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Monday, November 21, 2005

Apparently, the German tax shelter may be dead, drying up a source of revenue for the motion picture studios. I'm not sure the tax shelter was helping indie filmmakers, though there have been from time to time other German monies for, say, doing your post-production in Berlin.

Outside of the US, all the national film industries survive on government support. French films are subsidized directly, and there are also requirements that a certain percentage of TV aired in France be officially made by European filmmakers. Certain blessed British producers have access to money that comes from the national lottery. "Canadian content" pictures (films made by Canadian writers, directors and actors) get a big production subsidy, and Canadian broadcasters are required to air a certain amount of homegrown product. Telefilm Canada can also at its discretion support films it deems worthy because they speak to Canadian culture. Producing outside the US is partly a chase after the various government goodies.

This accounts for the different flavors of the different national cinemas. If you have to please the audience alone, you get American-style movies. But some films out of France seem to be made with apparent total disregard for audiences, perhaps because they are so heavily supported by their government.

I don't know that there's an incentive system that will guarantee that filmmakers make culturally worthy films that audiences want to see. It's the filmmakers that have to figure out how to bridge the gap -- how to make an audience-pleasing film that also speaks to culture. And it's important they figure that out, because the audience is also the voters. And if they have to pay taxes to have a national cinema, they're going to want to know what they bought.



Indeed there is a balancing act to be played here, but there is absolutely no reason why the two concerns - culture and profitability - can't be met. As a writer who is now pitching a european company on a project, I realize that my work may have to jump through some legislative hoops. Fortunately for all concerned, countries within the EU are beginning to consolidate interests.

By Blogger Bill Cunningham, at 3:33 PM  

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