Veto of film incentives ignores economic benefits, says producer Matthew Stillman

Foto: Christian Wagner / Stock.XCHNG

Czech President Václav Klaus this week vetoed a bill which would enhance state support for Czech filmmakers and increase tax incentives for foreign film productions. The president argued there was no reason why the film industry, a business like any other, should receive public funding. The bill may yet come into force, if the veto is overturned by MPs. For now, however, the industry cannot expect any public support in future. RP spoke to Matthew Stillman who is the head of Stillking Films, the country’s largest production company for foreign movies. He says the uncertainty has already hit the industry.

Photo: Christian Wagner,  stock.XCHNG
“Practically speaking, we had a film with George Clooney who wanted to come to shoot in the Czech Republic for a film that starts in January. He’s directing it and it stars him and Daniel Craig. That’s a film that would bring a lot of attention. His first choice was the Czech Republic. But because the subsidy situation is not clear and it’s not clear when the final decision will be made, they are now going to Germany.

“Germany made them feel welcome, provided incentives on a timely basis and so it’s being done there. There is an economic impact on the country, and there is an opportunity that has been missed, and there are all sorts of secondary things.”

But even if the veto gets overridden by MPs, the state fund for the support of cinema should only have some 15 million US dollars. Is that enough to get more foreign film productions here?

“This bill provides for the film fund that has two roles. One is support for Czech film, the other is providing incentives for foreign films. I don’t think the amount that would be allocated between the two has been fixed. That has to be done by the fund director when he is appointed when the law is passed. If it passed by the deputies, there might also be a chance through the lower house’s budget committee and other processes to increase the amount of money that is available for foreign film incentives.

Matthew Stillman,  photo: Stillking Films
“But unfortunately, this issue comes on in the week when Germany increased there subsidies for foreign films by 10 million euros to 70 million euros. It comes at the same time when the British government announced a 15-percent increase in the amount of money they are spending on foreign film incentives; they now spend about 150 million euros attracting foreign films to the UK.

“So all the other competitive countries that that are generally run by right-wing governments, it has to be said, have introduced and increased the subsidies. The Czech Republic hasn’t and is suffering because of that. It seems counter-economic to me. I’m just not sure whether the homework has been done by everybody in order to understand the economic benefit that comes from foreign films.”

The veto also affects Czech filmmakers who might not be able to apply for state support. But you work with film productions in the US where there is no support for local filmmakers – why should it exist here?

“That’s a cultural question for each country to look at. You have to consider the history of it, the tradition in the Czech Republic, the fact that the country has an amazing tradition of people, studios, and infrastructure. It doesn’t just have an impact on the country internally but also internationally.

Václav Klaus,  photo: CTK
“When the Czech Republic is profiled for its film industry, whether it’s a foreign film shooting here or Czech films shown abroad, it’s a huge it’s a huge amount of free publicity for the country. When Tom Cruise was in Prague, newspapers around the world talked about Prague and Tom Cruise every single day. When Jan Svěrák makes a Czech film that is nominated for an Oscar, everybody is talking about that for a month. So on the cultural basis and on the economic basis, there are certainly compelling reasons for both to be supported.”