New and established players up the ante to grab foreign shoots
Germany remains a hot location for international co-production thanks to generous film subsidies and top-notch studio facilities that offer one-stop shop solutions for foreign projects.
Indeed, this year marks the first time ever that Studio Babelsberg has three international film co-productions screening at the Berlin film festival: Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” above, which opens this year’s Berlinale; George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men”; and Christophe Gans’ “Beauty and the Beast,” which shot entirely at Babelsberg studios.
Babelsberg is also co-producing Marjane Satrapi’s “The Voices,” starring Ryan Reynolds, and Ken Scott’s “The Business Trip” with Sienna Miller.
Those films also secured German film funding. The country’s nine federal and regional film subsidy boards provide a combined €242.44 million ($329 million) in development and production support for feature film and TV productions.
With $152 million, the Federal Film Board (FFA) and the culture and media office (BKM) offer the biggest chunk of film support, most of which goes to the $95 million-a-year German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), followed by state-level agencies Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen ($43.5 million), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg ($27 million) and Bavaria’s FFF Bayern ($27 million).
The DFFF alone backed 41 international co-productions last year, including “Monuments Men,” which received nearly ($11.5 million). It also supported “Grand Budapest Hotel” ($4.3 million), “Voices” ($1.9 million), “Business Trip” ($3 million) and other high-profile titles such as Fox’s “Agent 47” ($3.8 million) and “The Book Thief” ($3.9 million).
In Germany, the DFFF, along with FFF Bayern, Medienboard BB and the FFA, backed the country’s most successful movie of the past 12 months: Constantin Film’s high school laffer “Fack ju Goehte,” which became the second-biggest moneymaker at the German box office last year after “The Hobbit.” It remained in the top 10 into 2014, amassing an eye-popping $63 million by mid-January.
In addition to Babelsberg, Bavaria Film in Munich and MMC in Cologne also offer one-stop-shop studio and co-production services.
Bavaria partners on international projects as a co-producer and offers assistance in financing as well as its vast studio facilities, where it recently wrapped production on Jalmari Helander’s “Big Game,” a Finnish-German-U.K. co-production starring Samuel L. Jackson as a U.S. president who is rescued by a teenager after he crash-lands in the vast Finnish wilderness.
Likewise, MMC has hosted or provided services to such recent productions as Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” and Ron Howard’s James Hunt-Niki Lauda Formula 1 pic “Rush.”
MAJOR EUROPEAN TERRITORIES WITH SIGNIFICANT FILM INCENTIVES
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Compiled by Entertainment Partners
ROUND UP OF EUROPEAN HOTSPOTS
Production in the U.K. is booming in all sectors. Late last year, the government increased its tax credits for bigger-budget pics, which will benefit Hollywood movies; the vfx sector, in particular, will receive a boost from the changes to the cultural test, which should allow more vfx work to be done in the U.K. and qualify for breaks.
Productions can qualify for 25% relief on the first £20 million ($32.7 million), and 20% thereafter beginning this April. The government will also reduce the minimum U.K. expenditure requirement from 25% to 10%, which will help U.K. independent production companies by encouraging minority co-productions. All of these changes implemented last year ensure that the production levels of film, TV, animation and visual effects will stay strong.Meanwhile, Sony has opened the Digital Motion Picture Center at Pinewood Studios in the U.K., which will be used to provide hands-on training for cinematographers and other crew members to help them get the most from Sony’s 4K cameras.
One of the newest members of EFP, the Lithuanian Film Center was established in 2012. It administers the country’s new tax incentive program, which provides a 20% break. ABC shot Cold War drama “The Assets” in Vilnius late last year, before the incentives kicked in, but the U.S. production company, Lincoln Square, was able to find period-appropriate locations for both the U.S. and Russia — as well as highly skilled and motivated crew that gave them more bang for their buck. Lincoln Square worked with local production shingle Baltic Film Services. The government offers funding support for local films, but the incentives should give Lithuania a competitive edge when luring foreign shoots, although Hungary and Romania have a more established studio infrastructure.
Another new member of the EFP, the Estonian Film Institute, like the Lithuania Film Center, gets a boost from its membership, allowing local filmmakers, talent and producers to be a part of the EFP’s network of programs. While the country doesn’t have a tax-incentive program — the local industry is working on crafting legislation — the EFI helps facilitate financing co-productions and is the country’s largest source for production financing. Estonia is 40% cheaper than the Czech Republic, and boasts highly skilled crew and diverse locations. Country’s film commission, Film Estonia, launched in 2012. Downtown Studios, located in the center of the capital, Tallinn and XL are two of the main production service providers.
The country’s Alvernia Studios and Dutch producer San Fu Maltha’s Fu Works Prods. have teamed up to co-produce two or three pics a year, with budgets of up to €3 million ($4 million), contributing up to 50% through a services-based investment. Projects must be English-language genre pics and suitable for mainstream international distribution. Pre-production must be completed, with director and lead cast attached. European locations will be considered for the shoot, but post must be carried out at Alvernia’s facilities. Last fall, Alvernia announced a deal with Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment on “Magnitude 9.” Film Commission Poland launched in February 2012 as the first stop for producers looking to film in Poland.
The Baltic country offers some $500,000 to foreign productions. “Establishing the co-financing program is a strong stimulus for foreign producers to come to Latvia,” says Ilze Gailite Holmberg, director of the National Film Center of Latvia.
The production community, centered in the capital of Riga, is extremely active, while the infrastructure and crews are highly developed. The 2014 European Film Awards will be held in Riga.
Emerging from a horrific economic crash, Iceland kept its production incentive in place. Producers can apply for reimbursements of 20% of production costs. In 2012, film and TV production generated $97 million, and such Hollywood pics as Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar,” “Thor: The Dark World,” Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” and Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” shot there. “Game of Thrones” also takes advantage of the country’s extreme scenery. Iceland is a member of the European Economic Area, allowing films and TV program made in Iceland to receive European content status.