Former Eurimages executive secretary Renate Roginas is heading up a $1.2 million (Euros 900,000) PHARE Grant Scheme to strengthen the Romanian audiovisual sector 'with the aim to promote European cultural diversity and to develop a viable national audiovisual industry'.

Speaking exclusively to, Roginas explained that 'the programme runs parallel to Romania's membership of the MEDIA Programme [since Jan 1], although it wasn't originally planned this way because the grants were supposed to be invested in training, development and distribution before Romania joined the MEDIA Programme. We have nevertheless managed to prepare smoother guidelines for the implementation of three grant schemes for training, development and distribution'.

$466,000 (Euros 350,000) will be made available for at least 60 media professionals to receive training in MEDIA initiatives and through local workshops in Romania, while another $399,000 (Euros 300,000) will be invested in development grants of at least $13,300 (Euros 10,000) each for a minimum of 20 projects with a European market potential submitted by Romanian independent producers.

In addition, $333,000 (Euros 250,000) has been reserved for distribution measures to support the circulation of at least 30 non-national European audiovisual works on television and in the cinemas with grants of at least $6,700 (Euros 5,000) in order, 'to help in the process of audience building for these works, fostering trans-border circulation of audiovisual content, and being instrumental in the promotion of cultural diversity and of European cultural identities'.

Said Roginas: 'The funds [for this PHARE programme] were originally located in the Delegation of the European Commission in Romania, but have passed to the Finance Ministry since Romania became a member of the EU. It is not easy to make the officials understand that different special procedures operate in the film industry than in other areas, such as agriculture or water management.'

'If the situation warrants it, we will be able to open the allocation of these grants and create an additional grant scheme, such as one to support the improvement of the technical facilities for the cinemas,' she noted. 'They need to be better equipped with better picture quality and better seating, and the grants would be most appropriate here.'

The grant schemes are intended to run for a period of 15 months from the point when the first funding applications can be submitted.

Roginas will also be organising an awareness campaign about the PHARE programme and seven two-day training events in Romania. The first of these will be at the beginning of May during the 11th edition of the European Cinema Festival in Bucharest when a course about scriptwriting and development skills will be held by a well-known script doctor. In addition, a training joint venture is being organized with the Transylvania International Film Festival in Sibiu on 5-6 June.