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Film funding and digitalisation

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Martin Hagemann • Producer

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Martin Hagemann • Producer

Film funding in the time of digitalisation: Martin Hagemann speaks on the current amendment of the German film promotion regulations (FFG).

After the spilt-up of zero film in 2006, Martin Hagemann’s new company, zero fiction film, has been concentrating on international features (including Hal Hartley’s Fay Grim [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Jan Schütte’s Love Comes Lately [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
). Hagemann is a board member of AG Dokumentarfilm, member of AG Neuer Deutscher Spielfilm and speaker of the Group of Independent Producers. He is also a member of the administrative board of the German Film Promotion Agency (FFA) and the advisory council of the German Film Promotion Fund (DFFF).

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: Better films and a higher market share of domestic films in Germany are the aims of the current amendment of the German Film promotion regulations (FFG). Can this be achieved by the actual measures?
Martin Hagemann: This can certainly not be achieved by the amendment alone. But it can have significant influence on how things develop. The regulations are being updated every five years in order to adapt the funding allocations to reality. Now, with the current regulations, we even try to anticipate future developments. The technical changeover to a digital rollout in cinemas will take place after the current amendment has already been in effect for two or three years. But we try to include possible developments in the current regulations.

What are the effects of the digital rollout?
It definitely means a radical change for the film industry, although it will affect the distributors and the cinemas rather than producers at the moment. Cinemas will have to change their technical equipment for the digital rollout because film stock will soon be replaced by CDs and servers. This demands considerable investment from the owners. The distributors will be better off: for them the changeover means substantial savings because they can save on costs of film prints, transport and storage. At least a part of this money could be spent on retooling the cinemas’ projection booths.

But the distributors are not willing to take on their share of the costs?
This is currently under debate. But because the changeover will only take place in two or three years time, the legislature has ensured its possibility to be influential through the law’s text, which is formulated in a quite general manner.

Do you think many cinema owners will have to give up?
I don’t think so. Though not all cinema owners will be able to pay for the technical changeover. Especially in smaller towns, where cinemas are an important, if not the only place, for public life. This must be preserved in any case. Here, national, federal and local authorities are in demand. I could imagine that cinema has to change itself. It has to change its programme in order to find new audiences, maybe address more people over 40.

Cinemas should try to become the cultural centre of a town. During the Football World Cup one could see the importance of public viewings. Filmed concerts, plays or operas could be presented in these cinemas. The production of such content could even become a new field of activity for film producers.

The digitalisation of the film industry is made further visible by the fact that Video on Demand companies and telephone companies are called upon to contribute to film funding now.
Their professional representation BITKOM and the telephone companies seem to be willing to pay their share. They more or less take over the part of the DVD market, however.

In the last amendment, of 2004, broadcasters were criticised because their national film funding was inadequate in relation to the number of films aired in their programming. Have they agreed to raise their allocation now?
Negotiations with the TV stations are still underway. The actual state of affairs is that they have agreed to pay the same sum as last time. For many in the industry this is not enough.

An important step for more successful films is to improve the promotion of film scripts.
Yes, there is consensus in the industry. The proposals of the scriptwriters’ association have been widely adopted. Script promotion has been raised and professional scriptwriters can apply for promotions themselves. And there will be possibilities for treatment promotion.

The amendment does not at all affect film producers?
We are glad that we managed to improve the situation for smaller producers. We could make it easier for them to receive promotion by reducing their capital contribution from €100,000 to €25,000. In this way, we ensure that more companies can apply. At the same time we must try to achieve a new way of thinking within the industry: not every film that has been made must also be shown in the cinema. Some can also be released on DVD, TV or VoD.

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