Austria launches new film incentive after green light from Brussels; International co-productions attract most support from German fund this year

Austria’s Ministry of Economics has officially launched a new film financing incentive – Film Location Austria (FISA – Filmstandort Austria) – after receiving the green light from the regulatory authorities at the European Commission in Brussels.

A budget of Euros 20m is being made available immediately for the the next 2 ½ years – a maximum of Euros 5m for this year and Euros 7.5m each for 2011 and 2012 for Austrian feature film and documentary projects as well as international co-productions and co-financing deals involving an Austrian partner.

Speaking about this film financing model, economics minister Reinhold Mitterlehner pointed out that “this creative bonus strengthens the competitiveness of Austria’s reputable film industry and enhances the attractiveness of the film location Austria to international production companies who are interested in working with an Austrian partner.”

During the preparations for the new incentive, Arie Bohrer, head of the national film commission Location Austria, had explained that FISA’s goals were to “make film financing easier, generate higher production budgets, increase the attractiveness, quality and distribution of Austrian movies, increase production expenditure in Austria” and “increase business for domestic film-related companies.”

Financing from FISA is conditional on the Austrian production expenses reaching a certain minimum percentage of the eligible production costs, i.e. 25% for budgets below Euros 10m and 20% for budgets exceeding Euros 10m.

The scheme is only open to feature films with a budget of at least Euros 1m or documentaries with production costs of Euros 200,000 and above.

Moreover, the FISA grant for any single production is capped at 25% of all eligible production spend in Austria or 15% of the FISA’s annual budget (i.e. Euros 750,000 in 2010).

The fact that Austria has now followed the example of other European countries and established its own “spend” incentive is in large part thanks to political lobbying after the international success enjoyed by Austrian cinema in the past few years, ranging from the Academy Award for Stefan Ruzowitzky’s The Counterfeiters and the nominations for Götz Spielmann’s Revanche and Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon to Christoph Waltz’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

But, equally important and influential in the debate about the creation of FISA was the example set by Austria’s bigger Northern neighbour Germany with its German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) which came into effect at the beginning of 2007 with an annual Euros 60m budget.

Since then, over 360 projects have been supported by the DFFF with over Euros 210m in grants up until the end of August 2010.

In the first eight months of this year, 63 projects were supported with Euros 33.6m, with around two-thirds of the automatic subsidy – Euros 21.7m - going to international co-productions.

The 28 international projects supported so far this year include Agnieszka Holland’s Hidden, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Joe Wright’s Hanna, Eran Riklis’ Playoff and Istvan Szabo’s Die Tür.

The largest single amount awarded in 2010 – over Euros 7.5m – has gone to Paul W.S. Anderson’s German-French-UK co-production The Three Musketeers which began shooting in Bavaria at the end of August. This sum is the second largest paid out in the DFFF’s history and is only exceeded by the Euros 9m for the Wachowski brothers’ Speed Racer.

The significance of such a financing model for a national film industry’s infrastructure and sustainability is shown by the fact that the DFFF’s support of Euros 33.6m has generated a German “spend” effect of almost Euros 195m on total production costs of Euros 272.3m. (ends)