The Czech Republic has seen big budget foreign productions mostly dry up in 2009 following a long decline. In 2003, Hollywood and European filmmakers spent more than 5 bilion crowns in the Czech Republic. In 2008, the amount of the foreign investments dropped to only CZK 700 million as Hollywood production move to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and even the Ukraine driven away by the Czech Republic's lack of tax incentives.
In numerous European countries and American states, Hollywood filmmakers can expect a rebate of up to 20% of every euro spent in that territory.
"We love the Czech Republic for its exteriors and its filmmakers. But the problem of tax incentives becomes more and more important for every big Hollywood production, including Narnia," Mark Johnson, executive producer of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, said to FNE last year. Walt Disney´s $200 million smash hit by director Andrew Adamson, shot and produced in New Zealand, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic in 2007-2008, was one of the last big budget Hollywood productions shot in Czech Republic. The third part of the Narnia series is not coming back to Czech Republic.
In late October, the Czech approved a proposal for a tax incentive system in 2010, with a rebate of up to 20% of the amount spent in the country. The Czech Ministry of Culture (ww.mkcr.cz) has budgeted 400 million CZK for rebates in 2010 which is awaiting final approval and could go into effect as soon as January 2010.
On average 20-25 Czech full length feature films are released in Czech cinemas, most are supported by grants from the Czech Ministry of Culture´s State fund for support and development of cinematography. In 2009 support for film production and distribution was CZK 222.6 m about the same as in 2008.
Protector, the big-budget war drama and Oscar entry by director Marek Najbrt and produced by Negativ company (www.negativ.cz), received one of the largest grants: 16 m CZK for its 65m CZK budget.
Lidice the 70m CZK second war drama now in production, by director Alice Nellis and produced by Bioscop (www.bioscop.cz), received a grant of 20m CZK.
In 2009 several animation features were produced. Fimfarum 3 by directors Vlasta Pospíšilová, Kristina Dufková and David Súkup which received a 5m CZK grant, and The Little Fishgirl by director Jan Balej, that received a record 10m CZK grant for animation. Both movies are produced by Maur film (www.maurfilm.cz).
Among the most successful Czech films in 2009 were Czech comedies, such as Grapes 2 by director Vlad Lanné and production company Bioscop with 300,000 admissions after five weeks and You Kiss like God by director Marie Poledňáková and produced by Falcon (www.falcon.cz), with 950,000 admissions.
1 What was the most important development in the Polish film industry over the past year?
Since the establishment of the Polish Film Institute in autumn of 2005 the Polish film industry has been doing better year by year. The number of films supported by PISF is increasing annually, including the number of coproductions. Cinema attendance is growing and the overall outlook and perspective for the Polish film industry is highly optimistic.
The last Festival of Polish Films in Gdynia revealed that new generation of young directors had found their way into the hearts of the press, the jury and the audience. The winner of 11 awards, "Revers", already has almost 150.000 admissions.
2 How important are European coproductions for the development of the Polish film industry and what opportunities do you see for cooperation with neighbouring countries in film production, education and distribution.
The average level of international coproductions is 30% per year. Among them are such significant films as "33 scenes from life" by Małgorzata Szumowska and "4 nights with Anna" by Jerzy Skolimowski and "Janosik" by Agnieszka Holland. Those films were coproduced with well established French, German and east European companies which has been crucial to the international distribution and success of the films at festivals. A better presence and visibility of Polish films in Europe is one of the benefits of international coproductions. However, we think that there is still a big potential in international coproductions in Poland since the best films are not necessarily the ones internationally co-roduced. As the last festival in Gdynia has shown, the most successful films of young directors, the new talents of the Polish cinematography, are mostly Polish productions. It is the case of "Reverse" by Borys Lankosz, "Zero" by Paweł Borowski, "Dark House" by Wojtek Smarzowski and "Las" by Piotr Dumała.
It is true that Polish coproductions are mostly and naturally made with the neighboring countries. The main partner is Germany. Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Ukraine and even Belarus are also present. As to other countries, France, Sweden, Denmark and the USA should be mentioned.
The Polish Film Institute enhances the participation of Polish companies as a minority partner. European films are not only shot in Poland ("Whirlwind", "Robert Mitchum is Dead", "Woman that Dreamed of a Man"). Post-production studios on the highest technical and artistic level attract big productions in fiction and animation. Special effects for "Anichrist" were made in Warsaw by the Studio Platige Image. Alvernia - one of the biggest and best equipped studios in Europe - has newly opened its doors to the biggest European and US productions.
3 What is the role of film in the Polish cultural identity?
Film has always been important for Poles. Until 1989 Polish directors had researched new ways of storytelling to hide important massages in the times of censorship. Wajda, Kieslowski, Zanussi became masters and their characters became moral figures for many people in Poland. After 1989 filmmakers started to look for a new film language to communicate with the audience. Without boundaries they could talk about everything. But it took some time to reveal their own film language. The authors such as: Krzysztof Krauze, Jan Jakub Kolski, Andrzej Jakimowski, Jacek Borcuch, Sławomir Fabicki have found their way to the audience with their very special narrative speech.
4 How does the recognition of Polish film internationally promote not only the Polish film but also Poland as a country?
This is something we cannot measure in numbers but this kind of promotion is irreplaceable. Films like "General Nil" by Ryszard Bugajski, "Spring 1941" by Uri Barbash, "Katyń" by Andrzej Wajda, "Popiełuszko" by Rafał Wieczyński screened abroad spread the overall knowledge about Polish history. On the other hand films like "Tricks" by Andrzej Jakimowski, "Zero" by Paweł Borowski based in contemporary Poland show that Poles are very much like Germans, French, Czech, British...
5 Looking back over the past five years what are the major achievements and what do you consider still needs to be done?
Still, after nearly 5 years since establishing the Polish Film Institute I find this Institution the major achievement. Bringing it to life was a difficult task but managing is another challenge. The Polish Film Institute managed to build good working liaisons with its beneficiaries. It takes time, it does not happen automatically, it demands good will for co-operation from both parts. After these successful years PISF wants to be still more efficient. Right now, beginning from the December the 1st , the operational programs are being changed. The biggest changes will be made within the production programs but each program has been changed based upon last years experiences. Cinematography is a living organism of directors, producers, actors, writers and many others. PISF is willing to see their needs and answer them. Our goal is to make more and better films well received both in Poland and abroad, isn't what we're all looking for?
Despite the economic crisis, 2009 was a strong year for Polish film production. with 48 features completed.While down from the 60 produced in 2008, this year's productions included big international projects and several internationally acclaimed titles. An additional 22 films are in the post production.
The biggest international coproduction was Janosik. A true story directed by Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik, produced by Apple Film Production (www.applefilm.pl), In Film, Telewizja Polska S.A. (www.tvp.pl), Charlie's, Eurofilm Studio (www.eurofilm.hu), HBO Central Europe (www.hbo-centraleurope.com) with a budget of 23 m PLN. The most expensive domestic production was Popiełuszko. Freedom is Within Us directed by Rafał Wieczyński produced by Focus Producers (www.popieluszko.pl) with a 11.5 m PLN budget.
This year saw strong directing debuts, including Reverse, a 50's style drama from Borys Lankosz, the multi-plotted drama Zero directed by Paweł Borowski and produced by Opus Film (www.opusfilm.com), a social drama Mall Girls directed by Katarzyna Rosłaniec and produced by ,WFDiF ( www.wfdif.com.pl) as well as The Forest, a feature debut from animator Piotr Dumała produced by Eureka Media (www.eurekamedia.info) .
The most important domestic productions planned for 2010 include: Dream of a Butterfly (Sen motyla) directed by Jacek Bławut, produced by "Rabarbar" Film Studio (www.studiofilmowerabarbar.com) with a budget of 3.6 m PLN and 2.5 m funding from PISF; Dukedom (Księstwo) directed by Andrzej Barański, produced by Scorpion Art (www.skorpionart.pl) with a budget of 2.8 m PLN including 2 m from PISF; Rose of Masuria ( Róża z Mazur) directed by Wojciech Smarzowski, produced by WFDiF (www.wfdif.com.pl) with a budget of 5.3 m PLN with 2.6 m from PISF; Historia Roja Czyli w Ziemi Lepiej Słychać directed by Jerzy Zalewski, produced by Dr Watkins Studio Filmowe (www.watkins.pl) with a budget of 12 m PLN with 4 m PLN from PISF and the sequel to a cult Polish comedy Cruise 2 ( Rejs 2) directed by Marek Piwowski, produced by Anna Pupin "Boom!Group" (www.boom-group.pl) with a budget of 6 m PLN and half of this amount funded by PISF.
Poland has become significantly more engaged in international film projects, as a direct partner in coproductions or a host to several forums and meetings facilitating co-operation between European countries.
The main source of public funding for international co-productions are the grants offered by the Polish Film Institute (www.pisf.pl), which can be obtained by a Polish producer involved in the projects. Poland is still waiting for special legislation introducing tax rebates for foreign filmmakers and producers, for which PFI have been lobbying as a much needed change in the national film industry.
Poland is most often a partner in 2 or 3 country coproductions, but recently Polish filmmakers have become interested in taking part in more diverse production teams. In accordance with The European Coproduction Convention requirements Poland invests a minimum of 20% of the funding for a film produced by two countries and a minimum of 10% for a triple coproduction to qualify under the terms of the convention. To become a minority co-producer with the aid of public funding the Polish partner must have a 50% of input, provided that 80% of the grant is spent in Poland. The producers of international titles can apply for the same amount of incentives or loans as the local productions.
In 2009 Poland attracted eight international projects including the biggest Central European coproduction of the year Janosik. A True Story directed by Agnieszka Holland (Apple Film Production In Film, Telewizja Polska S.A., Charlie's, Eurofilm Studio, HBO Central Europe; 6 million euro), Antichrist from Lars von Trier (Zentropa International Poland; 25 million PLN), Miracle Seller directed by (Fabryka-Spółka Realizatorów Filmowych i Telewizyjnych Polish Public Television, Performance Marketing Group, Film i Väst, Republiken AB; 4.1million PLN) Pigglets directed by Robert Gliński (WIDARK - Produkcja Filmowa i Telewizyjna, 42film GmbH; 3.8 million PLN) The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler directed by John Kent Harrison (Hallmark Hall of Fame, Beata Pisula - K&K Selekt, Krzysztof Grabowski - Grupa Filmowa Baltmedia; 38 million PLN), Operation Danube directed by Jacek Głomb ( WFDiF - Wytwórnia Filmów Dokumentalnych i Fabularnych, In Film Praha , Odra-Film; 2 million euro) and Within the Whirlwind directed by Marleen Gorris (TatFilm, Saga Film/Lorival, Telewizja Polska - AgencjaFilmowa; 9.8 million dollars ).
In 2010 the number of big international co-productions increased to over a dozen, most of them still in production. One of them was the 2010 winner of the special jury's prize in Venice , Essential Killing directed by Jerzy Skolimowski.A co-production between Skopia Film of Poland (www.skopiafilm.com), Hungary's Mythberg Films (www.mythbergfilms.hu), Ireland's Element Pictures, and Norwegian Cylinger Productions, it received 3.5 million PLN in financing from PFI. This year Poland again participated in one of the biggest CEE productions, the Czech war drama Lidice directed by Petr Nikolaev and produced by Bioscop. The planned total budget is 2.6 million EUR with a record CZK 20 million (770,000 Euros) financing from the Czech State Fund for Cinematography (www.mkcr.cz). The Polish co-producer is Dariusz Jablonski and
Apple Film (www.applefilm.pl), and PFI supported the title with 5000 PLN. One of the biggest Polish titles of the year is Hidden, a new film from Agnieszka Holland. The moving war drama is a coproduction between the Polish Studio Filmowe ZEBRA, Canada's The Film Works Ltd. and Germany's Schmidtz Katze Filmkollektiv. The production launched in September 2010 and will last till 2011, with a planned budget of 22.3 million PLN with 3.6 million PLN of financing from PFI. The untapped potential of European cinema made for the youth was noticed by the makers of Winter Daddy, a Polish-German co-production directed by Johannes Schmid. The title is produced by a Polish company Pokromski Studio (www.pokromskistudio.pl) and German Schlicht und Ergreifend GmbH (www.schlichtundergreifend-film.de) with a total budget of €1,940,000 and 1 million PLN (€254 000) from the PFI as well as support from the German- Polish Co-Development Fund (www.medienboard.de).
Tomorrow Will Be Better, the long anticipated new drama from Dorota Kędzierzawska, was also finalized in 2010 asa coproduction between Poland and Japan. The producer of the picture is KID Film, a company created by Dorota Kędzierzawska and Arthur Reinhart, in co-production with Pioniwa Film Inc (www.pioniwa.com),The Chimney Pot (www.chimney.pl), Non Stop Film Services (www.nsfs.pl) and Film Ilumination ( www.filmilumination.pl).The total budget of the film was 3 million PLN with a 2 million PLN input from the Polish Film Institute (www.pisf.pl). A Polish- American project titled The Winner also went into production in 2010, produced by the Polish company Saco Films Ltd founded by the director Wiesław Saniewski. The film is coproduced by The Society For Arts (USA) and Andrzej Niżnik (Switzerland). The total budget of the film is 13 million PLN (EUR 3.2 million) with 3 million PLN in financing from PFI. Further Polish co- operation with the American film industry was also established by a Polish company San Graal (www.sangraal.pl), producer of box office hit comedies Testosterone and Ladies, by signing a preliminary contract with Warner Bros. Pictures International ( www.warnerbros.com). The partners have agreed to collaborate on at least two new Polish-language films in 2010 and 2011, produced by director Andrzej Saramonowicz and San Graal while Warner Bros. Pictures International will hold worldwide distribution rights.
The Polish engagement in international projects in 2011 is due to increase, with the Polish Film Institute financing 35 titles realized in coproduction with other countries, most of which are set to start shooting in 2011. The supported titles include Blind Watching directed by Andrzej Jakimowski produced by Zjednoczenie Artystów i Rzemieślników (www.zair.eu); the adaptation of Stanisław Lem's sci-fi novel Futurogical congress, directed by Ari Folman and produced by Opus Film (www.opusfilm.pl); the long anticipated Salvation from one of the talented young Russian director Ivan Wyrypajew produced by Baltmedia (www.baltmedia.pl); and a new animated film from Brothers Quay titled The Hour-glass Sanatorium, based on the novel by Bruno Schulz, produced by Opus Film.
FNE: What was the most important development in Slovak film industry over the past year?
Martin Šmatlák: The main change is the creation of the Audiovisual Fund on 1 January 2009, after 18 years of different proposals, mainly due to the personal initiative of Culture Minister Marek Maďarič and several other representatives from the audiovisual field.
Under the new law the Audiovisual Fund will decide on the support of the audiovisual culture and industry public funding sources.
It has also created conditions to extend the funding, and it laid the foundations for more efficient and flexible way to promote the film culture and industry. This has been a year of preparation with the Fund due to start its activity as of the beginning of 2010. The fund will support the development, production and distribution of audiovisual works for cinemas, televisions and new forms of distribution, as well as educational films, festivals and other events, such as educational, editorial and research activities and also technology development. Technology development is in the first year is focused on the modernization of cinemas.
I am pleased with the success of Slovak films at festivals and events abroad, in particular with documentaries. Creativity is already underway and the conditions for its continued development should improve, not only financially but also technologically.
FNE: How important are European co-productions for the development of the Slovak film industry and what opportunities do you see for cooperation with neighboring countries in film production, education and distribution?
MS: Slovak cinematography could not have survived during the last 15 years without European coproductions, especially film productions for cinema. Naturally most coproductions are with the Czech Republic, which is historically, culturally and linguistically nearest. European coproductions accounted in recent years for 75% of all Slovak full-length feature films.
The Czech Republic also has a functioning infrastructure and technologies for film production. The weakest point of the film environment in Slovakia is the decline in the technology level and in infrastructure for the film production over the past 20 years. There are no film laboratories here, the camera and lighting equipment supply for 35mm films is rather limited, and there is not a single studio for modern digital audio production. The development of cinema and its digitization is also lagging behind. Without that, big films cannot be produced in Slovakia and foreign producers do not come here. We still participate in coproductions, but we would like to play the role of an active and equal partner.
FNE: What is the role of film in Slovak cultural identity?
MS: Slovak film became a fully-valued part of the country's cultural context only since the beginning of the 1960's. Slovak film grew to achieve an equal position with other forms of art and with Czech film during the "new wave". This was when increased public interest in Slovak film became a means of expressing cultural identity.
After November 1989, the continuity of Slovak film was interrupted and was in crisis. This was also reflected in the relationship of the Slovak audience to Slovak film. The average annual share of Slovak films in cinemas by total attendance fell below 5%. In 2006 it fell below one percent.
Over the last two years, this negative trend reversed significantly and more Slovak viewers are attending Slovak films. It is important to maintain this tread because film and audiovisual production is a natural and spontaneous expression of what we might call the cultural identity.
In terms of preserving and developing cultural identity through film it is also important to ensure the systematic protection of the film heritage and make it available through new technologies. In 2006 the Slovak government approved a long-term project for the systematic protection of the audiovisual heritage, through the maintenance and restoration of the film heritage and its accessibility.
FNE: How does the recognition of Slovak film internationally promote not only your country's film but also Slovakia as a country?
MS: Film is an effective tool for the international presentation of culture and country. The creative potential of Slovak film is undeniable; but how it is presented is important. We can not just rely on the fact that someone will "discover" us; on the contrary, we must be capable of presenting and promoting ourselves.
The Slovak Film Institute, the Slovak Audiovisual Producers Association, and the Slovak Film and Television Academy do a lot in this direction. It is necessary to combine these efforts and to focus on continual and professional "film promotion" as an instrument for presenting films, producers, producer organizations and the country as a whole.
FNE: Looking back over the past five years what are the major achievements and what do you consider still needs to be done?
MS: On the positive side: ensuring the legislative framework and financial resources for the support of the audiovisual sector, stopping the frightening decline of film production, the increase in audiovisual production, especially in television, the international success of Slovak films, increasing the number of viewers of Slovak films, the protection of audiovisual heritage.
On the opposite side: development of technology, raising funds for audiovisual and film production, better professional training for audiovisual professionals, modernization and digitalization of cinemas, international marketing and promotion of Slovak films, the development of audiovisual education at schools and long-term and systematic activity that will lead to strengthening the positive image and awareness of Slovak film and its historical and cultural value.
Doc. PhDr. Martin Šmatlák (1961) graduated from the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in Bratislava. Throughout his professional career he has been active in the Slovak audiovisual industry as: the general manager of the Slovak Film Institute; pedagogue at VSMU - Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts; vice-rector and vice-dean for Film and TV at VSMU; strategic director and member of crisis management at Slovak Television; general director of media and audiovisual at the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic; and member of the working group for the law on the Audiovisual Fund that went into the effect as of January 1, 2009.
He is one of the establishing members of the Slovak Film and Television Academy and a founding members of the first film festival in Bratislava after 1989.
On November 5, 2008, Act 516/2008 Coll. on the Audiovisual Fund and the Amendment of Certain Acts was adopted, which went into effect on January 1, 2009.
In practical terms, this meant funding by the Ministry of Culture was handed over to the newly established and independent AudioVisual Fund.
" The Ministry of Culture will be from now on just one of the supporters of the audiovisual industry. The fund will be an independent institution," said Anton Škreko, the director of Audiovisual programme at the Ministry of Culture.
During the year-long transition phase, Nataša Slavikova, the general director at the department of Media, Audiovision and Copyright said that 4 179 450 Euro was granted to 104 projects out of 170 that applied for the grants. The previous year 4 271 626 Euros were granted. From January 1, 2010 the subsidies will be granted by Audiovisual Fund.
The largest grants went to Peter Kristufek's Visible world with a 410 000 Euro grant and Stanislav Pamicky's Cherrie Boy with 380 000 Euro grant were the most granted films by the Audiovision in the year 2009. Both will be produced by JMB Film and TV production (http://www.jmbfilm.sk/).
The new Audiovisual Fund is composed of six commissions:
Education and Research
Development of Technologies
Members will be announced on 25 November.
First call opens on 30 November 2009. Deadlines for submitting the applications are 15.12.2009, 1.3.2010 and 1.9.2010.
Website www.avf.sk under construction. Information on Audiovisual Fund on the website of the Ministry of Culture the www.culture.gov.sk.
While commercial Slovak television, led by CME's Markiza TV (www.markiza.sk), has seen a dramatic downturn in advertising revenues due to the global economic crisis in 2009, the Slovak film industry has so far been unaffected.
Subsidies from Audiovisual programme at the Ministry of Culture were comparable to 2008 (4.3 million Euro in 2008 and 4.2 million Euro in 2008). Banks have been cautious in extending credit generally. Zuzana Mistrikova, executive vice-president of the Slovak Film and Television Academy (www.sfta.sk) told FNE, "Except for Bathory, banks are not lending money to film producers at all."
Alexandra Strelkova, director of the National Cinematographic Centre (www.sfu.sk), told FNE, "Bank credits for film companies are not standard in the Slovak film industry."
Mistrikova warns, "The first contributions from television broadcasters, cable operators, cinema entrepreneurs and film distributors to the new Audivisual Fund will be in 2010. Revenue from TV advertising has decreased because of the financial crisis so their contributions to the fund will not probably reach the levels expected a year ago," Mistrikova said.
Slovaks have cut back their spending generally in 2009 but surprisingly the Slovak box office experienced a very good year. During the first seven months there were 2.35 million admissions compared with 1.75 million for the same period in 2008, a 34% increase, according to the Slovak Union of Distributors (www.ufd.sk). Among the box office hits was the Slovak film Soul at Peace directed by Vladimir Balko and produced by Forza Production House (www.forza.sk), which premiered in January and had 115,000 admissions.
The so called "Bathory effect" caused an increased interest in Slovak films that result in notably higher attendance than in the past.
The winners of the awards of 11th Animated Film Festival ANIMATED DREAMS were announced on Saturday, 21 November at the award ceremony in Sõprus Cinema.
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