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German Film Budgets Experience Boom Under Chancellor Angela Merkel

The German film industry is cheering Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government for significantly increasing film funding this year, particularly for major international productions.

While total annual funding last year reached nearly €240 million ($261.6 million) from the country’s 10 federal and regional film support agencies, the government has agreed to up the film support budget overseen by German culture and media commissioner Monika Grütters.

This includes the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), a 20% rebate program vital for major international productions, as well as a separate pot supporting smaller artistic and experimental films. Recent DFFF-funded productions include James Kent’s upcoming historical drama “The Aftermath,” starring Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgård; Gore Verbinski’s “A Cure for Wellness”; and Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War.”

In February, Grütters announced an increase in this year’s DFFF budget from $55 million to $81.7 million, with the hike aimed specifically at international co-productions and big-budget domestic films. The following month, the government approved a further $55 million increase for the DFFF in 2018, which will raise the fund’s total budget to $136.2 million next year.

The DFFF can provide international co-productions a rebate of up to 20% if they spend at least 25% of their budget in Germany, making it an essential instrument in luring major international projects. Another significant change is the DFFF funding cap for film production, which is set to increase from $20.7 million to $27.2 million per funded project. The increases are expected to result in more production and more local spend, resulting in increased revenue for the government.

Alexander Thies, chairman of the German Producers Alliance, calls the move “excellent news for Germany as a film location, its producers and film service providers and not least for all of the employees in the sector.”

Thies says the increase is especially noteworthy because it provides filmmakers with automatic support that is not dependent on decision-making bodies. It offers a high degree of planning reliability for domestic and international producers that was “necessary to keep pace with competitors around the world.”

Grütters has also increased the separate cultural film funding pot to $27.2 million for smaller films. “Filmmakers should be able to realize innovative projects with creativity, courage and a willingness to experiment, regardless of location spend or expectations of a film’s economic success,” she says.
The culture commissioner adds that film support is also key to ensuring success on the festival circuit.

In a recent interview with the Berliner Morgenpost, Grütters noted the minor presence of German films at the Cannes Film Festival, adding that cultural funding specifically serves the arthouse sector and can boost German film’s prospects at major festivals in Europe.
The funding increases for next year remain dependent on a positive outcome for Merkel’s party in this year’s federal elections in September, although a new government may choose to keep the planned boost for the film industry.

In addition to the DFFF, Germany boasts nine other federal and regional funding boards that offer more than $179.8 million in annual coin for film and TV productions, including project and script development.

With some $40.9 million a year for film support, the German Federal Film Board most recently approved more than $1.6 million for the production of four films, including another installment in Constantin Film’s blockbuster franchise “Fack Ju Göhte 3,” starring “Toni Erdmann” topliner Sandra Hüller and Elyas M’Barek, and Oscar-winning director Caroline Link’s “Der Junge muss an die frische luft,” an adaptation of entertainer Hape Kerkeling’s bestselling memoir, in which he recounts his tragic childhood.

In addition, North Rhine-Westphalia’s Fimstiftung NRW is backing “7500,” Patrick Vollrath’s feature film debut starring Paul Dano (“Swiss Army Man”) as the co-pilot of a hijacked plane. The film is set to shoot at the MMC Studios in Cologne. Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (FFHSH) also backed “The Aftermath” from Scott Free Productions and Malte Grunert’s Amusement Park Films.

Fatih Akin’s terrorism drama “In the Fade,” starring Diane Kruger — the only German-language film in competition this year — received backing from the FFHSH, the FFA and Fimstiftung NRW. “Western,” Valeska Grisebach’s Un Certain Regard screener about a group of German construction workers at a remote job site in Bulgaria, likewise secured funds from regional funders Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia’s Fimstiftung NRW.

Among Cannes screeners, it’s not only German films that are benefitting from the country’s generous subsidy system. Medienboard and Filmstiftung also bankrolled Kornél Mundruczó’s Hungarian competition title “Jupiter’s Moon,” about a refugee boy who gains supernatural abilities, while FFHSH supported another Un Certain Regard selection, Karim Moussaoui’s “Until the Birds Return,” a look at modern Algerian society via three interconnected storylines.

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