German regional film fund Filmstiftung NRW and the Israel Film Fund have signed a deal to develop relations between the two film industries.

The "Joint Project" agreement, which initially is to run for two years, was signed during this week's REEL IL 02 showcase of new Israeli student work at the Bonn Cinematheque by Filmstiftung NRW CEO Michael Schmid-Ospach and Israel Film Fund head Katriel Schory.

The agreement covers two areas - distribution and script development - to encourage closer collaboration.

With the distribution support programme aimed at both German and Israeli companies, Israeli distributors, for example, will be able to apply for funding for the release in their home country of productions which were funded by the Filmstiftung, produced in NRW or where a NRW talent was involved. Similarly, German distributors in NRW will be able to apply for support for their release of Israeli films.

The distribution support will be made more attractive by a relaxation on the level of own funds which have to be put up by the distributor, the level of the money spent in the respective country and on the conditions for repayment.

The script development support envisages backing Israeli authors and production companies for features whose story or protagonists are closely linked with Israel and Germany. The completed screenplays would then ideally be made as co-productions between Israel and North Rhine-Westphalia.

Commenting on the decision to launch the "Joint Project", Michael Schmid-Ospach observed that "Israel is presently one of the most exciting film places in the world. Through the distribution support for Israeli films, the cinemagoers in NRW will definitely benefit - for they can then see films in the cinema which they might not have otherwise seen."

This latest partnership sealed with Israel comes after the Filmstiftung NRW sought to develop closer working relationships with the Netherlands and Poland over the past couple of years.