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Country Focus: Germany

Germany 2007 - Andro Steinborn: A producer's view on the new German Federal Film Fund


Berlin-based X-Filme Creative Pool is one of Germany's leading production houses and is the co-producer of Bille August's Goodbye Bafana [+see also:
film profile
which was selected for the Berlinale 2007 competition. X-Filme's Head of Business & Legal Affairs, Andro Steinborn, gave his first reactions to about the German Federal Film Fund.

"I am really looking forward to seeing how the model works in practice and whether it actually becomes an additional component in the financing of German feature films or whether this 15 - 20% one is supposed to get is then cut in other places," Steinborn says. "I have already heard of cases where the production subsidy appears in the financial plan and the broadcasters then think that they can pay less."

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He hopes that the rebate model will enable German producers to have more money to put up on the screen "because that's what we are missing at the moment. The budgets aren't growing, but the demands of those distributing the films nationally and internationally are nevertheless higher. It's the same here with the TV stations in Germany who want to have films that look like they were made for 10 million, but only want to pay 300,000!"

One problem he identifies is concerning the cash flowing of bigger projects: "You have the opportunity of applying for the subsidy to be paid in instalments by the FFA, but the question is how far the banks will be prepared to cash flow this rebate themselves. Perhaps there will be financiers out there who will offer their services as an equity fund to cash flow this money. I know the situation of the New York tax rebate where you go to a private equity fund specialized in cash flowing these rebates and they take a huge chunk as a fee upfront. That would be a real shame if all of the benefit of such a program disappeared in costs for interim financing."

At the same time, Steinborn is definitely convinced that the incentive model could help promote more co-productions with Germany. "I can already see this with some of our own projects that we were planning to shoot in studios in Eastern Europe," he notes, "since the budgets are now being calculated anew with the idea that at least some of the shoot could be done in Germany."

"The shooting costs would probably still be lower in Eastern Europe, but then there are other benefits one can offer as foreign producers: as X International, for example, we are in the fortunate position of being able to access gap and equity finance from a bank as partner plus subsidies – so we can put up around 50% of a budget from here," he argues. "I think that, as a rule, one would therefore find better partners in Germany than, say, in Hungary or Romania because a foreign producer would have access here to strong distribution partners and such a large key market."

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