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Czech Producers Urge Politicians to Raise Incentives as Rivalry Heats Up

Taika Waititi's 'Jojo Rabbit,' starring Scarlett Johansson, is shooting in Czech Republic

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic – Czech film producers are demanding the government step up its game if the country wants to have any chance of remaining competitive as an international filming location.

“We used to be the leaders,” said Kevan Van Thompson of Prague’s Czech Anglo Productions, a company with a long record of partnering with Western producers. “Now we are following.”

Speaking at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival at a conference of the Audiovisual Producers Association, the primary Czech film industry org, Van Thompson and other local leaders said the production rebate incentives passed in Prague in 2011, which remain at 20%, are no longer enough.

With Romania having just passed a 35% incentives scheme and Hungary doing brisk business for years with rates of 25% and more, Czech producers are now lobbying their parliament to kick in for additional sweeteners.

Overall feature film production is down slightly for the second year running in the Czech Republic, the APA reported Monday, with foreign shoots off $24.6 million in 2017 from the previous year. The foreign production total for 2017, $142.6 million, is also down from the same time two years previously, when those shoots’ spending peaked at $167.3 million.

Van Thompson, whose company co-produced “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” starring Jessica Chastain, and is partnering with New Zealand comic actor-writer Taika Waititi on “Jojo Rabbit,” a provocative Hitler youth fantasy sendup starring Scarlett Johansson, says production in the Czech Republic is still relatively robust – but only because work is spilling over from Hungary, where studios are at capacity.

Petra Ondrejkova of Prague-based Amazing Productions says the quality of Czech crews, known to many foreigners for their remarkable abilities to affordably create the look of almost any period in incredible detail, is still a major selling point.

But this can also have a downside, she adds, pointing out that the most talented crew members tend to be hired by foreign companies, leaving their countrymen behind as they move on. “We are losing those people,” Ondrejkova said.

One hopeful note, APA executive Katerina Weissova said, is that the Czech Cinematography Fund doubled its kitty in recent years, to $16.7 million in annual support for film productions.

So far, said Van Thompson, Czech government officials have been responsive in talks about raising the level of incentives for foreign producers, though no specific plan has yet been formulated.

A new incentives law will need to be passed to properly address the issue, setting the rebate rate in stone. In some of the 24 countries in the European Union with some form of incentives, the rate is set as policy, not law, and is thus more vulnerable to changes when a new government administration comes into office.

An APA study released Monday indicates that only four of the European nations offering incentives still remain at 20%. “The remaining countries offer to international producers significantly more accommodating commission conditions,” the report states.

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