Meanwhile, Locarno kicks off with rain, Abel Ferrara honours and Cowboys & Aliens.

Swiss producers should be rewarded for their success at film festivals as well as in recognition of their films‘ box-office performance, according to Switzerland’s Minister of Culture Didier Burkhalter.

Speaking at the traditional Monte Veritá reception near Ascona during this year’s Locarno Film Festival, Burkhalter revealed a set of proposals for a reformed national funding system to come into effect from 2012.

One of his proposed innovations would see the budget allocated by the Federal Office of Culture (FOC) for success-linked automatic funding increasing from 10% to around 30% (equivalent to CHF 4m more support) and the introduction of a new funding instrument – provisionally called Succès Festival - on the lines of the exisiting Succès Cinema scheme which rewards successful Swiss productions at the national box office.

Burkhalter added that the new film funding structure for 2012 to 2015 should include financial support for film treatments because it is “important to intensify the investment in good stories” as well as an increase in the support for the digitisation of Swiss cinemas. Moreover, there should be reforms to the procedures for assessing the funding applications and manning the selection committees.

The new funding system is set to come into effect at the beginning of 2012, and Burkhalter mentioned that his ministry has been exploring the possibility of organising film funding activities in the future in a separate independent institution along the lines of the Swiss National Fund.

Meanwhile, Monte Veritá was also the venue for the signing by FOC and the Canton of Ticino of an agreement extending its Fondo FilmPlus della Svizzera Italiana promoting film production in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

The agreement signed by FOC director Jean-Frédéric Jauslin and Manuele Bertoli, head of the Canton’s Office for Education, Cuture and Sport,  provides CHF 1.6m over the next four years from 2012.

Since its introduction in 2005, Fondo FilmPlus had allocated over CHF 2.7m to 66 productions (40 documentaries, 23 feature films, 3 animation films) with budgets totalling around CHF 30m, of which more than CHF 20m was invested in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

Films supported by Fondo FilmPlus and screening at this year’s Locarno Film Festival include Villi Hermann’s documentary Gotthard Schuh. Una Visione Sensuale Del Mondo which has its world premiere out of competition on Aug 12, and Martin Witz‘s The Substance – Albert Hofmann’s LSD, premiering in the Filmmakers of the Present Competition and picked up for international distribution by Vienna-based Autlook Filmsales.

Abel Ferrara outstaying his welcome on the Piazza Grande after receiving his Leopard of Honour, the excitement surrounding the European premiere of Cowboys & Aliens, and the torrential downpours during the whole of Sunday stayed in the memory from the first half of this year’s Locarno festival.

Ferrara had decided to give a taste of his musical skills on the Piazza Grande stage, but some parts of the audience became restless in the driving rain and began booing when he began a fourth song. The impatience grew when the cast and crew of the evening’s films were then presented and the first film did not begin until a good hour after the beginning of the evening programme. Security personnel reportedly had to be sent down into the audience to pacify the protestors.

Meanwhile, director Jon Favreau and actors Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde had better luck when their film was screened on Saturday evening in front of 7,600 people on the Piazza Grande.

The seemingly neverending downpours on Sunday literally kept some industry delegates trapped in the Industry Lounge for an hour as the heavens opened above and around them.

Meanwhile, local press reports said that, up to Saturday, festival admissions this year were on a par with 2010 despite the rain, with the International Competition and Vincente Minelli Retrospective particularly popular with audiences.

At the same time, accredited guests attending this year’s Industry Days complained about the irregularity of the shuttle bus service which had meant some of them waiting up to an hour for a bus and missing their screenings.