(Counterpart image: Nicole Wilder/Starz)
An enhanced national incentive is geared up to attract big international productions back to Germany’s locations and facilities.
Television dramas have dominated the international production scene in Germany over the last 12 months. The second season of Epix’s Berlin Station, two seasons of Starz’s sci-fi thriller Counterpart and BBC America’s eight-part thriller Killing Eve, based on Luke Jennings’ Villanelle novellas, all filmed around Germany. Feature shoots have included Switzerland-based, Iraq-born Samir’s Baghdad In My Shadow and Fede Alvarez’s crime thriller The Girl In The Spider’s Web, which doubled Berlin for Stockholm.
In addition, the latest instalment of the Cities Of Love anthology series, Berlin, I Love You, gave international directors including Peter Chelsom, Fernando Eimbcke, Justin Franklin and Massy Tadjedin and actors including Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Diego Luna, Luke Wilson and Jim Sturgess a taste of working in Germany.
Noticeable by their absence are high-budget US productions. Instead they have opted to shoot at facilities and locations in alternative European locations including Hungary, Croatia, the Czech Republic and the UK due to the more attractive financial incentives on offer. Germany’s original federal film fund, DFFF 1, has a cap of $4.9m (¤4m) per project on each grant it awards, and does not back local or incoming high-end TV drama productions.
However, the German government expanded DFFF 1’s brief in the second half of 2017 to attract large-scale productions and more VFX and post-production work to Germany. Although a cap still applies — the industry is continuing to lobby for it to be removed — a new funding strand called DFFF 2 has been created with an additional annual budget of $93m (¤75m). It enables production service providers such as studios or VFX facilities to apply for up to $31m (¤25m) for projects with a minimum budget of $25m (¤20m) and a German spend of at least $10m (¤8m).
Although they may do their principal photography elsewhere, US blockbusters including Marvel/Walt Disney Studios’ Black Panther and Guardians Of The Galaxy and Paramount Pictures’ Iron Man have carried out portions of their VFX work at German facilities, even before the launch of VFX-friendly DFFF 2.
Companies including Berlin-based Rise FX, Frankfurt and Stuttgart’s Pixomondo, and Munich-based Trixter and Scanline are leading players in their individual fields and are rated highly by their US clients thanks to the excellent training backgrounds of the VFX artists from German film schools.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Jakubowicz’s Marcel Marceau biopic Resistance is on track to use German locations when it films in early 2019 as a Germany-UK co-production between Pantaleon Films and Rocket Science, while Altitude Film Entertainment’s UK action comedy Guns Akimbo, set to star Daniel Radcliffe, filmed partly in Bavaria in mid-2018. The state will also provide locations for a quarter of the shoot on Abel Ferrara’s Siberia produced by Munich-based Maze Pictures and Italy’s Vivo Film, which is set to star Willem Dafoe.
DFFF 1, which has an annual budget of $62m (€50m), awards grants to international features budgeted at more than $1.2m (€1m) with a German spend of up to $10m (€8m). They can receive a grant equivalent to 20% of that spend. The grant is 25% for projects with a German spend of more than $10m (€8m). The grant is capped at $5m (€4m) per film and a portion of it is available up front. Feature documentaries budgeted at $247,000 (€200,000) and feature animations of at least $2.4m (€2m) can also access DFFF 1.
The new DFFF 2, which has an annual budget of $93m (€75m), allows production service providers — including VFX companies — to access funding if the project has an overall production cost of $25m (€20m), of which the German spend is at least $10m (€8m). The funding allocated can be up to 25% of the German spend, but not more than $31m (€25m) per project. The two DFFF funds cannot both be accessed by the same project, but it is possible to also receive funding from the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and regional funds in Germany.
The third federal fund is the German Motion Picture Fund (GMPF), which was launched at the beginning of 2016 with an annual budget of $12.3m (€10m) to strengthen the competitiveness and innovative capacity of Germany as a film location. The fund awards non-repayable grants for international co-productions and international high-end TV series, and is open to feature films with budgets of at least $31m (€25m) and TV series with production costs of at least $1.3m (€1.4m) per episode.
Infrastructure and crews
Internationally experienced, English-speaking local crews at all stages of production — from set construction through production services to VFX — mean that visiting projects can dispense with bringing in their own heads of department. Leading service producers include Shotz and Film Base in Berlin and First Frame in Munich.
Flights between the main cities take little more than an hour, and budget-conscious producers can now benefit from the internal German services being operated by Easyjet and Ryanair. The Babelsberg and Bavaria Film studios, as well as Cologne’s MMC Studios, are less than an hour’s drive from the city centre hotels.
First person to call
Mathias Schwerbrock, Film Base Berlin: firstname.lastname@example.org