In some circles, it is fashionable to complain about the ” Belgian institutional mille-feuilles “. This is not the case in the film and television production community. Because when the federal government and the federated entities agree to support a sector by using their respective competencies, Belgium can become a model, as it is for the image and sound professions ! Our reputation of ” hot spot The “international co-production market” extends far beyond our borders and even beyond those of Europe.
At the level of the Communities, the audiovisual sector can turn to two offices, namely the Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds (VAF) on the Flemish side and the Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel (CCA) on the French side, which analyze their files according to essentially cultural criteria. In addition, there are three regional funds : Wallimage in Wallonia, Screen Flanders and Screen Brussels. All of this is done in a well-considered complementary manner, since these three organizations analyze film or series projects on the basis of an essentially economic approach.
This beautiful ensemble is crowned, at the federal level, by a now famous tax incentive : the Tax-Shelter ! This measure has indeed allowed thousands of private investors to enter the virtuous circle of Belgian production. They quickly understood that they could optimize their tax burden while participating in the development of a sector that has expanded to include the performing arts.
But today, the health crisis that strikes all sectors of the economy, does not spare the 7th Art. Struck by the health crisis, the world of cinema and television has come to a complete standstill. Theaters are closed, film distributors are on the verge of bankruptcy, filming has been suspended, actors, directors and screenwriters are deprived of financial returns and thousands of independent technicians or those attached to dozens of post-production companies are unemployed (when they are entitled to it).
Condemned to inactivity and deprived of all their sources of income, the production houses which are at the center and source of all this sector of activity are calling for help. But how to be heard in the deluge of desperate appeals launched by almost all the professions, some of which are obviously ultra-priority, such as the health, social support or education professions ?
At all levels of power, people are mobilized to face the crisis. But the means are limited and already hard pressed. All the signatories of this appeal, each and every one at the head of institutions dedicated to cinema and audiovisual, are currently doing everything they can, at their own level, to try to cushion the impact of this unprecedented crisis. But the Federal / Community / Regional pyramid is in reality and financially an inverted pyramid !
To invest in the audiovisual sector, the Regions have a cumulative annual budget of approximately 13 million Euros. The Communities amount to some 36 million Euros.
But the real engine that attracts international co-productions and keeps domestic production alive is the Tax-Shelter. In 2019, this scheme injected more than 130 million of private money into more than 550 productions ! For 15 years, it has been the main source of funding for the sector in Belgium.
However, given the health crisis we are going through and the economic and social crisis that will follow, it does not take a long study of economics to foresee that the profit margins of all those companies that, every year, invest in the cinema via the Tax-Shelter, are likely to melt like snow in the sun, putting definitively in danger of death an entire sector that we are convinced is a vital sector of the future for the young generations !
The financial resources of the federal and federated entities are already under extreme pressure, and we strongly believe that a simple adaptation of the rules of the Tax-Shelter could, without emptying the State’s coffers, avoid many disasters and revive an audiovisual machine whose studies have shown that, in addition to ensuring the artistic quality of our cultural diversity and creating jobs and businesses, it also generates income for the community. ! For example, it has been shown that, for a Belgian project, each euro raised in Tax-Shelter generates a reduction in ISOC of €1.0525 but generates a minimum of €2.95 in taxable income in Belgium (minimum legal threshold).
In this we join and support the producers’ associations and the Tax-Shelter intermediaries who are asking the Minister of Finance and the Federal Government to introduce three changes to the rules currently in force :
1/ For investors : increase to €2 million the absolute exemption limit (currently set at €1 million)
2/ For producers : extension to 12 months of the grandfathering of eligible expenses incurred in films or series supported by the Tax-Shelter
3/ And in the general interest : measures to secure the framework agreements already signed, such as, for example, the extension to 12 months of the deadline for making eligible expenditures…
Without going into the technicalities of these measures, we are firmly convinced that they can represent an effective first step in the revival of the audiovisual economy for which we are all ready to throw ourselves into the battle. Thank you therefore to the Federal Government, its Minister of Finance and all political decision-makers for the consideration they will certainly give to this appeal !
Erwin Provoost Director of the Flemish Audiovisual Fund
Jeanne Brunfaut Director of the Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles
Philippe Reynaert General Manager of Wallimage
Jan Roekens Head of Screen Flanders
Noël Magis Managing Director of Screen Brussels Fund