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FNE Country Focus: Slovakia: Slovak Film Industry Poised for Renaissance

2009-07-08
SLOVAKIA: The year 2009 is already being hailed as a major watershed for Slovakia's film industry with both the conversion to the Euro and the country's long awaited new film law combining to lay down the conditions for a major revival of the country's audiovisual sector.

Slovakia's new film law which was passed in November 2008 and implemented in January of this year establishes the framework for increased subsidies for the local audiovisual industry and sets up an independent body, the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, to administer the new law.

A restructuring of the audiovisual legislation had been under discussion for a number of years but it was the personal initiative of the Minister of Culture, Marek Madaric, who is a former script writer and graduate of the Film and TV Faculty of Bratislava, that finally made the law a reality.

Under the new legislation funding for the audiovisual industry is expected to almost double compared to previous years under the Ministry of Culture with around 240 m SK in 2010. Martin Smatlak who helped draft the new legislation has been elected to head the new Audiovisual Fund. Smatlak has been one of the team that helped to draft the new legislation and who has laboured tirelessly to bring Slovak audiovisual law into the European mainstream.

For regional and European partners this means that Slovak producers will be able to field larger budgets and to participate in more European coproductions. It also means that with the country's adoption of the Euro more productions are expected to decide to base their main production office in Bratislava as joining the single currency makes Slovakia a safe haven for central European producers seeking to secure themselves against the local currency fluctuations that have resulted from the global financial crisis.

"We have good conditions for a renaissance of coproductions in Slovkia," said Natasa Slavikova, Director General of the Audiovisual Department of the Slovak Ministry of Culture, " We have the Euro and together with the new law this will open the door to more coproductions deciding to base themselves in Slovakia.

The advantages of the Euro have already attracted attention from regional productions with Warsaw based producer Dariusz Jablonski who heads of Apple Films, one of Poland's leading production outfits, saying he is thinking of establishing a company in Bratislava to take advantage of the Slovakia's new Euro.

"We are glad we have this new law at last," said Slavikova, "we had prepared legislation before but we didn't' have the right political climate to pass the law until now. This will allow the Slovak film industry to develop. Before only 15% of requests for funding from Slovak producers could be fulfilled."

The new legislation is patterned French film law but Slavikova said the committee that drafted the new law consulted with experts from many other countries including Maciej Karpinski deputy director of the Polish Film Institute (PISF). PISF has been a resounding success among regional film bodies in central Europe and has become a model for other countries.

The new Slovak law provides for contributions to the audiovisual fund from the flowing sources:

Public service broadcasters will contribute 5% from advertising revenues based on the last calendar year

Private broadcasters will contribute 2% from advertising revenues

3 Euro cents from each cinema ticket sold

1% from cable/mobile operators

1% from DVD distributors

The Slovak government will contribute not less than the combined amount from other sources.

The first call for grant proposals will be in November of 2009. The budget for film subsidies this year is set at 112 m SK.

Conditions for coproduction are the same as the European standard and producers have the additional assurance as these conditions are enshrined in the new Slovak law. There is no tax rebate provision in the new Slovak law but Slovakia already boasts some of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe.

Slovakia's film industry has much to celebrate with the Slovak Republic registering an increase of 21.26 percent in the number of viewers in 2008 - the highest percentual increase in the EU. Much of this can be attributed to what Slovaks are calling the "Bathory" effect with the record breaking film directed by Slovakia's Juraj Jakubisko racking up 426, 901 viewers the highest number since the country became independent. Bathory has also brought Slovak film to the attention of international audiences.

But Bathory was not the only Slovak film to score at the local box office. Slovakia produced or coproduced 11 films last year of which a record eight were released in Slovak cinemas accounting for 511, 013 admissions which is 3.5 times more than in 2007.

Slovakia's new-found success isn't only about rising box office numbers. In 2008 the feature length doc Blind Loves directed by Juraj Lehotsky became the first Slovak film in 37 years to partipate in Cannes FF screening in Quinzane des Realisatuers. The film has already been sold in 10 countries.

The new Slovak Audiovisual Law:

Grants are given for

Film and audiovisual production

Development

Production

Participation in festivals

Books and publications about film

Film Research

Stipends for the creative activity of individuals

Selection of projects to be awarded grants will be formally decided by the Director in accordance with state aid rules and evaluation of the projects provided by Expert Commissions and in accordance with its recommendation.

Members of the Expert Commissions are elected by the Council.

Bodies of the Audiovisual Fund

Council of the Audiovisual Fund

Nine members of the board which are appointed by the minister of Culture for six years

The Council elects the Director of the Audiovisual Fund

The Council of the Audiovisual Fund is not political

Its membership is composed of

Two independent producers

Two creators of Audiovisual works

One distributor or country operator

One Public TV

One Private TV

One cable Operators/ includes mobile phone operators

One appointed from the Ministry of Culture

Patrik Pass Chairman of the nine member board of the Audiovisual Fund

Martin Smatlak Director of the office of the Fund

There are four experts from the Ministry of Culture

Patrik Pass

Martin Smatlak

Natasa Slavikova

Anton Skreko

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