Incentive tool box expands for films

Cultural policymakers use subsidies, tax breaks to attract

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BUSAN, South Korea -- Cultural policymakers from across Asia assembled at the Asian Film Policy Forum on Tuesday to present their strategies to promote and develop film industries in their countries.

Filmmaking funds and subsidies, custom-free imports, tax incentives, infrastructure improvements, plus anti-piracy measures were named as measures to boost local industries and lure foreign investments to Cambodia, Japan, Korea, Nepal, the Philippines and Thailand.

In Japan, the newly established Film Commission is tasked with attracting foreign filmmakers for location shoots and co-productions. The Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan has launched a ¥2 billion ($23 million) "Japanese Film and Moving Images" marketing plan to rejuvenate Japanese film industry by supporting local film productions, promoting distribution, providing training to aspiring filmmakers, preserving and restoring Japanese films, and to implement an integrated program for promoting the media arts.

The agency is also seeking to increase Japanese presence at film festivals around the world, and has developed a program to help Japanese filmmakers participate in festivals. The new government led by prime minister Yukio Hatoyama will also introduce new policies with the help of advisors from within the film industry that aims to encourage collaborations with neighboring Asian countries, said Japan Film Commission chairman Ken Terawaki. "The new policy is shifting the focus from economic development to cultural development," he said. "Japan can now be seen as a new member with new determination."

The Korean Film Council, which oversees the Film Development Fund that amounts to 267.9 billion won ($229 million) in 2009 and has a budget of 50.7 billion won, has provided financing support for local film productions, exports, promotions and industry infrastructure.

KOFIC's goal is to "push the Korean film industry to the next level, which means supporting the Korean film industry so that it can be self-sustainable," KOFIC chairperson Cho Hee-moon said.

The Council has invested 2.5 billion won into the Diversity Film Investment Partnership in 2009, plus another 3 billion won into the Development/Pre-production Agency, to launch 20-30 projects per year. It will also launch a media scale /co-production investment partnership of around 25 billion won tentatively titled "Global Fund," with KOFIC investing 12.2 billion won, to strengthen bargaining power on copyrights through main investment, improve investment return rate through better contract conditions, increase penetration in new overseas market, and initiate experimental projects for industry structure renewal.

Under the Film Development Board, Nepal is giving precedence to co-productions of foreign language films and provides custom-free import of all film related goods for foreign investments, and, said Amar Raj Giri, chairperson of Nepal's Film Development Board. More than 400 million rupees ($5.4 million) is currently invested in the Nepali film industry, and the government has set up a filmmaker welfare fund for the makers of films with a budget of more than 20 million rupees.

Rising in profile and significance in the international festival circuit, with filmmakers such as Brilliante Mendoza and Pepe Diokno winning accolades in Cannes and Venice, filmmakers in the Philippines have received support from their state-run Film Development Council in the form of subsidies totaling 30 million pisos ($625,000) to attend overseas film festivals. The market share for locally-produced films has risen from 25%-35% in the last five years, while boxoffice gross of local productions tallied 1.5 billion pisos in 2008, a third of the year's total.

The Filipino government has also given 370 million pisos in amusement tax rebates to quality Filipino films. Besides bringing in two incentive packages to encourage foreign productions to shoot in the country and creating a strategy for international distribution, the Film Development Council of the Philippines is now also creating a national film archive, said FDCP chairperson Rolando Suarez Atienza.

Meanwhile, Thailand has introduced the Film Act 2008, for which a four-year strategy plan has been drafted with the objective to nurture the local film industry through human resources development, and will announce incentives to attract foreign productions such as tax privileges at the end of the year, said Thailand Film Office director Wanasiri Morakul.

Likewise, organizations such as the new Cambodian Film Commission was established with funding from France's Agency for Oversea Development to attract foreign producers to use the kingdom's scenic locations as film settings, as well as to train local Cambodian filmmakers.

The government has been building the film industry infrastructure by purchasing film equipment and introduced legislation to protect intellectual property rights, said Som Sokun, the Cambodian secretary of state of Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
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