German film production will step up a gear this week after the Berlin-based German Federal Film Board finally agreed its budget for 2009. It is understood to be close to last year’s $93.4m (€70m).
The decision, following a special meeting of its administrative council, means the FFA can resume funding, including paying producers “reference funding” for successful 2008 projects.
The FFA, which finances local films and international co-productions, cut all funding earlier this year after a legal clash between broadcasters and German cinema exhibitors over contributions.
The German Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled the fund’s cinema levy was unconstitutional because broadcasters make voluntary rather than statutory contributions.
The ruling has raised questions about how the national fund operates. Cinema chains Cinestar, Cinemaxx, UCI and Kinopolis bought the original action in Leipzig but have since made their payments “with reservation”, which means the money is held in an account and can not be accessed.
The action forced the FFA to put a hold on making any financial commitments until a budget was agreed.
The move was a blow to film producers who were expecting to receive reference funding based on the success of their 2008 films and have been forced to delay new projects while they wait. Projects understood to have been affected by the delay include director Helmut Dietl’s long gestating untitled project for Constantin Films. It is understood the project has been pushed back to the second half of the year.
The level of reference funding that producers must reinvest in new projects is traditionally announced at the FFA’s “Industry Tiger” event in Berlin at the end of March. The event was cancelled and producers and distributors will now be informed by post.
FFA paid out a total of $24.3m (€18.3m) in reference funding last year, with $20.3m (€15.26m) for films and $3.9m (€3.04m) going to distributors in recongition of box office success and festival honors.
Last year, Munich-based producer SamFilm received the largest single sum of $1.9m (€1.45m) largely due to the success of its Wild Soccer Bunch franchise, while producer-distributor Constantin Film took a combined $2m (€1.53m) to invest in new film projects and distribution, followed by producer X-Filme Creative Pool and its distribution arm X Verleih with $1.9 (€1.46m).
The fund can now resume all funding, including allocating support for films, including international co-productions, and screenplays outside of reference funding.
German Minister of State for Culture Bernd Naumann is leading a cross-party committee that is seeking to introduce an amendment to the German Film Law that will force broadcasters to pay a statutory levy to the FFA. It is hoped that it will be introduced at the Bundestag before the summer recess.