The German production industry enjoyed explosive growth in the mid- to late ’90s, with companies going public, expanding and reaping the rewards of a booming broadcast landscape. Unfortunately, that golden age was short-lived and by the new millennium, the market had turned 180 degrees. Recovery has been steady, however, and one thing hasn’t changed – Germany still has a strong production backbone, steeled by public funding bodies willing to help producers realize their vision.
The German film and television funding landscape is divided into two separate systems: a federal program mainly concerned with features; and regional (or lander) orgs that support all types of media and really do the lion’s share of funding. Roughly two-thirds of film and TV money available to German producers and their partners comes from regional bodies. To some extent, these orgs even compete with each other to attract productions.
On the federal level, certification for a film or TV project (which triggers domestic funding) is handled by the Bundesamt für Wirtschaft. Such certification is available to films made under copro treaties, which Germany has with Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K. Non-treaty projects are also accepted, provided stipulations designed to ensure German talent is employed are met.
Once a production is certified, it can find aid in a number of places. On the federal level, the most important film player is the Filmforderungsanstalt (FFA). Established in 1968 and functioning as an autonomous attachment to the Ministry of the Economy, the FFA will commit E70 million (US$86 million) to producers and distributors in 2004. FFA funding comes from a levy on successful theaters and video distributors, and through the support of broadcasters.
Funding conditions are divided along two key principles. The first is the reference principle – automatic funding for producers who’ve previously made films that achieved a certain number of points on a rating system. Fiction needs 150,000 points; kids’, 50,000; but docs only require 25,000. Funding help is based on the size of the production’s budget.
The second system, the project principle, is project-by-project funding based on whether the movie is likely to improve the quality of German film in general. If films meet the project criteria, they can receive loans or grants that range from E250,000 to E1 million ($310,000 to $1.2 million). There is also funding set aside for script development and other areas.
The FFA also oversees projects supported by the Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien (BKM). The BKM supports docs to the tune of about E2.5 million ($3.1 million) annually, or up to E250,000 ($310,000) per project (79 minutes or more), and offers script and copy promotion.
The FFA is also the German representative for Eurimages and oversees the German-French coproduction agreement. In addition to all these tasks, the FFA will review program content if asked to by a broadcaster.
While aid for TV is scarce at the federal level, there are literally dozens of TV funding bodies in Germany’s regions. What follows is a quick look at funding at the lander level. Since the methods and requirements of each fund and film commission differ, producers should either partner with a company in the region or follow up directly for a full list of conditions. Most of these bodies, for example, require loan or grant recipients to spend at least 100% of the money within their region, with several asking for 150%. While some require a German production partner, some do not, as long as quotas for regional investment are met.
Regional Funding Bodies
Baden-Wurttemberg Media and Film Agency
Created in 1995, this fund has helped more than 180 doc projects since its inception. In 2003, it had a budget of approximately E11 million ($13.5 million). Aid is available for script improvement, project development, production and post production, as well as for distribution.
Bavarian Film Fund
Since 1996, the Bavarian Film Fund has given about E30 million ($37 million) a year to film and TV productions. Funding includes support for scripts [up to E20,000 ($25,000) to a single writer, or E30,000 ($37,000) for several on the same project], film and TV development [no-interest loans up to 70% of development costs or E100,000 ($123,000)], and production funding for TV and film [up to E530,000 ($650,000)]. There are also distribution and sales finances available, among others.
Note that 150% of all loans must be spent in Bavaria. Film Bavaria is also affiliated with a good locations site available at www.location-bayern.com.
Berlin-Brandenburg Film Board
From its inception in 1994 to the turn of the millennium, Berlin-Brandenburg helped 1,400 projects and distributed E171 million ($211 million) in funding. Applicants must be German and 100% of the funding must be spent in the region. The board offers support for script and project development, production funding and promotions.
Bremen Film Board
In existence since 1991, the Bremen Film Board offers small amounts of aid to filmmakers, including a handful of prizes available to doc makers from Bremen, or who are using the region as their subject. Prizes reach E10,000 ($12,000).
Central German Media Fund
The mdm supports the work of three German states: Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Founded in 1998, the agency offers an average of E12.5 million ($15.4 million) annually.
Money should be spent in Central Germany, but with three regions participating, producers will find a wide variety of locations and potential partners. The MDM offers script development in the form of a E25,000 ($31,000) loan, project development funds of up to E100,000 ($123,000) and slate funding capped at E150,000 ($185,000), as well as production funding, TV distribution/sales funding and support for screenings.
Hamburg Film Fund
The FilmFörderung Hamburg has an annual budget of approximately E9 million ($11.1 million). The fund offers script monies up to E50,000 ($62,000), project development up to E110,000 ($135,000), production support for films up to 50% (although that can sometimes stretch to 80%), and for TV up to 30%. It also offers as much as E200,000 ($246,000) in distribution and sales support, as well as aid for screenings.
Hesse Film Fund
The Hesse Film Fund is a smaller body in existence since 1997. It offers around E2 million ($2.46 million) in aid, mostly as prizes and awards.
North Media is a body that oversees both the Lower Saxony and Bremen lander. It offers support for the development of scripts [up to E25,000 ($31,000)] and film and TV projects [up to E100,000 ($123,000)], as well as production funding for film, TV or media up to 50% of costs. North Media also invests in start-ups and provides presentation support.
Northrhine-Westfalia Film Fund
Founded in 1991, the Filmstiftung is the largest regional fund in Germany at E33 million ($41 million) annually. As with many other German lander, there is a 150% regional re-investment rule in effect.
The Filmstiftung offers support for project development, with scripts receiving up to E20,000 ($25,000) for individuals or E40,000 ($49,000) for groups; as well as project funding for film and TV of up to 50% of costs (or up to 70% of lower budget projects). Distribution aid is also available at similar percentages.
Saarland Media is a small funding body that will disperse up to E70,000 ($87,000) this year – one E10,000 ($12,000) prize for music or sound design and three E20,000 ($25,000) prizes for production.
Schleswig-Holstein offers filmmakers funding for pre-production [up to 80% of costs to E50,000 ($62,000)], script development [up to E30,000 ($37,000)], and project development (up to 50% of costs). There are also funds set aside for low-budget projects, post, non-profit and training. An amount equal to 100% of the loan must be spent in the region.
Other Useful Links:
German film commissions and links to regional location services: