As the FFA, also known as the German Federal Film Board, turns 50 this year, Germany is celebrating the contribution of a funding organization that has not only created a thriving local movie sector, but also put the country on the map as a prime location for international productions.
With an annual budget of €76 million ($94 million) — financed by the country’s film levy, which is paid by exhibitors, video distributors and broadcasters — the FFA oversees diverse funding vehicles that support all stages of film production and exploitation, from script development and production to distribution and sales. The FFA’s core operations also include financing for cinemas, film preservation and the promotion of German cinema abroad, as well as the publication of market data on Germany’s film, exhibition and video sectors.
Monika Grütters, Germany’s commissioner for culture and the media, says the FFA has been instrumental in establishing cinema as a valuable cultural asset as well as a vital industry.
“As an institution that strongly promotes cinema as one of the most powerful forms of artistic expression, it shapes cultural and film policies to reconcile economic interests and artistic ambitions. It is precisely the steady artistic renewal of German film that justifies its targeted promotion through the Federal Film Board.”
Grütters adds: “Today, the FFA is responsible for the largest nationwide film funding ever in Germany.”
In addition to its own $94 million budget, the FFA manages $92.5 million from the culture and media commissioner’s German Federal Film Fund, which this year is expected to see a dramatic increase to $185 million, as well as the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s $12 million-a-year German Motion Picture Fund, which backs both feature film and TV series productions.
The FFA’s own production support initiatives comprise two types of financing possibilities: selective, project-based film funding, and automatic, performance-based reference film funding.
Producers based in Germany can apply to the FFA for up to $1.2 million in project funding as conditionally repayable loans for local film projects and international co-productions.
Reference funding is easier to secure for producers who have enjoyed box office success with their previous films. Retroactive funding uses a points system based on a film’s box office performance and its success at festivals and awards ceremonies.
“The concept of the FFA, which is financed not through the government but by the film industry itself, is probably more important than the actual economic impact,” says Constantin Film CEO Martin Moszkowicz. “The one outstanding issue that no other subsidy has is a film related performance and quality-based subsidy concept.”
Moszkowicz says the FFA’s support has been vital for Constantin productions over the years, including such international hits as Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “The Name of the Rose,” Bille August’s “The House of the Spirits” and Tom Tykwer’s “Perfume.”
The Federal Film Board also partners with other regional and European funding institutions to support cross-border projects and co-productions. Current initiatives include:
» The $3.9 million a year German-French “Minitraite,” aimed at co-productions between Germany and France.
» The German-Polish Film Fund, an agreement with the Polish Film Institute and regional German funders Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, with an annual budget of $612,000.
» The German-Italian Co-Production Development Fund, which has an annual budget of $122,400 to support the co-development of film projects.
» The Greater Region Co-Development Agreement, a cross-border pact with the French National Film Board, Film Fund Luxembourg, regional German funder Saarland Medien, the Ministry of the German-speaking Community in Belgium and the French region of Grand Est, with an annual budget of $67,300.