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Country Focus: Germany

Germany: German funding system (published March 2005)

by 

- From regional to national: A window on the world


The German funding system has long been seen as an exception in Europe. Until recently, Germany had no strong federal funding plan and no Minister for cultural affairs. The regional funds were the only public support systems available to local producers with the well-known "regional effect" that obliged them to spend the money granted in the region, sometimes up to 150%! The whole landscape is now quietly but ever-so-surely changing.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

It often seems strange to foreign film producers that regional film funds are so important in Germany, but one has to first understand the federal structure of the country itself. According to the constitution, cultural and audiovisual issues fall under the competency of the Regions (Länder). Until the early 1990s, German regions all had their "Filmbüro", but one after the other they have nearly all been transformed into private companies with limited responsibilities (GmbH) financed by local governments often with local banks and broadcasters. They are acting in both the cinema and television fields with a wide spectre of support: script and development, production, distribution and sales, festivals and theatres.
Producing a film in Germany often requires the support of more than one regional fund since it is not compulsory to be based in the region in order to apply for support. Being that the obligatory spend factor in Bavaria and North-Rhine Westphalia is around 150% of the support granted, it is quite rare that a producer applies to both. In fact, this only happens with big budget films like the new Constantin Film, The Perfume [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
. A combination between one of the two strongest funds and a "smaller" one (MDM or Berlin Brandenburg), where the spend factor is only 100%, often occurs on financing plans.
According to Ole Nicolaisen, production manager of Celluloid Dreams (Flying Moon Filmproduktion’s feature length documentary about film projectionists all over the world which was supported by both the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and the North-Rhine Westphalia Filmstiftung), "it is fantastic that there are so many film supports in Germany, but it makes the production process much more complicated!" Indeed, parallel to the budget, a German producer has to show each fund how exactly he will spend the money granted in the region (salaries, rental of materials, post-production, insurances, etc.) It then becomes a kind of game to sort out what will be spent where. A game that can often be a nightmare...

Regional funds are inevitable

The historical background of Germany is crucial to understanding the boom of the regional funds in the 90s. After the reunification of the country, Eastern regions had to fill the gap between themselves and the Western regions. A decisive aspect in the creation of the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg in 1994 was the structuralisation of the local audiovisual landscape. This can still be noticed in the support plan run by Kirsten Niehuus, the only fund (with the MDM) to offer a slate funding programme. The Potsdam-based film body is at the core of a very dynamic area with around 10,000 companies acting in the media field and employing 115,000 professionals in both regions. With around €12M a year available for the production of feature films, people in the region affirm that they may not have as much money as other regions, but they are not lacking in ideas! As a matter of fact, some of the most dynamic production companies are based in Berlin or Potsdam such as Egoli Tossell or X Filme. The policy of the Medienboard is not to allocate as much money as others – even though The Small Bear 2 received €800,000! – but to support a greater variety of projects. In 2004, 46 films for the big screen were supported including entries in this year’s Berlinale, Christian Petzold’s Gespenster (Schramm Film ) and Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
(Razor Film Produktion). This figure proves Medienboard to be one of the most active regional funds in Germany.

Created in 1996, the aim of the FilmFernsehFonds Bayern is to develop the Bavarian film industry "not only in a quantitative, but also in a qualitative" way. Financed through the local government, the local TV channel BR Bayerischer Rundfunk, the nationwide broadcasters ZDF, RTL and ProSiebenSat1 as well as the Regulatory Authority for Commercial Broadcasting in Bavaria (Bayerische Landeszentrale für neue Medien – BLM) and Tele München Gruppe, the FFF has a global budget of around €30M a year. Because it is supported by so many broadcasters, the FFF pays a lot of attention to this last category of projects. Another specificity of the regional funding in Bavaria is the close link with the Bayerische Bankenfonds (BBF) created in 2000. The fund is supplied by four local banks, the Bayerische Landesbank, the LfA Förderbank Bayern, the HypoVereinsbank and the Bankhaus Reuschel & Co, which guarantee more than €10M a year. The maximum support is €1M and support of this scale is usually only given to big budget films.
The FFF, run by Klaus Schaefer, allocates around two thirds of its global budget to the support of feature films every year. As in all German regional funds, the loans are conditionally repayable. The fund generally recoups in second position on revenues from Germany and the rest of the World for a period of ten years until full recoupment. The repayment of a loan gives access to a "success loan" (comparable with an automatic support), which can be combined with normal production support. Recently, filmmakers such as the reputable Volker Schlöndorff and Raoul Ruiz have seen their works supported. The Perfume, produced by Bernd Eichinger (Downfall [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Bernd Eichinger
interview: Joachim Fest
interview: Oliver Hirschbiegel
film profile
]
, Nowhere in Africa [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) has been granted €1.6M by the FFF and €1 M from the BBF.

Being the most populated region in Germany and also the most active in the audiovisual business (around 350,000 people working) it is quite logical that the region of North-Rhine Westphalia possesses the strongest regional fund of the country. Created in 1991 and based in Düsseldorf, the North-Rhine Westphalia Filmstiftung has around €36M of funding at its disposal. Run as a private company by Michael Schmid-Ospach, it is financed by the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the regional TV channel WDR Westdeutscher Rundfunk, the national broadcasters ZDF and RTL as well as the Landesanstalt für Medien (LfM).
The NRW fund specifies two schemes for production. "Production 2", which was previously run by the Filmbüro NRW, is dedicated to low-budget projects and resources around €1.5 million a year. The producer must be based in the region. In addition, the NRW Filmstiftung offers €100,000 once a year to one documentary project through the "Gerd-Ruge-Grant." In the main production scheme, the maximum support expected is around €1.7M and cannot exceed 50% of the budget. The producer must bring at least 5% of the costs and must have a distribution agreement signed.
Years ago, Düsseldorf was nicknamed "Paris-on-Rhine" due to the high number of co-productions with France that took place there, the most famous being Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s international hit, Amélie. The NRW Filmstiftung continues to support big budget films like Tom Tykwer’s The Perfume that has been granted €750,000, and international co-productions such as Ken Loach’s new project, The Wind That Shakes the Barley [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Ken Loach
interview: Rebecca O’Brien
film profile
]
produced by EMC Asset Management, which received €250,000.

Federal funding has found its place

The German Federal Film Board (Filmförderunganstalt - FFA) has become a major player in film financing. With currently around €70 million a year at its disposal, the federal funding budget is larger than the two biggest regional funds combined (FilmFernsehFonds Bavaria and North-Rhine Westphalia Filmstiftung). It aims to strengthen the film industry mainly economically through selective and automatic support while the other federal fund, the BKM (Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien) dedicates its €30M to works of a more cultural interest. Furthermore, projects for young people or from first-time filmmakers can be supported by the Kuratorium junger deutscher Film.
So many funding options make the entire financing system quite attractive for co-producers, which explains the relatively high amount of international co-productions compared to other countries. As a member of both European film funding bodies, Eurimages and the MEDIA Programme, Germany co-produces with all other European countries. However, since 2001, a special agreement has been initiated between the FFA and the French Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC) in order to foster co-production between the two countries. The French and German Film Academy supports film projects with a global amount of around €2M a year.

Germany is involved on the 5 continents

German producers are also exploring intercontinental relations with the recently launched World Cinema Fund, which provides support for films with a strong cultural identity (with a focus on Latin America, the Middle East and Central Asia until 2007). The establishment of such a fund will reinforce Germany’s attractiveness as a co-production partner. The WCF has an annual budget of 500,000 €. The money can be spent abroad, but a German partner must be attached. The first projects to receive support early this year originated in Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Nigeria and Palestine.
With its various treaties with other countries (Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Israel, FYR of Macedonia, New Zealand, South-Africa) and its position as a signing member of the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production, Germany has demonstrated a strong involvement in co-production funding in order to facilitate its bilateral and multilateral cooperation. To be officially registered as a German Film, a production must have a certain percentage of German participation in its financing; if the co-production is between countries between which a treaty already exists, there must be a minimum of 20 percent.

One of the most committed producers in terms of international production is certainly the Cologne and Frankfurt-based company Pandora Film. Its well-known producers (‘Baumi’, Reinhard Brundig, Raimond Goebel and Christoph Friedel) travel all over the world in search of new talents. They recently co-produced films by Kim Ki-Duk, Pan Nalin, Pablo Trapero, Pablo Stoll & Juan Pablo Rebella, to name but a few. This shows great promise for Germany’s evolution in the coming years.


German regional funds:

Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg (www.filmboard.de ,)
Date of creation: 1994
Name of directress: Kirsten Niehuus
Total budget 2005: €12 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: €9 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 46
Gespenster by Christian Petzold
Paradise Now by Hany Abu-Assad

FilmFernsehFonds Bayern (FFF - FilmFernsehFonds Bayern)
Date of creation: 1996
Name of director: Klaus Schaefer
Total budget 2005: €30 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: €20 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 30
The Fisher and his wife by Dorris Dörie
The Perfume by Tom Tykwer

North-Rhine Westphalia Filmstiftung (North-Rhine Westphalia Filmstiftung)
Date of creation: 1991
Name of director: Michael Schmid-Ospach
Total budget 2005: €36 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: €25 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 32
Valley of Flowers [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Pan Nalin
Hidden [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Margaret Menegoz
interview: Michael Haneke
film profile
]
by Michael Haneke

Hessische Filmförderung (www.hessische-filmfoerderung.de)
Date of creation: 1996
Name of directress: Maria Wismeth
Total budget 2005: €1.75 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: €1 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 4

FilmFörderung Hamburg GmbH (www.ffhh.de)
Date of creation: 1995
Name of directress: Eva Hubert
Total budget 2005: €5.5 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €3.5 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 19
Barefoot [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Til Schweiger
Laura's star by Piet de Ricker and Thilo Rothkirch
Don't Come Knocking [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Wim Wenders

MFG Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg mbH (www.mfg.de)
Date of creation: 1995
Name of directress: Gabriele Röthemeyer
Total budget 2005: around €20 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €11 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 13
Fateless [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Lajos Koltaï (adapted from Imre Kertész)
Requiem [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Hans-Christian Schmid
interview: Hans-Christian Schmid
interview: Sandra Hueller
film profile
]
by Hans-Christian Schmid

Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (www.mdm-online.de/)
Date of creation: 1998
Name of director: Manfred Schmidt
Total budget 2005: €12 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €9 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 14
My Brother Is a Dog by Peter Timm

NordMedia GmbH (www.nord-media.de)
Date of creation: 2001
Name of director: Thomas Schäffer
Total budget 2005: €9,1 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €5 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 7
Crossing the Bridge – The Sound of Istanbu [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Fatih Akin
The Day Bobby Ewing Died by Lars Jessen

German federal funds:

German Federal Film Board (Filmförderunganstalt – FFA - www.ffa.de)
Date of creation: 1968
Name of director: Peter Dinges
Total budget 2005: €70 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €55 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 24 (for production)
Dalton vs. Lucky Luke by Philippe Haim
Sophie Scholl – The Last Days [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Marc Rothemund

BKM (Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien - www.filmfoerderungbkm.de)
Date of creation: 1962
Name of director: Hermann Scharnhoop
Total budget 2005: €30 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €6 Mio (for production)
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 13 (for production)
Oktoberfest by Johannes Brunner
Madonnen by Maria Speth

Kuratorium junger deutscher Film (www.kuratorium-junger-film.de)
Date of creation: 1965
Name of directress: Monika Reichel
Total budget 2005: around €1 Mio
Feature film support budget 2005: around €1 Mio
Number of feature films supported in 2004: 19
3° Kälter [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Florian Hoffmeister

World Cinema Fund (www.berlinade.de)
Date of creation: 2004
Name of director: Sonja Moerkens and Vicenzo Bugno
Total budget 2005: €500,000
Feature film support budget 2005: €500,000
Number of feature films supported in 2004 (first support in February 2005): 9
Paradise Now by Hany Abu-Assad
El Otro by Ariel Rotter

 

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