As the coronavirus crisis continues to devastate Germany’s entertainment industry, calls are growing ever louder for an official ban on shooting.
At the same time, the country’s film funders have come together to finance an industry rescue package, while leading TV broadcasters are promising to bear a share of the costs of shuttered productions.
The crisis has already resulted in cancellations of some major film and TV productions across the country. At Studio Babelsberg, work on Warner Bros.’ “The Matrix 4” and Sony Pictures’ “Uncharted” has been put on hold for several weeks. Constantin Film has said the pandemic has “interrupted” most of its current productions.
Yet many producers have been forced to continue working or face financial ruin.
Berlin-based X Filme is calling for an official government ban on filming in order to ensure production companies can qualify for state aid. At the moment, shooting is allowed on private premises, like studios.
“(As) long as it is not legally prohibited, we as German producers are not in a position to cancel ongoing productions on our own initiative and liability without damage in the millions and thereby endangering the survival of the company,” X Filme said in a statement.
In an open letter to government leaders and health authorities published by trade publication Blickpunkt Film, filmmaker Markus Goller (“25 km/h”) echoed the sentiment:
“Please stop all shooting permits in Germany IMMEDIATELY! If the authorities do not immediately put a stop to it, all producers who are currently filming will find themselves in an absolute moral and existential disaster.”
Actress Katja Riemann shared on Instagram a joint industry statement likewise calling for a ban: “Word has finally gotten around that it is insane to continue shooting while the first cities and towns are already implementing stay-at-home orders. I pray that politicians will finally cancel all filming nationwide that does not serve to inform the public so that producers can let their employees go home to their families and (practice) #socialdistancing.”
For its part, the Federal Film Board (FFA) has announced plans for a joint rescue package currently being developed with federal and regional funders to help the film and theatrical sectors.
The plan, which is also backed by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM), includes an aid fund whose total amount has yet to be determined.
“The effects of the corona pandemic pose an unprecedented threat to the German film and cinema industry,” said FFA president Bernd Neumann. “The consequences for cinemas, production and distribution companies — and thus for all the people in this country who work in film — are unforeseeable. In this extreme situation, the industry must stand together; the federal government, the states and the FFA must find and implement solutions together as quickly and unbureaucratically as possible.”
Neumann added that the fact that federal and state funders had agreed to work together “indicates that we are on the right path through the crisis.”
The measures, introduced retroactively from March 1, include a waiver for repayments of grants for productions that have been terminated by the pandemic, as well as a deferment of repayments that are already due.
Film distributors will also be able to defer repayment of subsidies while theater owners will be allowed to postpone loan payments and the film levies that help finance the funding system.
Germany’s main broadcasting companies, ARD, ZDF, RTL and ProSiebenSat.1, are likewise offering a helping hand by sharing in the costs of wide-spread production stops.
ProSiebenSat.1 said it was in discussions with producers of more than 120 productions that are currently in various stages of development.
Depending on the individual case assessment, ProSiebenSat.1 said it would share the “unavoidable costs” of up to or over 50% related to shuttered or postponed productions.