Testament to Cannes's growing role as a film financing arena, some 200 people turned up on Saturday afternoon to a presentation about Belgium's new tax-based film finance system.
The scheme, which was greenlit only at the beginning of April and won't see its first productions until late autumn at the earliest, was widely praised by speakers for its simplicity and its compatibility with other European and international soft money schemes. Others worried that internal ceilings could prevent the scheme becoming significant enough to become internationally useful.
The scheme permits reductions in corporate tax bills in return for guarantees on production spending in Belgium. Corporations are able to take a 150% reduction against their investment, while producers have to spend 150% of the equity portion of the investment in Belgium.
While there is a Euros 750,000 ceiling on any one investment structure, a large-budget film can combine several schemes.
There are no language restrictions, something which should allow Belgium to attract an increasing number of foreign pictures and compete with its Luxembourg neighbour, as long as the production spend is Belgian and the project receives Belgian certification before being opened up to investors.
UK producer Michael Cowan of Spice Factory said: "This is certainly good for Belgian producers as it should create business and structure." He said that combination with the UK's sale and leaseback system looks straightforward.
Pierre-Philippe Hendrickx, a Belgian entertainment lawyer, said that the scheme had been designed to minimise investor risk, as most of the likely investors probably have little knowledge of the film industry. He said that the scheme makes it easy for service providers, such as studios or post-production facilities, to take investment positions in the films. He also warned that the new government (Belgium went to the polls on Sunday) will have to make a couple of amendments for it comply with EU law.
While Belgium has yet to develop many of the intermediaries necessary to package the investments, a few such as producers Michel Houdmont and Marc Noyons, who recently formed Marmont a tax-backed production and finance have emerged, and both were speakers at the event which was sponsored by Screen International.