LOCARNO — Switzerland’s somewhat static film industry is getting a positive jolt.
The Ticino Film Commission, marking the first bona-fide film commission in the Swiss confederation, is launching today (Monday) at the Locarno Film Festival with a party, prior to the introduction of an eagerly awaited Swiss production rebate worth 20% of local spend, now set to go into effect in mid-2016.
Ticino Film Commission’s president Michela Pini proudly notes that one advantage of shooting in the Italian-speaking southern Swiss canton is that “in just one hour you can move your crew from mountaintops with pines and fir trees, to lakes with beaches, and palms and other subtropical vegetation.” Plus castles and also metropolitan and industrial areas.
With the rebate in place Ticino seems well positioned to lure more international shoots despite fierce competition from the multitude of EU-supported film commissions and soft money programs that have proliferated over the past decade across Europe. Switzerland, which does not belong to the EU, until now had only film location services connected to local tourism entities.
The Ticino commission was founded in 2014 by four partner orgs, including the Locarno fest and local motion picture association AFAT. It is headed by Doris Longoni, a former head of press at many prominent fests, including Locarno, Rome, and Abu Dhabi, who is widely known and respected in the international industry.
Ivo Kummer, film director of the Swiss Federal Culture Office, said the Swiss rebate will kick in as of July 2016, with 3 million Swiss francs ($3 million) available for that year, and 6 million Swiss francs available per year going forward. Funds have been allocated through 2021.
Capped at 600,000 Swiss francs/dollars per each feature film, the incentive will be available for international productions with a minimum budget of 2.5 million Swiss francs/dollars and at least 75% of their financing in place. These productions “don’t need to shoot the whole film in Switzerland, but they must spend at least half a million on our territory,” said Kummer. And they must have a Swiss co-production partner. Interestingly, if financial criteria are met, approval from the Swiss federal culture office is automatic, with no “cultural criteria” hurdle to pass.
High-profile pics partly shot in Ticino in the relatively recent past include Bollywood blockbuster “Dhoom 3,” and the opening scene in “GoldenEye,” in which Pierce Brosnan/Bond, or rather his stunt man, jumps from the scenic 220-meter dam on the Verzasca river. As for local pics shot in the canton, a recent standout is foreign-language Oscar-winning Xavier Koller’s “The Black Brothers” (pictured).
Switzerland is currently the third top destination for Bollywood shoots, and Ticino is eager to get in on more of that Indian action. The other top territories from which they are looking to lure productions are Germany, Italy, and China.
Besides the range of locations, cost-effective logistics and Swiss efficiency, Ticino commission president Pini also boasts that the canton has topnotch crews “on the same level as Italy.” And in terms of mindset “Ticino is a happy medium between Italy, where you need to know someone to get things done, and German Switzerland, where “there’s absolutely no flexibility on the rules,” she says.
“Ticino is more accomodating; it’s small and reliable, and because there hasn’t been that much filmmaking activity lately, people are really enthusiastic about movies coming to shoot here,” she enthuses.
Top local shingles are Tiziana Soundani’s Amka Films, behind Marco Bellocchio’s Venice-bound “Blood of My Blood,” among other titles, and Ventura Films, whose films include Alina Marazzi’s Charlotte Rampling-starrer “All About You.”