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Czech Republic Sees Jump in Foreign Production Spending as Incentives Grow

Czech film bizzers are reporting a healthy jump in foreign productions and a new “more business-like” approach to the country’s production incentives, which have been boosted by  300 million korunas ($14.8 million) annually for the next two years. Foreign pics that have shot in the country include Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer,” which screens at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival on Friday.

The Audiovisual Producers Assn., the main Czech industry org, reported at the Karlovy Vary festival that international shoots spent more than $140 million last year, a significant jump from the 2012 total of $87.7 million. The numbers have been arcing up steadily and increasingly since the incentives law was passed in 2010.

Now, with the Czech parliament’s approval of the higher annual cap on the 20% cash-back incentives of $39.6 million, it’s looking like the political deadlock that has jammed progress has been broken, according to APA managing director Katerina Weissova.

The greatest challenge to further growth in foreign productions is now outside Czech borders. “The bad news is Hungary,” she said. Hungary has a 30% rebate on production spends and massive investment in new facilities, plus a more user-friendly reimbursement system and the Czech Republic is still struggling to keep up, say industry folk in Prague.

But one producer who has helped an increasing wave of German productions navigate the Czech system, Filip Hering of Wilma Film, said the tide is likely to rise, thanks to the growing kitty and the passage of the two-year commitment. Until now, foreign producers have complained that waiting for parliament to approve the sweeteners each year makes it too dicey to count on long-term productions in the Czech Republic.

“Now they can be sure they will really get their 20%,” said Hering, an industry vet.

The incentives system improvements don’t just benefit foreigners. Pavel Strnad, topper at leading Czech production house Negativ, said he also counts on rebates, which are available for all production spends, for help with upcoming major shoots.

Ludmila Claussova of the Czech Film Commission also praised the lawmakers, noting that the incentives, along with promotion from her org, helped bring in the first major Chinese shoot this summer, the $3 million romancer “Somewhere Only We Know,” starring Xu Jinglei.

Other high-profile foreign pics that have shot in Prague include Daniel Espinosa’s serial killer thriller “Child 44,” which was produced by Ridley Scott, Karlovy Vary fest guest Greg Shapiro and Michael Schaefer.

The film, which stars Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman and Vincent Cassel, is an adaptation of Tom Rob Smith’s novel of the same name, based on the true story of a serial killer in the former Soviet Union.

It wrapped on Sept. 21 after 71 days of filming in the country. Of the roughly 300-member crew, 256 were Czech film professionals.

Line producer Adam Merims said: “Prague and the Czech Republic had the best mix of varied locations within one hour of the city center, and a highly experienced crew base.”

Merims added that the Czech Republic’s soft money was a key factor in bringing the production to Prague. “Cheaper locations had less experienced crew and no real federal subsidy. Russia doesn’t have any real subsidy program.”

“The Czech crew was great, very experienced. Extremely high level of English fluency,” Merims said.

The film is produced by Summit Entertainment and Scott Free Prods., with Prague-based Stillking Films as the local partner.

Leo Barraclough contributed to this report.

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