Foreign film makers may go elsewhere if Czechs do not offer incentives

Barrandov studios

Over the last decade the Czech Republic has had a thriving film industry, with dozens of foreign film companies shooting in the country every year. But a new trend has seen production companies looking further east, to countries like Hungary and Romania, which unlike the Czech Republic, offer attractive tax incentives to visiting film makers. But how long will the Czechs be able to compete? Radio Prague's Ian Willoughby has been finding out.

Barrandov studios
The Czech Republic has attracted dozens of foreign film crews in recent years, partly because of its reputation for high technical standards. Prague's Barrandov studio, built between the wars, is one of the biggest and best in Europe. But despite these high standards, some film producers have begun looking elsewhere in the region.

"More and more films are coming to Eastern Europe. We're still getting a lot of films coming to us, but there are a lot of films going to Hungary and Romania and so on."

says Danny Holman, of production company Stillking Films, which works with visiting crews in the Czech Republic. One major reason the country has begun losing out to competitors further east is a lack of tax incentives. Nick Roddick is film critic with the London Evening Standard.

How important is it to offer tax incentives to visiting filmmakers, and can a country compete without them? Nick Roddick again.

"What tends to happen, and I'm sure it will happen here...the Hungarians have a very good system which was introduced a couple of years ago, I see no reason why the Czech Republic shouldn't do likewise, and introduce tax incentives. But it's crucial for a production industry in a small country."

Crucial it may be, but the Czech Finance Ministry says there are no plans to introduce such incentives. It says it is trying to simplify the country's tax code, and is against making exceptions for particular industries. Danny Holman again.

Barrandov studio
"It's a really short sighted policy on the part of the Czech government. The attitude is, if ain't broke don't fix it. And they're saying there are enough films coming through at the moment. But they will start to go eventually, when further east gets their act together in terms of equipment and service and things like that. They're going to leave the Czech Republic, and once they go they won't come back."

But the Czech authorities may yet stem that flow. The Culture Ministry has set up a new committee which is expected to try and persuade the powers that be of the importance of attracting film companies from abroad.

"Everybody is saying it has to happen. If they don't they're going to lose out on all the money that these foreign films bring to the Czech Republic - the tourist industry, the film industry, everything. It brings a huge amount of money in."