Poland's new culture minister Waldemar Dabrowski unveiled a government backed bail-out package for Poland's beleaguered film industry at last week's annual Festival of Polish Feature Film in the Baltic seaside resort of Gdynia.
At a special industry forum of Polish filmmakers Dabrowski said that the government had agreed to a budget of US$ 5.5m (PLZ 23m) for 2003 to support the film industry.
While Polish filmmakers hailed the news as a step in the right direction, the new funding will not be enough to pull the industry out of its present crisis. This year 21 mostly low budget, feature films were produced but production levels for next year are projected to be a dismal five films. The crisis has been partly caused by a countrywide recession which has seen businesses reluctant to invest in film. Television, one of the key film backers, has also withdrawn from the sector because of an advertising slump. Not only are production budgets down, but the outstanding debts to film production companies for the previous year's productions stand at US$ 5.8m (PLZ 24m).
Details of how the money will be divided between outstanding debts and new productions has not yet been announced.
"Right now we are just trying to survive," said Jacek Bromski, president of the Polish Filmmakers Association. "It is better than 2002 when the government gave only seven million zlotys but it is still nine percent less than in 2001."
The recently appointed culture minister Dabrowski is a former minister for cinematography, a post that was abolished last spring, and he was greeted warmly by filmmakers who felt that at last there was someone who had a profound understanding of the industry and its problems. Dabrowski has long been an advocate of involving business more closely in filmmaking and he said that the government funding package alone would not be enough to cure all the film industry's woes.
Bromski said: "There are two important bills presently before the parliament that are needed to lay the foundation for a sound industry. The amendment to the charter for radio and television should be passed in October. The minister has promised the new film law will be passed by the end of the year."
The new legislation will generate new funding for film by creating a turnover tax on television. The current law calls for a tax of three percent, while the filmmakers are insisting on ten percent. "In Italy its 20 percent and in France its even more," said Bromski, "this is quite a reasonable amount to request."