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Andy Vajna unveils further details of Hungarian funding overhaul

Previous deals struck with Hungary’s MMKA will not all be honoured

Speaking in Cannes this weekend, Hungarian film commissioner Andy Vajna has offered further details of plans to overhaul Hungary’s film industry.

Earlier this month the Terminator and Rambo producer revealed his plans for the industry after the severe problems at the Hungarian Motion Picture Public Foundation (MMKA), which has been closed down.

Vajna’s message for international producers who had struck deals with the MMKA remained bleak. “They’re bankrupt. They’re out of business,” he said of the old state film body. “It was not disciplined management. I think they wanted to help everybody. As a result, they overspent.”

Vajna said that the old agency left behind $50m of debts. He added that he would not be able to honour all of the old deals. “That’s for sure…they’re going to have to be re-examined for future funding.”

The film commissioner said that he had been true to his pledge during February’s Berlinale to come up with a plan within 90 days. That plan is currently being mulled over by the government. If it receives approval Vajna promises that the new fund will be up and running in weeks.

This year, the fund will have a basic budget of $10m (2 billion forints) for investing in film. There should also be extra funds available too for documentaries and shorts. Vajna hopes to double the funding available for 2012.

Hungary’s 20% tax advantage remains in place and Vajna is aiming to make this tax break more transparent and orderly.

He acknowledged that local producers were in “a sensitive position” following the cuts and “bad publicity” surrounding the MMKA. “Overall, we’ve had not a great reputation. My job now is to clean that up and honour the commitments that we now make,” Vajna said. “I want to make sure that if we say ‘yes’ to a project, that project will get funded. I don’t want to have the same thing happen again. I don’t think we can afford that.”

The commissioner also said that he was not “a power monger”.

“I am not interested in doing this for my benefit. I am interested in really supporting the country, cleaning up this mess and moving on.”

If his plans are accepted, Vajna expects to be at the helm of Hungarian public film policy for the next two to three years.

Will he return to producing? “I am developing projects for the future but I am not going to compete with myself – this is a full time job to get this back on track.”

By 2012, Vajna hopes that Hungary will be making 8 to 10 films a year, some of which will show in festivals like Cannes and be picked up for international distribution.

Here in Cannes, Vajna is meeting with representatives from other national funding bodies, among them the  Danes and the Austrians, “so that I can learn from them a little bit”.

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