Government Mandated Tax Shelter Boosts Belgian Film Industry

Belgium’s 2003 tax shelter had an immediate, galvanizing effect on the local industry. Though the country became one of Europe’s most popular shooting destinations and co-production partners, many in the local industry did not find the program equal for all.

“Where before investors could raise a lot of money, in the end not all of that money went into the films,” says Jeanne Brunfaut, associate director of Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel. More than that, the 2003 law required local outfits to seek up to 50% of funding from outside investors, vesting outsized power in those investors’ hands. They could effectively decide what could get made via the local industry.

“Under the previous law, the tax shelter required negotiating with an investor who could choose their project based on its perceived profitability and potential,” says Jean-Yves Roubin, who heads up Frakas Prods., an outfit with a focus on young directors and hard-hitting films. “So if we were to come with a film like ‘Raw’ — which, despite its artistry, is above all a genre film about a young cannibal girl — it would have been harder to compete against the giant French productions also looking for funding via the tax shelter. So it wasn’t easy to produce and develop genre films in Belgium.”

That’s why many of the country’s independent producers viewed the 2014 overhaul as a breath of fresh air. Mandating greater financial transparency, capping the amount outside investors could recoup, and opening the door to further international cooperation beyond the European Union, the reforms broke up what many saw as a creative monopoly, leveling the playing field for all.

“It’s become a different system that, in fact, offers less risk for investors,” says Brunfaut. “There’s more money in general now … [and] because there is more money, more chances taken.”

Case in point: “Raw.” The project might have had greater difficulty getting off the ground under the previous system went into production in 2015. It then premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Fipresci prize, sold to Focus Features and began a yearlong world-tour that continues to this day. The gamble paid off in full for producer Roubin, and it wasn’t the only one.

“Things really changed in 2015,” he notes. “While before we produced one or two films a year, we’re now producing six to seven. And it’s due in part to the new tax shelter law.”
Roubin is also taking significant advantage of the expanded playing field. Frakas just wrapped production on “Third Marriage,” a broad comedy budgeted at €4 million ($4.4. million).

“It’s a French-language co-production with Luxembourg and Canada. It’s getting complicated to co-produce with France. Canada has become a partner for Belgian producers.”

More Film

  • Peter Farrelly30th Annual Producers Guild Awards,

    PGA Awards: 'Green Book' Wins Top Feature Film Award

    “Green Book” has won the Producers Guild’s Darryl F. Zanuck Award as the top feature film of 2018. The 1960s drama-comedy topped “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite,”  “A Quiet Place,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born” and “Vice. “I don’t need awards,” said “Green Book” producer-director Peter Farrelly. “This is like [...]

  • Netflix HQ LA

    Andy Gruenberg, Veteran Film Executive, Dies at 68

    Veteran film executive Andy Gruenberg, who most recently oversaw theatrical distribution at Netflix, died suddenly on Friday. He was 68. Gruenberg worked on classic films like “Ghostbusters,” “Karate Kid” and “Silverado” while at Columbia Pictures in the 80s and 90s. He then moved to MGM where he served as exec VP of distribution. There he [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. “Early this morning, Antonio (Tony) [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

  • China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to

    China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to Hit French Theaters (EXCLUSIVE)

    Midnight Blur Films has signed a deal with French distributor Les Acacias to release Chinese arthouse drama “Three Adventures of Brooke” in France this year, the Chinese production company told Variety on Saturday. A release date has yet to be set for the film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and stars Chinese newcomer Xu Fangyi [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content