Macedonia is to set up a national film fund by the end of next year to support film-making from screenplay development through production to distribution and promotion.

Speakingexclusively to in Mannheim, Branko Petrovski, head of the Filmand Theatre Department at Macedonia's Ministry of Culture, explained that theproposed fund "would be a way of having stronger regulation of the filmindustry in Macedonia and of setting out the criteria for eligibility to applyfor financing."

"Thefirst phase of establishing a film fund went through the parliament and we hopethat the fund can start its work at the beginning of 2007," Petrovskisaid. "Depending on the overall annual budget for culture, there will be$1.6m-$2m (Euros 1.4m - 1.7m) for the fund.

The decisions on the funding will be made by aboard, and an artistic council would make some proposals to the board aboutfilm projects. It will be a strictly professional body.

At the moment, we havea film commission consisting of film professionals who are advising theMinister of Culture on projects."

Petrovskipointed out that it is intended that part of the Macedonian Film Fund's budgetwill be financed by a percentage of revenues from the distribution andexhibition of films as well as from video distribution.

Macedonianbroadcaster MTV is being approached to contribute to the Fund, "but it isvery difficult as they are under the control of the Ministry of Transport andTelecommunications. However, we are trying through the current parliamentaryphase to get television and the ministry to participate."

He said Macedonia is interested in becoming a partner in the regionalco-production agreement initiative between the former Yugoslav states, whichwas launched at Sarajevo Film Festival in August.

"It will bediscussed with us and it is always good to cooperate with the neighbours,"Petrovski said.

Macedonia's membership of the Council of Europe fund Eurimages since July 2003has already spawned two European co-productions with Macedonian involvement:Sergei Stanojkovski's Mannheim-Heidelberg opener Contact, and Rajko Grlic'sWatchtower (Karaula) which is currently in postproduction and was co-producedwith Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Austria and the UK.

Atpresent, Macedonia's Ministry of Culture has provided financing for KTV Media'sproduction of Vlado Cvetanovski'sThe Secret Book about the centuries-oldriddle surrounding the mysterious manuscript at the centre of the Bogumilspiritual movement, which stars local actress Labina Mitevska, and France'sThierry Fremont and Jean-Claude Carriere (who also served as script consultanton the film) with Thierry Arbogast as DoP.

Inaddition, the Ministry backed Igor Ivanov's feature debut The Navel Of TheWorld, which is adapted from the award-winning novel by Venko Andonovski aboutan odd high-school student who has incredible acrobatic skills.

Producedby Skopje-based Sector Film with the UK's Mainframe Ltd, The Navel Of TheWorld began shooting two weeks ago in Skopje and will later move toBudapest as part of its seven-week shoot. Ivanov previously came to theattention of the international audience with his short Bugs which was shown inthe international short film competition at the 2004 Berlinale.