever-more muscular national agencies, it is no longer enough to help films come into existence. They all have to be seen. That thinking is a revolution in itself.