COTTBUS: Before the pitching programmes at Karlovy Vary, Warsaw, Transylvania or Trieste, there was Connecting Cottbus, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Setting a goal of bringing together the industry in CEE, Connecting Cottbus is also sharing some of the most exciting news happening in the region, including film incentive plans in Poland, Romania and Cyprus, which are racing to top their (slightly) older competitors.
The official programme takes place on 8 and 9 November 2018, but with so much news happening in CEE territories, Connecting Cottbus kicked off a day early with a panel presentation focusing on selected territories playing catch-up in the field of film incentives. The presentation also gave a perspective on how far the industries in the region have come, and how rapidly they are developing.
Polish Film Institute's representative Marzena Cieśluk told attendees that Poland is poised to launch a 30% cash rebate plan (now in front of the Parliament) at the start of 2019. The incentives will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis for qualifying Polish expenses on films and TV projects, with 47 m EUR available per year. The rebate is capped at 3.6 m EUR per project and 4.6 m EUR per applicant. There is a minimum required spend of 1 m EUR for a feature film. Qualifying projects must have 75% of their budget in place, and there is a 28 day evaluation period. The rebate will be distributed after the final financial report is submitted. No funds will be distributed during the production. The programme, which will be administered by the Polish Film Institute, is expected to attract international productions to Poland. Poland is also launching a new scheme for distribution support in January 2019 for the distribution of Polish films abroad. Polish production companies can apply for up to 10,000 EUR per foreign territory with a cap of 30,000 EUR per film to support foreign distribution of a Polish film. Polish films have been finding surprising success in release especially in the UK in the past two years.
Romania will offer a rebate of 35%, going up to 45%, if 60% of the story is set in Romania. The minimum spend in Romania is 20% of the film’s budget/100,000 EUR, with a cap of 10 m EUR. Romania has earmarked 50 m EUR per year for the rebate. Films and TV series (8 parts for a mini-series, and 20 parts for a dramatic series release per year) are eligible. The proposal requires that all funding be in place when the project applies for the rebate, and the project must have spent the funds within 2 years, with money refunded only after the final audit is submitted. The cash rebate will be refunded within 3 months. The rebate was initially aimed at foreign productions, but its lower requirements also make it possible for national films to benefit. The programme began functioning in October and is awaiting its first decisions. It will function through 2020. Romania also has a proposal for its new film law, which was opened for public discussion and is awaiting approval. The new law will provide support for minority coproductions, with two funding sessions per year. An influx of capital from required industry tax contributions would raise the amount in the film fund from the current 12 m EUR to 45 m EUR annually.
Cyprus is the latest country in the region to announce its 35% cash rebate programme. The programme was announced in October 2018 and applications are now open. Both film and TV projects are eligible to apply. The minimum spend is 200,000 EUR with a cap of 1.5 m EUR. The rebate will apply to funds spent in Cyprus. The rebate programme is expected to increase domestic production, minority coproductions and productions services on the island.
Rolandas Kwiatkauskas, director of the Lithuanian Film Centre, said that since introducing tax incentives five years ago Lithuania has supported 83 films through the scheme. Lithuania requires a minimum spend of 43,000 EUR and has no cap. The incentives apply to all expenses incurred by a Lithuanian service company, both inside and outside of Lithuania. Investment into the scheme, which comes through private investment, is expected to reach 16 m EUR this year with turnover of 84 m EUR, up from 11 m EUR in the past. On 1 January, the rebate will increase from the current 20%, going up to 30%. The new law is expected to pass at the beginning of December and will be in place for the next five years. Most of the funding is going to TV production, but Lithuania is also expanding minority coproductions, with eight supported in 2018.