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Bulgarian Film Industry Faces Threat of Major Funding Cuts

2009-03-17

The recent renaissance of Bulgarian film will grind to a halt if the government goes ahead with the planned cuts to subsidies of 59% in 2009.

The Bulgarian government which had already announced last year that it would provide about 16 m lev in funding for the industry in 2009 now plans to cut funding to 6.5m lev.

"If funding is cut to 6.5 m lev this will be only enough to complete projects that are already in production," said the chairman of the National Film Council (NFC) Georgy Cholakov, "there will be no new films starting to shoot in 2009."

The drastic cuts come in response to a government order to make overall cuts of 10% in the Ministry of Culture budget for 2009 in response to the world-wide financial crisis and a GDP drop of 50% in Bulgaria in Q4 of 2008.

But the film industry has been targeted to shoulder a much larger share of the budget cuts than other sectors and the NFC has called a special emergency session to protest the cuts and lobby the government for a fairer deal.

Bulgaria produced 10 feature films in 2008 and has been producing an average of six or seven feature films in the past few years, a significant increase over the one of two it was producing a decade ago. Bulgarian films have also gained audience share at home and festival recognition abroad over the past five years.

The budget of an average Bulgarian feature film is between 1.6 m and 2m lev. With few cinemas and an average ticket price of less than 3 Euros Bulgarian filmmakers depend on subsidies for their existence. The average Bulgarian spends only 0.3% of his income on cultural entertainment per capita while the average for Europe is 7%.

Cholakov says that while it's true that Bulgaria's GDP took a major hit at the end of 2008 the average GDP growth for the first three quarters of 2008 was 7.2%.

With two major film studios, BUFO and Nu Boyana, located near Sofia and pulling in an average of 15 to 20 features a year in foreign and Bulgarian productions the industry has become a significant earner for the country with over 1000 local professionals employed year round and visiting foreign film teams filling hotels and restaurants in the country.

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