BERLIN: Hungarian born Hollywood producer Andrew G. Vajna announced that he would deliver the new strategy for the future of the Hungarian film industry in just 90 days. It was the first public statement Vajna has made since he was appointed Commissioner for the Film Industry by the Hungarian government just two weeks ago.
Speaking at a hall packed with anxious Hungarian producers and directors during a roundtable organized by the Collegium Hungaricum at the Berlinale Vajna said he had come to Berlin mainly to reassure international partners. Vajna said he had been given a year by the government to evaluate the current situation in the Hungarian film industry after the collapse of Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation (MMK www.mmka.hu) last year but that he realizes the difficult situation of Hungarian film professionals and vowed to deliver the new strategy within 60 to 90 days.
Many Hungarian producers and cinema operators signed agreements with the old MMK and took bank loans to work in 2010 while they waited for the money from MMK which has still not been paid. Many of the bank loans come due in the next few weeks.
Vajna emphasized that he is ready to listen and is consulting with Hungarian producers and other film professionals in preparing the strategy. "The door to my office is open and I am speaking to four or five Hungarian producers and other professionals every day," said Vajna. "The situation in Hungary is difficult. There is a recession. These are very difficult times especially in Hungary. The system is bankrupt. The state owned studio Mafilm cannot even pay its electricity bills. The Hungarian Film Lab loses money each month."
In a dramatic surprize moment a press release that the organisers had just received from the Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Public Administration was handed out to all those present. One of the first official statements on the situation by the government the press release said that "the MMK had accrued 7.4bln forints of missing funds due to irresponsible handling and had 5.1 bln forints of debt with 500mln forints of interest already accrued." The statement claimed MMK contracts with the previous government were created "irresponsibly" and that an investigation of MMK was underway. "Future international coproductions are considered highly important by the government and it was in the government's interest that the Hungarian film industry should be regarded internationally as a trustworthy and valuable partner."
Vajna said he hoped that after delivery of the new strategy it would be accepted by the government and he would be appointed to implement the strategy. He said the new system should include equity, loans and soft money. He asked the filmmakers for patience while the restructuring process was being carried out.
The legacy of the MMK and its unpaid agreements is being dealt with by the Ministry of National Resources (www.nefmi.gov.hu) represented at the roundtable by Attila Bokor who said negotiations with the producers were underway but did not provide any details. Hungarian industry insiders estimated the total government funding for the film industry for 2011 at 4bln forints divided between the Ministry of National Development, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of National Resources, the NKA (National Cultural Foundation) and the old MMK which is being funded mainly to wind it down. Only three or four domestic feature films have been finished in the last six months in Hungary with most productions stalled due to lack of financing.