Switzerland Launches New Rebate Scheme

Incentive may allow producers to raise 20%-30% more financing in Switzerland

My Life as a Courgette
Courtesy of Annecy fest

LOCARNO — Switzerland has launched a new rebate program –PICS–  designed to benefit co-productions, with two movies already tapping can from the new initiative: Thomas Imbach’s “Glaubenberg,” from Zurich’s Okofilm Production, and Manuel Flurin Hendry’s “Papa Moll,” backed by Zodiac Pictures, producer of smash-hit “Heidi.”

Both feature films have now gone into production. Co-production projects eligible for the Switzerland Film Investment Refund (PICS) require a minimum budget of CHF2.5 million ($2.45 million), billable costs of at least CHF500,000 ($510,204) and not less than five shooting days in Switzerland for fiction films. PICS refunds the Swiss co-producer between 20% and 40% of billable costs with a ceiling of CHF600,000 ($616,000). PICS coin is compatible with other federal funds, said Ivo Kummer, head of the film department at the Swiss Federal Office of Culture.

Current Swiss national public-sector incentives take in selective and automatic subsidies from Switzerland’s National Ministry of Culture, and a 20%-40% rebate on Swiss spend from Switzerland’s FISS. Regional funds offer returnable subsidies and grants. Swiss pubcaster SRG pre-buys and co-produces Swiss films, said Michael Steiger a producer at Zürich-based Turnus Filmm which backed Billie August’s “Night Train To Lisbon.”

Switzerland is an inveterate co-producer. Recent Swiss international co-productions include Claude Barras’ 2016 Annecy winner “My Life As a Courgette,” announced Aug. 5 as the Swiss entry for the foreign-language Oscar race, Michael Koch’s “Marija” and Milagros Mumenthaler’s “The Idea of a Lake,” both in Locarno’s 2016 international competition

“In the past, Swiss producers often could not raise enough funding to become lead producers, even when they initiated a project,” said Kummer.

With PICS, they can raise 20%-30% more financing in Switzerland and therefore have more creative influence, he added.

The new incentive, designed to allow Switzerland to make more ambitious films, comes as Swiss producers will gather Aug. 8 at Locarno to discuss opportunities and risks of international co-production at Switzerland’s Foundation for Professional Training in Cinema and Audiovisual Media (FOCAL).

“Switzerland can sell more than watches and chocolate,” said Thomas Tribolet, a lawyer at the Swiss Film Producers Association and moderator at FOCAL, emphasising the quality of crews – while acknowledging is main problem of being a“a high-priced country.”

This year’s FOCAL event also analyses Denmark’s public funding model. with the participation of Claus Ladegaard, head of film funding at the Danish Film Institute, Zentropa producer Louise Vesth, and Per Neumann, CEO of European Film Bonds.

Five years ago, Denmark abandoned an automatic funding scheme in favour of credit financing. Initially disapproved of by some local producers, the market-driven model has yielded interesting results.

According to the Cannes Film Market 2016 Focus report, Danish films scored a 29.9% market share in 2015, not much below France’s (35.5%).

Per Ladagaard, Denmark has two main reasons for co-productions: Gaining “inspiration from others – we have to learn from other countries that can provoke and challenge us;  and “financing. We need foreign financing for a number of our films,” he added citing movies by Lars von Trier and Nicholas Winding Refn.

“With so many small countries in Europe, co-production is a necessity.

What’s the advantage? I think small co-production countries are good at getting the most out of every cent,” said Vesth.

The FOCAL co-production session takes place Aug. 8 at Locarno’s Industry Days.