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Industry Report: Financing

Focus on North Rhine-Westphalia: The pursuit of a dream


- Many regions in Germany have had a long tradition in the cinema industry: Berlin, Bavaria or Hamburg have made a name for themselves in the field of cinema production. North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) does not belong to this group, or better said, did not belong to this group. In the last years not only local figures as Hans Christian Schmid or Tom Tykwer have shot in the region, but also international stars such as Stephen Frears, David Cronenberg, Lars von Trier or Stephen Daldry chose NRW to develop their projects.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Around 20 years ago the regional government fixed the aim of bringing NRW to the forefront of the European cinema industry. In this time the foundation has supported more than 1400 films with a budget totalling over Euro 480m. The experience constitutes an excellent case study on how to build an industry from bottom to top since NRW has become one of the most attractive European locations for national and international productions.

With a population of roughly 18m inhabitants North Rhine-Westphalia has 883 screens with more than 160.000 seats and a box office of Euro 206.716 and a cinema attendance of 1,7 times per inhabitant a year.

1.- Filmstiftung North Rhine-Westphalia

Filmstiftung NRW ( was created in the 90’s to promote the film industry in North Rhine-Westphalia. Since then it has become the leading regional fund in Germany in terms of money, with a budget amounting to Euro 34m in 2008, of which Euro 22m go to support cinema production. Its headquarters was established in Dusseldorf.

Shareholders of the NRW Filmstiftung:
Federated State of North Rhine-Westphalia35%
Westdeutscher Rundfunk, WDR (Regional public broadcaster)40%
RTL Television GmbH (Privete broadcaster)10%
Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, ZDF (Public broadcaster)10%
Landesanstalt für Medien Nordrhein-Westfalen (Regional Media Institute)5%

In addition, the foundation is involved in several institutions and initiatives as the Cologne International Film School (, the Adolf Grimme Institute (, the Filmforum NRW, German Films (, the German Camera Prize ( or the French-German Film Meetings (

Among the several support schemes can be found the project development scheme, the scriptwriting scheme, the production scheme or the distribution and exhibition schemes; as well as others for new talents, television projects, attendance to festivals and post-production.

Financial support for film productions is generally granted as an interest-free loan, repayable out of up to 50% of the producer’s profit (producer’s share in the revenues once he has recouped his investment) over a term of up to ten years after the premiere of the film.

The producer’s own investment must be higher than 5% of the budget and the overall amount of granted money should not exceed 50% (70% for low cost and difficult productions) of the budget. Here applies the so called regional effect, meaning that at least 150% of the granted money must be spent in NRW. The higher is this effect the higher is the chance to get funded. Without prejudice of this, the producer is allowed to spend at least 20% of the budget outside the region within Germany or the EU. There are two schemes for this purpose; the so called Produktion and the simplified version (see below) Produktion 2, for ordinary productions and low budget projects respectively. The overall allocation for the latter amounts to around Euro 1,5m, while the former represents the lion’s share of the foundation’s budget.

Grants for screenplay development have a ceiling of Euro 20k, while those for project development do not exceed Euro 75k (Euro 150k in the case of packages of projects). The distribution scheme can grant up to 50% of the P&A costs (70% for films especially difficult to release). The premiere has to take place in North Rhine-Westphalia and the applicant has to spend as much money as possible in the region, investing himself at least 30% of the budget. If the film goes into profit, the distributor should pay the loan back out of his fee after having broken even.

In addition, most of the schemes have a simplified version for works with a strong cultural dimension; i.e. for screenplays up to Euro 10k, for project development up to Euro 25k or for distribution up to a maximum of Euro 35k. The simplified version of the production scheme applies for films with a budget under Euro 1m, which can be granted up to Euro 100k-. This type of subsidy is non-repayable.

The film production’s budget in 2009 was spent as follows (New rules and schemes were introduced in the refurbishment of the guidelines in 2010. The former guidelines apply for this breakdown):

SchemeNumber of projectsAmount (in Euro)
Film production5918.970.638
Projects for TV87.085.000
Low budget projects, animations and experimental films161.627.532
Short films22416.350
New talents191.123.893
Overall production expenditure29.429.004
Source: Filmstiftung NRW

2.- NRW Film Commission

The film commission is body attached to the NRW Filmstiftung founded in 1999. It is in charge of raising awareness of the region as a film location and attracting national and international productions to shoot or post-produce there, as well as of putting producers in contact with cinema service providers and informing of the facilities. There is also a website at disposal to look for locations (, where information regarding the network of 34 film cities in the region can be founded.

3.- Medienforum NRW

With over 3500 visitors, the International Media Congress ( is one of the most important media events hosted in North Rhine-Westphalia and supported by the regional government and the Regional Media Institute. It has been taking place for more than 20 years in the city of Cologne, gathering some of the most important figures of the international media panorama along the three-day congress and offering conferences, presentations, case studies and networking events for media professionals. Medienforum NRW is an umbrella that consists of four different congresses focusing on television, cinema, advertising and digital media respectively, as well as a television festival.


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