FILM AND VIDEO IN AUSTRIA by Monika Bernold
AUSTRIA – A COUNTRY OF MOVIES?
Cinema is not a classic part of Austrian cultural und economic identity. The domestic market is small; there is no national film industry, no film studios. When it comes to commercial film, cinemas are dominated by US productions, with few film distributors, which also operate cinemas, ruling the market. And yet, Austria boasts a creative and vibrant film scene. Austrian filmmakers have been internationally successful for years; they are invited to festivals, their work raking in awards. Vienna has a wide variety of arthouse cinemas and a densely filled calendar of festivals. Numerous local cinema initiatives are an indispensable element of the regional cultural offer. With the help of co-funding by the federal authorities, many small, regional and arthouse cinemas have upgraded their equipment to the new digital screening technology. The fact that arthouse cinemas are able to survive is owed both to the passionate commitment of film and cinema professionals and to the cinema funding scheme installed in Vienna in 1999.
In Austria in recent years, film screening sites increasingly include at exhibition venues, theatres, museums and public places. A large part of people working in the film sector are organised in small production firms, and many of them suffer from unstable employment conditions. Film critique and film mediation are no longer restricted to niches and receive more public attention. The country has a subsidy structure which – albeit in need of further extension and improvement (demands have long been made for a law that mandatorily earmarks ca. 20% of ORF revenues for film subsidies) - enables domestic filmmakers to produce excellent, remarkable, innovative films that obtain international recognition and also find their audience in Austria.
In April 2021, the ÖFI, as the largest funding agency in the country, adopted a 50:50 ratio. Prior to this, the "Second Gender Report" was published, which examined eleven funding agencies that distributed a total of 150 million euros between 2017 and 2019. Only 25 percent of the funding went to women.
After the difficult years of the pandemic, also for the Austrian film industry, a new incentive system for all film productions in Austria will come into force on January 1, 2023, which, it is hoped, will significantly strengthen the situation of creatives in the field. At the instigation of State Secretary for Culture Andrea Mayer in particular, subsidies will be implemented in all sectors without budgetary caps.
For the first time, streaming productions will also be supported, and criteria for sustainability and climate compatibility will be applied to the funding of film productions.