LOCARNO: Swiss film industry calls for additional $22m (CHF 20m) injection of funding; swift deal on Creative Europe recedes.

Cinesuisse, the Swiss film industry’s ‘umbrella organisation’, has called on its national government to stump up $22m (CHF 20m) more film funding each year from 2016 as hopes for a swift deal for Switzerland’s membership of Creative Europe recede.

These latest demands were formulated as part of Cinesuisse’s official response to the consultation on the Federal Office of Culture’s (BAK) Message Culture bill for 2016-19, which sees the global budget for arts funding increase by 14% from $863.3m (CHF 782.6m) for 2012-15 to $987m (CHF 894.6m) .

Film funding from 2016

The BAK is proposing that the film funding programme’s global budget would increase by 17% from 2012-2015’s $188.3m (CHF 170.7m) to $221.1m (CHF 200.5m) for 2016-19, with the annual budget increasing in stages:

  • 2016: $51.9m (CHF 47.1m)
  • 2017: $55.8m (CHF 50.6m)
  • 2018: $56.3m (CHF 51.1m)
  • 2019: $56.9m (CHF 51.6m).

Some 65% of the next four-year budget - $146m (CHF 132.4m) - would be channelled into the selective and success-linked funding categories as well as the new Film Standort Schweiz (FiSS) funding instrument.

The remainder of the $221.1m is spent on film cultural activities such as the promotion agency Swiss Films and funding the Cinémathèque Suisse.

Inspired by Germany’s DFFF and Austria’s FISA incentive schemes, FiSS is expected to have a $6.6m (CHF 6m) annual budget to attract productions to shoot in Switzerland with a rebate of a maximum of 20% on the ‘Swiss spend’.

What will be the first new film funding instrument to be introduced in Switzerland for some 15 years, FiSS is set to come into effect on July 1, 2016 - subject to the ‘Message Culture’ bill passing into law - and could support between five to 0 fiction films or documentaries per year

Internationally competitive

However, Cinesuisse argues that it would be ¨desirable¨ if the new incentive was on a par with those of neighbouring countries or had an even greater financial clout to attract more productions to shoot in Switzerland.

¨An effective location funding [such as FiSS] requires at least $11m (CHF 10m) each year to be able to produce 10-15 fiction films and documentaries,¨ the industry body suggests in its consultation document. ¨The Swiss film industry must produce internationally competitive films in order to attract attention to itself and maintain the desired impetus.¨

At the same time, an injection of  $11m (CHF 10m) annually is proposed for the selective and success-linked funding categories which currently receive around $22m (CHF 20m) and $7.7m (CHF 7m) each year, respectively.

According to the Cinesuisse paper, the financial resources for selective funding should be ¨massively increased¨ so that films can be financed completely out of Switzerland or enable Swiss producers to an important major partner in international productions.

¨Otherwise, Switzerland will not be able keep up in film production with the other European countries,¨ the document’s authors conclude.

In addition, Cinesuisse proposed that the budget for success-linked funding which recognises success at box-office, festival invitations and awards should be raised by $2.2m-$3.3m (CHF 2m-3m) each year from 2016.

Swiss isolation  

Meanwhile, StepIn.ch, a discussion event organised at the weekend as part of Locarno’s Industry Days to provide a snapshot of the current state of play between Switzerland and the EU, showed that it could be some time before the Swiss film industry can become a full participant of Creative Europe’s new MEDIA sub-programme.

BAK Deputy Director Yves Fischer explained that there have been ¨signals¨ from the European Union showing a desire to have Switzerland become a member of Creative Europe and ¨exploratory talks¨ had already begun in May.

However, the EU has yet to issue a negotiating mandate for concrete talks to commence with Switzerland on this issue.  ¨We have done our homework, so everything could be resolved on a technical level,¨ Fischer said. ¨But the overall relationship of Switzerland to the EU can only be settled on an institutional level.¨

Thus, the Swiss government’s compensatory measures with a budget of $5.5m (CHF 5m) to (partly) fill the gap created by the exclusion from MEDIA will most likely have to continue on past 2014 and be more than just ¨an interim solution¨ as Interior Minister Alain Berset suggested last week in Locarno.

Eurimages alternative

As Eurimages executive director Roberto Olla explained, Swiss distributors and exhibitors are now eligible to benefit from the Strasbourg-based fund’s schemes since being ousted from MEDIA. But the sums paid out are smaller than those from MEDIA and Eurimages has only limited resources for its exhibition and distribution supports.

In 2014, around $293,000 (€ 219,000) has been reserved for  six Swiss distributors including Frenetic Films, Xenix Film Distribution and Trigon Film,  while 12 Swiss exhibitors - as members of the Europa Cinemas network - will be allocated  $20,000 (€ 15,000) per screen.


Exclusion from the EU’s Creative Europe MEDIA sub-programme has not only affected the Swiss industry, as sales agent Jean-Christophe Simon of Berlin-based sales company Films Boutique pointed out during the debate..

¨ One of the most unpleasant discoveries for the Europeans from January 2014 was that the Swiss films which had registered admissions in 2013 were no longer considered as European when submitting the funding dossiers. This led to significant losses in revenue for the distributors because if they release a European film in Europe, they receive between $0.93 (70 Cents) and $1.30  (Euro 1) per cinema admission from the EU. Now, they no longer receive anything for a Swiss film.¨

¨Nobody had expected that this automatic MEDIA support would not be automatically paid out,¨ Corinna Marschall of Media Desk Suisse added. ¨ It means that Swiss films will suffer from a competitive disadvantage compared to all the other European films.¨

Simon explained that the Swiss film industry’s present ¨non-European¨ status makes Swiss films less attractive for sales companies to pick up since the European distributors would not be able to access the EU distribution incentives to support the subsequent theatrical releases.

Festival troubles

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily about the effect of the MEDIA exclusion, Swiss Films CEO Catherine Ann Berger said: “What we can’t offset with the compensatory measures are those festivals supported by MEDIA which have quotas of 70% European films.

“Swiss films are now considered as being from third countries and in direct competition from places like the US and China. That will make it very difficult for us especially for larger projects like retrospectives or other film programmes.

“For example, La Rochelle initially wanted to work with us on a retrospective. Three weeks later, they called to say that it wouldn’t be possible because we are no longer part of MEDIA.¨

¨This is a reality we have to acknowledge,¨ she continued. ¨I have had to deal with this reality on a daily basis since February 10 [the day after the anti-immigration referendum]. We have the national compensatory measures, but now there is the awareness that one also needs international compensatory measures.¨

Berger suggested that some of the measures introduced in the interim period during Switzerland’s exclusion from MEDIA might be continued even after the Swiss film industry was welcomed back into the EU programme.  My job as CEO of Swiss Films is not just to ‘plug holes’, but rather to think in the long term about what would make sense for a small country like Switzerland.¨

Disappointing low attendance

Meanwhile, there was a disappointingly low attendance for StepIn’s two open panel discussions on the South African and Brazilian film markets.

Attendance for the hour on South Africa could be counted on two hands, while the discussion on the Brazilian distribution and exhibition scene was mainly attended by colleagues from South America who were probably already au fait with the situation in that territory.

More disconcerting was the fact that Swiss exhibitors and distributors were conspicuous by their almost complete absence at these discussions - organised with the support of BAK - unlike the previous day’s packed venue for StepIn.ch.