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Backed By 30% Cash Rebate, Critical Acclaim, Polish Animation on the Rise

Bolstered by their country’s recently introduced 30% cash rebate and critical acclaim for animated features “Loving Vincent” and “Another Day of Life,” Polish animators have high hopes for their growing industry as they arrive at the Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival this week.

With more than 30 animation studios active across the country, and a number of those developing feature-length films and TV series for the international market, Poland’s profile is rising. Seven Polish projects are competing in Annecy this week, in the short, graduation and commissioned films competitions.

Polish producers have good reason to be bullish thanks to increased support from the government, which earlier this year introduced a 30% cash rebate for feature films, TV series, documentaries, and animation projects. The rebate is funded for 2019 to the tune of $55 million, with 10% of that amount dedicated exclusively to animation.

The incentive scheme has already sparked interest from foreign producers, says Robert Jaszczurowski, CEO of the Polish Animation Producers Association. Markets have been buzzing about local toon talent since the breakout success of “Another Day of Life,” the animated feature about Polish war correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski which world premiered as a Special Screening in Cannes last year, and “Loving Vincent” (2017), the Vincent van Gogh biopic directed by Poland-born Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, which received an Academy Award nomination for animated feature. Both films relied heavily on Polish animation studios.

The cash rebate will give a big boost to Polish producers looking to finance similarly ambitious international co-productions. Another cause for optimism is the support of the Polish Film Institute, which allocated roughly $4 million of its $27.8 million budget this year for the development and production of animated content. “It will allow us to produce more and faster,” says Jaszczurowski. “That will have a real impact on the industry in the coming years.”

Public support is critical for the industry to grow, with private broadcasters reluctant to invest in homegrown content. Public broadcaster TVP – which also has a dedicated kids’ channel – has slowly upped its investment in the local industry, something Jaszczurowski hopes will help grow the domestic audience for locally produced animation—and, in time, build confidence in the sector.

“When [broadcasters] see it works, and their investment in production will bring them back money from merchandizing or commercials, they will be more willing to join other productions,” he says.

Jaszczurowski estimates there are more than 20 animated TV series currently in production. A number of feature films are also in development, but financing remains a challenge when exhibition prospects for domestic features remain limited. “We need to have some small successes to prove to distributors it makes sense,” says Jaszczurowski.

Among the Polish highlights screening in Annecy this week are “Rain,” by director Piotr Milczarek, a five-minute short about accountability and collective consciousness, produced by Fumi Studio and Milczarek; “Acid Rain,” by director Tomek Popakul, a 26-minute road-trip drama set somewhere in Eastern Europe, produced by Animoon and FINA; and “Story,” directed by Jolanta Bankowska, a five-minute reflection on modern man in the age of omnipresent technology, produced by Letko Sp. z o.o., the Polish Filmmakers Association, and Munk Studio.

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