May 24, 2024

Finland’s industry is ready to appeal to the government as the future of a film and TV production incentive is under threat, with a 25% cash rebate levied on spend on foreign and Finnish shoots in the country conspicuously absent from a provisional budget for 2024, announced Monday. 

“People have been hopeful, so they didn’t want to believe in what the government has been saying. For the whole autumn, we kept hearing they will cut the incentives altogether and that our budget at the Foundation will be cut by a few per cent. The final decision was made on Monday,” said Finnish Film Foundation CEO Lasse Saarinen. 

“All these years when we had the incentives, we had opposition in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. These officials just didn’t like the idea,” he noted. 

But the fight isn’t over just yet.

“I will speak to the Minister of Culture soon and we will make public statements about it. They argue these cuts are necessary, because the state ‘loans’ too much money in general. But our support and incentives actually bring in money,” he adds, calling the decision “bad timing.”

“At the same time when we have ‘incentive wars’ in Europe, with every country trying to one up the other, this happens. It takes a long time to make a country known this way, to show people what are the possibilities to shoot. And now, once we have been recognized, they cut it?”

As the parliament will go over the decision next, there is a “slight” possibility something will change, says Saarinen. 

“It’s so ridiculous to cut it altogether. They have to change their mind.” 

Fanny Heinonen, director of Film Tampere, adds: “The worst-case scenario? That this proposal would be final. In that case, it would be the end of trust in our international partnerships. This is a really incomprehensible situation.” 

“My fears are that if the Finnish government doesn’t keep the national production incentive in the budget, we will not have international productions in the upcoming years, which leads not only to a loss of income and a wave of unemployment, but also dramatic decrease in the quality of national film and TV productions.” 

“It is sad to see that production incentive is not seen as an investment,” she says, mentioning the likes of “Sisu,” “Dual,” “Bordertown,” “Shadow Lines” or “All the Sins” that have benefited from it.  

Credit: Eino Ansio

“The industry’s representation has continuously communicated the issue directly to the ministry, and production companies and industry influencers have stepped it up in the media. We are not done with it yet. 

According to Laura Kuulasmaa, executive director at APFI, the ministry is “still working on a solution to find the funds.” 

“It’s really unfortunate that the budget for AV production incentive for next year was not yet confirmed in the government budget in September. However, we still have support from the government,” she notes. 

“One granted euro generates four euros of employment and investments to the Finnish society and about €1.40 ($1.8) returns to the state immediately. It’s a risk-free, self-financing instrument that has already proven itself.” 

“Naturally, national AV production incentive is a big part of the attractive package, but it’s not the whole thing, especially since we also have other incentives and funding support models in Finland. We have many attributes that attract long-term partnerships and productions,” says Lotta Hanski of Business Finland.

Praising, among others, local crews, locations and “100% guarantee of snow during winter.” 

“The budgeting process is still ongoing and we will wait until the decision is done in December.” 

But local politicians are not “interested in culture,” feared Saarinen. 

“Which is so disappointing, especially when you compare it to our neighboring countries. Maybe not Sweden – they also have a right-wing government,” he adds.

“Minister [of Economic Affairs of Finland] Wille Rydman has understood [the gravity of the situation] and said they are using their ‘magnifying glass’ trying to find the money. But the reality is that our situation at the Foundation will still get worse every year,” he says. 

“Next year, we will get over €800,000 less than in 2014. Because we have so little money, a few years ago we decided not to support production of drama series, only their development. Now, if the incentives are cut, producing high-end drama series will become almost impossible in Finland.”

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