Spanish Film Institute Director Resigns

REUTERS/Juan Carlos Rojas
Spanish Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert

Susana de la Sierra gives up the post amid what industry people see as a lack of government support and will be replaced by Lorena Gonzalez.

MADRID – Spanish Film Institute director Susana de la Sierra has resigned following a series of squabbles with the government over its perceived lack of support for the country's ailing film industry, which has been pushing for higher tax incentives for productions and has seen subsidies cut and ticket taxes raised.

Lorena Gonzalez, a career civil servant who has served as the secretary general of the institute since last February, will replace De la Sierra, the government said on Friday when the resignation became known. 

According to press reports, De la Sierra, 39, handed in her resignation earlier this week following the government’s release last month of a draft fiscal reform that would leave tax credits on local and foreign film spending unchanged at 20 percent.

A panel headed by Culture Minister Jose Ignacio Wert, which had met with film producers to discuss the issue, proposed tax credits of 30 percent, more in line with those of Spain’s neighbors. In France, Germany and Italy, for example, tax credits on film investments can range as high as 40 percent.

According to the draft, producers will receive a 20-percent tax deduction on the first $1.35 million (1 million euros) and 18 percent for everything above that figure, with a cap of $4.05 million (3 million euros). When the draft tax credit was announced, the film industry expressed deep disappointment and claimed foreign producers would now have little incentive to shoot in Spain.

The Spanish daily El Pais said that in addition to her frustration at the tax credit, which was to be approved on Friday by the cabinet, De la Sierra was also disappointed at cuts in the culture ministry’s budget for subsidizing Spanish movies.

When she took the post in 2012, the annual budget was $62 million (49 million euros). That was reduced to $52 million last year and cut again to just under $46 million (34 million euros) this year.

Spain’s treasury ministry has owed $54 million in subsidy payments to local producers since 2012 despite the government’s promises to stump up the cash.

Last November, De la Sierra publicly expressed her frustration over this issue, saying: “We can’t just not pay.”

Her resignation comes two days after the Spanish entertainment industry called on the government to roll back a 21 percent VAT on movie, theater and concert ticket prices, arguing that the measure had caused a 30-percent drop in audiences and harmed Spain’s ability to produce new content.

Press reports suggested that the ex-minister would return to her previous job as a professor of administrative law at a university in the central Spanish city of Toledo.