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EXCLUSIVE: The government raises Film Estonia’s 2022 cash-rebate budget to €5.4 million


- The €3.4 million increase, a one-off initiative for the time being, has been welcomed by the Estonian Film Institute

EXCLUSIVE: The government raises Film Estonia’s 2022 cash-rebate budget to €5.4 million
CEO of the Estonian Film Institute Edith Sepp

Earlier this week, the Estonian government raised Film Estonia’s 2022 cash-rebate budget from €2 million to €5.4 million. It has been estimated that the additional funding will attract around €11.4 million to Estonia, with a net impact on the local economy of at least €8 million. The provision marks a €3.4 million increase over the regular €2 million yearly budget.

Cineuropa had the chance to speak to Edith Sepp, the CEO of the Estonian Film Institute, who explained some important details about the provision: “The Estonian cash-rebate programme, Film Estonia, was exhausted already, for the whole of 2022, by January. We applied for additional governmental funding in February. However, the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine started, and Estonia has been supporting the Ukrainians with extraordinary measures. All of our government’s attention was – and is, rightly – on the war in Ukraine. Therefore, the government’s decision was delayed. At the moment, it is a one-off increase, but before the summer, we will apply to keep this amount for the coming years. The idea is to have a four-year perspective with the maximum sum of €20 million, and use it as needed. We have asked consultancy firm Olsberg SPI to analyse the 2021 cash-rebate projects. Once their research is completed, we will approach the government with some solid facts and figures.”

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Sepp received the news of the budget increase favourably, but considers it just “a first step”, set to be followed by further actions. “We have many projects on the table already – for example, Nordisk Film has a few projects lined up, and we have a TV series about our local own ‘Titanic story’ in the Baltic Sea – the sinking of the Estonia ferry in 1994. The [cash rebate] scheme is automatic, so it’s a rather straightforward process. On the other hand, we will also explore the opportunity to tighten the existing system,” Sepp said.

She also reassured Cineuropa that there wouldn’t be any overly radical changes: “We will remain rather liberal, and we take pride in having a clear, fast and uncomplicated mechanism. However, we need to do a bit of fine-tuning. For example, today, we have projects coming in for their initial funding, but they should really apply when at least 70% of the budget is in place, and Estonia is simply a top-up financier. Today, we ask for only 50% of the financing. This is also understandable because we were late coming into the market – only arriving in 2016 – and we needed to be attractive. Then Tenet [+see also:
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came to Estonia, and now we don’t really need to be so liberal. One measure is endlessly increasing the cash-rebate fund, the other is tightening the rules. We are trying to find the right balance, and if circumstances change, we need to change with them.”

Speaking about the fund’s strategies, she added: “As the chief executive of a national fund, I am also working very carefully to try to ensure that Estonian national film funding – namely, movies in the Estonian language and about Estonian culture – will remain in balance with the cash-rebate funding. It is great that Estonia is a popular destination for location shooting. However, the cash-rebate system and market changes are shaping the entire ecosystem, and we have to support the needs of our own film directors and other creators. Usually, creators do not benefit from the cash-rebate system. Therefore, the first task of a film institute is to look after their own. That is what we try to do, and that is our primary focus. I also think we will hear more and more talk about the future of national, and European, films. COVID-19, the war and a generally fast-changing industry have put us in a situation where we really need to start asking hard questions, but also to find some really credible answers.”

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