Government approves incentives for filmmakers to revive struggling film industry

The 2009 American comedy “The Brothers Bloom” is out now in the Czech Republic with the unmistakeable skyline of Prague Castle – which gets blown up in the film – immediately catching every Czech’s eye. For years, the country’s stunning locations and skilled crews attracted international filmmakers but foreign productions have recently abandoned the Czech Republic for countries offering better financial conditions to filmmakers. Now the Czech government has approved an incentives programme to revive the Czech film industry which has reached its lowest point since the early 1990s.

The interim Czech government of Jan Fischer has unanimously approved an incentive scheme, put forward by the Culture Ministry, granting film producers up to 20 percent of their expenses back if they chose to make their movie in the Czech Republic. If the measure – part of next year’s state budget – is approved by the lower house, the amount available to filmmakers will reach 400 million crowns (USD 23 million). Ludmila Claussová of the Czech Film Commission, a body promoting the Czech Republic as a filming location abroad, says it is a step in the right direction.

“The incentive scheme is not only to attract foreign productions. It’s for both local film producers and for international film productions. The main aim is not to bring back the Hollywood productions like the media have been saying. The main aim is to save the film industry we have because the infrastructure is here, the personnel is here, the image, tradition, everything is here. But other countries introduced tax incentives and we didn’t. So it led to many productions leaving the Czech Republic and looking for better conditions all around Europe and the world.”

In the past five years the Czech film industry experienced a slump, with turnover dropping by 50 percent between 2003 and 2008. Foreign investment plummeted from 5 billion crowns to 700 million during that same period. The government expects the incentive programme to generate 1.6 billion crowns worth of investment in the industry plus hundreds of millions in tax revenue as well as to create thousands of jobs. According to Ludmila Claussová of the Czech Film Commission the incentives will help the Czech film industry to be more competitive in the global arena.

“It brings us back on the map of the international film production because at the moment we are not able to compete in any way with countries like Germany, UK and Hungary. Now France has introduced tax incentives, the majority of states in the US have incentives, Canada has them. So we were not really able to compete and now with this measure we hope we will.”

Not every film project is eligible for the incentive, though. Under EU guidelines, films need to meet certain criteria to qualify, such as reflect European or Czech culture, tradition, society and history, on top of employing Czech or European crews and using Czech studios and locations.