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Hollywood's Future Home?

Silke Bartlick (kjb)February 6, 2008

A new state subsidy model has made Germany an attractive place to make movies. Wooed by the public funding, both illustrious Hollywood movie producers and industry newcomers are setting up their cameras in Germany.

Film in Germany
The grants are designed to entice film producers filming -- and spending money -- in GermanyImage: AP Graphics/DW

"Back to Africa," a documentary about a small African circus' tour of Germany, is the most modest production that received financial support from the state-run German Film Fund (DFFF) last year. Hollywood blockbuster "Speed Racer," by "Matrix" producers Andy and Larry Wachowski, was the most opulent.

"We have a really broad palette [of films]," said DFFF project manager Christine Berg. "We've sponsored the whole group in the middle, but we've also managed to draw big Hollywood productions to Germany -- as well as international and European projects that were produced here."

The "WOO" in the Hollywood sign
The new funding scheme has brought some Hollywood productions to GermanyImage: AP

In 2007, its first year of existence, the German Film Fund subsidized 99 films with a total of nearly 60 million euros ($88 million).

More money, more jobs

Many German filmmakers like Fatih Akin, Tom Tykwer, Caroline Link and Doris Dörrie -- whose new film "Cherry Blossoms" is set to premiere this week at the Berlin Film Festival -- were among the recipients. But the fund's directors say they're less interested in directors' nationality than where the film's budget is spent.

"The film fund rewards productions for staying in Germany or coming to Germany, which leads to more jobs and supports the film sector here," said Carl Woebcken, head of Babelsberg Studio in Potsdam. The film studio near Berlin employed more than 1,600 people last year and produced 11 films sponsored by the fund.

Actors and personnel represent just a part of a film budget. Studio rentals, sets, catering and hotels have to be paid for on location and lead to profits for German businesses.

How to win a film grant

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise filmed his last movie at Babelsberg Studio and received a DFFF grantImage: AP Photo/Studio Babelsberg AG, Frank Connor

The criteria for being considered for a DFFF grant are surprisingly simple: The filmmaker or film company has to have already met 75 percent of its budget requirements. Both German and foreign films have to have a German partner that is jointly responsible for content and commit to spending a quarter of its budget in Germany.

Once the criteria are met and the project is approved, the state gives the filmmakers a grant for 16 percent of the total production costs.

"Now that we have the fund, we've suddenly come under the radar of the big international productions," said Woebcken. "The interesting thing is that we managed really quickly to draw a lot of films to Germany."

More subsidized films coming soon

Founded in 2007, the fund had initial approval through 2009. Culture Minister Bernd Neumann, the project's initiator, announced this week ahead of the Berlin Film Festival (Feb. 7-17), that the government would continue the fund beyond 2009.

Berlin Film Festival
Berlin rolls out the red carpet on Feb. 7Image: AP

"The effects on the film sector and employment were enormous," Neumann told DPA news agency. He pointed out, while nearly 60 million euros were invested in the film industry, over six times that amount has flowed into the German economy.

"Abroad, people are envious of this [fund] model and it's clear that, after such a successful start, we can't just drop it," said Neumann.