Austrian Filmmakers Fear Public Budget Cuts

Christoph Waltz Oscar Winner - H 2013
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Christoph Waltz Oscar Winner - H 2013

The country that produced Oscar-winners Michael Haneke and Christoph Waltz could radically slash film financing next year.

COLOGNE, Germany – Austria, with a little more than 8 million inhabitants, has long punched above its weight on the international film scene, as evident in the double Oscar wins this year for Austrian natives director Michael Haneke (Amour) and Django Unchained actor Christoph Waltz.

Austria's film industry, however, is now up in arms, claiming that the country's public broadcaster ORF could slash funding for Austrian productions by up to 30 percent next year.

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Like most European countries, financing from public television is a key component of feature film financing. Most of Haneke's films, including Amour, The White Ribbon and Cache, received funding from ORF and the public broadcaster invests around $130 million (€100 million) annually in Austrian film and television productions.

But ORF's current budget expires at the end of this year and the network's general manager Alexander Wrabetz has warned ORF might have to get by with up to $98 million (€75 million) less a year. The budget gap will mean across the board cuts, including in drama and feature film production.

So far, Wrabetz and ORF have not laid out exactly where the ax will fall, though he has pledged to continue to support Austria's film industry.  There is also still hope of a new law to boost state financing for the broadcaster, though that is unlikely before Austrian national elections in September.

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Next week, Austria's main film producers associations and lobby groups will meet to over alternatives to cuts. The local industry had been riding high of late. Last fall the state film funding body topped up its annual production budget by around $4.5 million to $26 million (€20 million). 

Austria's industry isn't the only one in Europe facing belt-tightening. The Euro crisis has made film financing in Spain and Italy particularly difficult and even producers in rich neighbor Germany have been hit after public broadcasters cut primetime slots for local films and reduced their overall spending on home-grown features.