At the German Producers' Day 2023, Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth presented very ambitious, but also somewhat vague, key points for a reform of film funding - the goal, she said, was to get the necessary legislation underway by the end of this year to make funding more efficient, faster and more integral.
The current funding system, through which the federal and state governments distribute almost 600 million euros in funding each year, no longer fits the rapidly changing film landscape (keyword: streaming) and is also too complex and sluggish with its many guidelines to enable productive creativity. The minister summarized the planned project in eight points:
- For example, development funding is to be modernized in order to stop the "creative drain" and strengthen the spirit of innovation and willingness to take risks. Contemporary development and production funding for creative content across the various cinematic forms is to be created.
- Documentary, short, newcomer and artistic films would need their own tailored funding, as these films do not have to be aligned with market logic, but should try out, document and experiment with new forms of cinematic storytelling.
- Incentive funding for film should be improved along the lines of the Austrian funding model. In addition to location funding, the minister believes there should be reference funding that rewards artistic and commercial success earlier. A tax incentive for German and international film and series production should also be evaluated in order to provide better support for independent production companies. More responsibility should be assumed by exploiters, especially international streaming providers, so that the funding system becomes erflgic. The introduction of an investment obligation should be examined intensively - streaming platforms, for example, should be obliged to reinvest a certain portion of their revenues generated in Germany back here.
- The FFA should be expanded into a film agency that can take over all film policy tasks of federal funding. In this way, procedures could be accelerated and better coordination between economic and artistic aspects could be achieved, while maintaining the cultural dimension of funding.
- The funding instruments should be more closely interlinked at the federal and state levels. In this way, the film funding structure between the federal government and the states could be considerably streamlined and the number of grants involved per film project could be significantly reduced. To achieve this, the federal and state governments would have to agree on common principles for film funding; according to Roth, one conceivable option would be a minimum funding quota for federal funding, which would provide film projects with an initial, relevant funding basis. More precise details, however, would have to be negotiated with the states. The participation of public broadcasters in film funding would also have to be addressed. Improved cooperation between the federal and state governments should also strengthen the promotion of new talent.
- To increase the visibility of German films, the reform should also strengthen the structure of distribution companies in Germany. This would also require a rethinking of blocking periods - Roth envisages a tighter and simpler deadline regulation here, which would primarily safeguard the theatrical window and then open up even more than before to individual agreements and industry arrangements. In addition, cinema funding should be more automated in order to give cinemas more planning security and simplify funding.
- In return, recipients of public funding should face up to their social responsibility with regard to diversity in front of and behind the camera, sustainability and gender equality (such as equal pay for equal work, green shooting).
- Finally, the KulturPass for 18-year-olds, which will be introduced this year, means indirect support for the film sector. All young people who turn 18 this year and live in Germany will receive 200 euros for various cultural activities. The example of France shows that cinemas benefit particularly from this.
The key points with their "groundbreaking impulses" were received almost effusively by the German film industry (Produzentenallianz, AG DOK, Deutsche Filmakademie as well as Produzentenverbandes). However, one should not forget that this is a declaration of intent, albeit a detailed one. The big challenge of the exact implementation is still to come. As a commentary worth reading in Süddeutsche Zeitung (unfortunately for subscribers only) points out, several pitfalls lurk in the reform plans. According to Roth, for example, film funding should enable "artistically and commercially successful films," but the mixing of art and commerce is precisely one of the problems with the current funding model. First, only a few films meet both requirements, and second, it is never possible to predict with certainty how successful a film will be.