Plans by the German government to slash the budget for incentive programme DFFF by €10m ($13.8m) has surprised the film community.

In her first public appearance before representatives of the film industry on the eve of this year’s Berlinale, the new State Minister for Culture and Media Monika Grütters had told the audience at the German Producers Guild conference that she intended to continue the good work achieved by her predecessor in the post Bernd Neumann.

At the time, Grütters pointed out that the budget for the DFFF had been increased from €60m to €70m ($83m to $97m) in 2013 “and we would like to leave it at least at this”.

She had also said that the coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and SPD had given a “clear signal” for Germany as a production hub by proposing that the DFFF .

However, less than a month later, finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble submitted a draft budget which envisaged the DFFF being allocated only €60m ($83m) in 2014 and not the €70m ($97m) assumed by everyone in the local film industry.

In one of the first reactions to the news, the regional film fund Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg said that it regretted “this decision of the Grand Coalition and fears that Germany will lose attractiveness as an international production hub.”

Interviewed by 3sat’s arts magazine Kulturzeit, Grütters had her own explanation for the latest developments in a volte-face from the February statement: “We are not making cuts because, in actual fact, the fund was always at €60m and then had €10m on top which were not taken up.

“In this respect, I am pleased if we can stay with the €60m because there are positions in the government who evaluate this quite differently from us in the arts administration.

“Film is extremely important: we have just had an outstanding Berlinale, the best year in the cinemas in Germany for 20 years with 26% market share, and two so-called ‘admission millionaires’ with The Physician and Fack Ju Göhte. That would be fatal if we were to neglect placing film at the centre of our work and  policy.¨  

Producers and especially studio operators such as Studio Babelsberg have argued in the past for a removal of the €10m “cap” as the largest amount that can be awarded to an individual project and for the DFFF’s budget to be increase substantially so that German producers and studios can have a chance of competing with other territories offering their own (more attractive) incentive schemes or tax rebates. 

Moreover, it can be calculated that every Euro from the DFFF leads to another six Euros being invested in Germany.

In actual fact, as Grütters mentioned in her interview with 3sat, although €70m ($97m) was made available last year for films shooting in Germany, only €62.4m ($86m) was actually drawn down for a total of 115 projects.

These comprised 41 international co-productions (€33.8m/$46.6m) and 74 German productions (€28.5m/$39.3m).

The international coproductions supported included The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Book Thief, The Voices and The Monuments Men, while Fack Ju Göhte, Der Nanny, Wacken - Louder Than Hell and Biene Maja were among the German films accessing DFFF funds.

The first three months of 2014 saw the DFFF paying out to such productions as actress-director Nicolette Krebitz’s Wild, Marc Rothemund’s Baby Talk, Sebastian Schipper’s Eins Zwei Fünf Acht, and Wolfgang Murnberger’s Das ewige Leben.

The Danish-German co-production Antboy 2 by Ask Hasselbalch was the only international project supported.

Launched in 2007, the DFFF has supported a total of 757 films with €420m ($580m) in grants and attracted additional investment of €2.5bn ($3.45bn).

According to the DFFF guidelines, if a feature film, documentary or animation film spends at least 25% of its budget in Germany, the producer can obtain a grant from the fund for up to 20% of the approved costs.