Balkan Filmmakers Seek Diversity of Funding, Want to Bring Broadcasters Onboard

Sarajevo Film Festival regional forum addresses financial challenges.

SARAJEVO - Filmmakers in the ex-Yugoslavia countries need to work together to foster a greater diversity of funding sources and bring regional broadcasters on board, industry professionals said Thursday.

Discussing the challenges to funding films in the Balkans at the first day of the regional forum -- an industry sidebar of the Sarajevo Film Festival -- representatives of film funds and commissions noted that budgets of films had been driven down during the economic recession of the past five years.

With funding for national and regional projects mostly limited to national public funds and tough competition for co-production coin from countries like Germany and France, typical regional features were now budgeting between $650,000 and $1.3 million compared with double that five years ago.

"Filmmakers are caught between a rock and a hard place," Jovan Marjanovic, head of the region forum said.

Films struggled to gain backing of public funds, had little or not support from broadcasters and virtually nothing from further down the value chain.

"We need to diversify the sources of support and international and regional cooperation is the answer," he added.

Bengt Toll, former head of the Swedish Film Institute and now consultant with film industry analysts Olsberg SPI, noted that in Scandinavia cooperation between countries that, like the Balkans, broadly shared a common language and history, helped boost filmmaking.

The Nordic Film and Television Fund brought additional trans-national funds to producers who could also tap national funds for majority or minority coproduction’s, he told the panel "Streamlining public funding for coproductions in the countries of the former Yugoslavia."

Panelists from the Balkans said the challenge was that, while regional TV broadcasters enjoyed high ratings for locally produced films, they rarely participated in funding projects.

"Public and private broadcasters see film as the crème de la crème," said Jozko Rutar, head of the Slovenian Film Center.

"But they don't invest in film, even though they have much bigger budgets than film bodies. They just buy films but do not invest, despite the fact that they achieve ratings 10 or 15 per cent higher for local than Hollywood films."

Miroljub Vuckovic, head of promotion and international film relations at the Film Center Serbia, urged greater efforts to tap funds from other users in the industry value chain, including internet providers, telephone companies and other content users.

Sanja Ravlic, head of coproductions at the Croatian Audiovisual Center, noted that Croatian industry activists had spent 16 years lobbying for the center and tax incentives introduced two years ago, which had helped transform the local film industry.