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Poland’s New Incentives Expected to Draw More Foreign Productions

With Poland’s production incentives finally prepped for launch after years of industry efforts to make the country more competitive, bizzers in the country are stoked these days. Even before offering sweeteners Poland managed to persuade the producers of Claire Denis’ “High Life” and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “Never Look Away” to shoot in the country. It has a production output of some 60 features annually, so the country’s film executives are bullish on building up business.

Poles face challenges as latecomers to the game, with incentives already up and running in 11 former Soviet bloc countries. However, Poland has also benefited from the experience of others, offering an incentives package with smart engineering that features many aspects others have spent years honing for its expected 30% rebates.

Officials from the Polish Film Institute recently announced incentives will be available for producers of co-productions with Poland that are more than 70 minutes with a minimum spend of $1 million and to foreign films that hire Polish services companies on projects budgeted for at least $540,000.

TV series of 45-minute episodes or longer spending $400,000 per episode are also eligible as are animated features of 70 minutes or longer budgeted at $540,000. Documentaries of 50 minutes or longer with budgets of at least $100,000 are also in the running.

An annual cap of $4 million in rebates per project and $5.4 million per individual is expected, with the PFI administering the system with a total annual budget of $54 million on tap.

Local producers are eligible — or foreign producers working with local ones — and in Poland’s case, applicants must have 75% of their budget secured to be eligible.

But, with Romania, Greece and Cyprus joining Poland in the incentives game over the past year, competition in the region is heating up. Serbia and Slovenia now offer 25% rebates while Georgia, Macedonia, Latvia, Slovakia and the Czechia kick in 20% cash-back for production spends.

Romania’s offer of 30% stands out as one of the most attention getting, though its practicability has yet to be tested by many major projects from the West.

Other territories continue to ramp up their offerings and ease of access too: Croatia’s rebates were bumped to 25% recently, while Lithuania’s and Hungary’s have increased to 30%.

Lithuania is now finding its incentives system, first put online in 2014, finally reaping real rewards with a steady stream of inbound projects, say industry officials there. The lesson, as they pointed out at a workshop at Estonia’s Black Nights film fest, is that launching rebates is no guarantee on its own of drawing business these days.

Instead, it takes a sustained commitment to honing them, easing payout systems and allowing time for word to spread from international producers who have road tested the rebates directly. BBC series “War and Peace” and “Catherine the Great,” distribbed by HBO, are among those that have helped build up Lithuania’s appeal.

Some 68 filmmakers scored incentives coin in the country from 2014 to 2017, according to Olsberg-SPI, during which time the Baltic state garnered $27.8 million in foreign production investment.

In the first half of 2018, production spending surpassed $15.9 million in Lithuania, marking a significant increase since the incentives were launched. The boost is just a fraction of the biz that Western European nations have done in the wake of sweeteners (the U.K. made $3.58 billion from them in 2016 alone, Oldberg-SPI indicates), but for a nation of Lithuania’s size, the impact on the film sector is substantial.

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