May 18 2010

From Troublemaker to Routine

Published by at 01:19 under Articles

SOURCE: http://www.paperjam.lu – Duncan Roberts

THE MODERN LUXEMBOURG FILM INDUSTRY IS NOW WELL ESTABLISHED BECAUSE NEW CREATIVE AND EXECUTIVE TALENT HAS LEARNED QUICKLY FROM THE SECTOR’S EARLY PIONEERS.

It is debatable as to which film is responsible for kick-starting the modern Luxembourg film industry. An argument can be made for 1983’s film Congé fir e Mord, which was made on a shoestring budget of 1.7 million francs by the AFO group and was chosen to open the new Utopia cinema in Limpertsberg. But if Congé… , made by creative and talented amateurs, was more of an appetiser, then towards the end of the 1980s two films really gave the public a hunger for locally made films. Both Andy Bausch’s cult 1988 heist movie Troublemaker and the 1989 Nazi occupation drama Schacko Klak can lay claim to being the birth of professional cinema in Luxembourg. Troublemaker is cited by a whole generation of local directors, producers and technicians as the catalyst for their decision to try and make a living from film. Bausch had also gathered around him a team that included many of those who are now driving forces in the local industry. Schacko Klak, commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the independence of Luxembourg, was such a success that local producers and politicians decided it was high time to create professional structures for the burgeoning industry.
Boisterous infancy

What can be agreed upon is that 1988 and 1989 were pivotal years for the Luxembourg film industry. It was in 1988 that the government created a law establishing a temporary fiscal scheme specific to audio-visual investment certificates (CIAV). This allowed film makers who invested in Luxembourg a 30% return on monies spent in the Grand Duchy. A year later, in 1989, the Centre National de l’Audiovisuel (CNA) was established to “preserve, develop and promote Luxembourg’s audiovisual heritage.” Now located in a purpose-built facility in Dudelange, the CNA hosts film screenings, lectures, exhibitions and training courses for adults and youngsters. It also helps market local productions under the “Films Made in Luxembourg” label. Within the framework of the CNA the Fonds national de soutien à la production audiovisuelle (Fonspa) was created in April 1990 to manage a direct subsidy programme that provided selective financial aid to local productions.

So, by the time Pol Cruchten’s 1992 social drama Hochzäitsnuecht became the first Luxembourg film to be officially selected for the Cannes film festival – it screened in the Un Certain Regard section – the local industry was enjoying a boisterous infancy. The tax certificate scheme had attracted production companies from the United States and Canada who were eager to reap the benefits of the fiscal advantages and make use of Luxembourg’s historical locations. Many of the early co-productions were films and series made for television, but they were nonetheless significant in scale. It was Delux Productions that first grabbed the trans-Atlantic potential with a clutch of made-for-TV films that attracted internationally renowned actors such as Timothy Dalton, Linda Hamilton, Sam Neill and even a very young Kate Beckinsale. But while Delux looked to the Anglophone market, a young local company was forging a name for itself in the Francophone market. Jani Thiltges and Claude Waringo were putting samsa film on the map by making small local films (the company’s first effort was way back in 1987, and it was also responsible for Schacko Klak) and by co-producing films by promising talent from Belgium. Among them were the Dardenne brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre, who made two films with samsa before going on to win the Palme d’Or twice at Cannes. Critically acclaimed co-productions, such as Frédéric Fonteyne’s Une liaison pornographique, followed. But, crucially, samsa never forgot its roots and to this day the company encourages and supports the cream of local film-making such as Genevieve Mersch, Beryl Koltz and Dan Wiroth.

As the end of the 1990s drew near, Delux had moved into feature films that would be given a general, if limited, cinema release with the likes of Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book (starring Ewan McGregor), An American Werewolf In Paris and Shadow of the Vampire (with a stellar cast including John Malkovich and Willem Defoe). Later, the company would make films such as The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Merchant of Venice that would attract global superstars of the calibre of Al Pacino and Scarlett Johansson (both films were shot on what was Europe’s second largest outdoor film set, a replica of Venice built in Esch-sur-Alzette). The Carousel Picture Company – a company set up by former Delux producers – was also attracting international names to its studio-based sci-fi and historical action films.

Flurry of activity

In 1999 Fonspa was restructured as an independent entity with its own director, Guy Daleiden. Film Fund Luxembourg, as it was now called, began to actively promote the local industry and Luxembourg as a location. That meant being present at foreign film festivals and trade fairs, and since 2003 Luxembourg has had its own pavilion in the Cannes Film Market village. The 21st century began with a flurry of activity as the number of productions being made in Luxembourg rose dramatically – 18 feature films were completed in 2002 and a total of 26 projects (the highest number yet) received selective financial support in 2003. The likes of Andy Bausch and Pol Cruchten were still making films. The former’s Le Club des Chômeurs became one of the biggest ever home-grown box office hits, while the latter made an acclaimed version of a favourite Luxembourgish novel, Perl oder Pica. But new local talent was also emerging. Genevieve Mersch, until then best known for her acclaimed documentaries about Luxembourg, made her first feature film, J’ai toujours voulu être une sainte. And young animation director Thierry Schiel also made his debut with Tristan et Iseut and opened the way for others to follow – most notably Melusine Productions, whose stop-motion feature Panique au Village was screened at Cannes last year. Tarantula, a small independent company run by Donato Rotunno that had made a series of short films and documentaries, also started branching out into feature films in the early part of the decade.

But it has not always been plain sailing. The Carousel Picture Company was declared bankrupt in 2005 and others production companies have also stared closure in the face. However, if some companies have failed others have emerged to take their place. Nicolas Steil’s Iris Productions struck gold first time out with Le Club des Chômeurs and is now focusing on francophone co-productions with a social message. Paul Thiltges – brother of Jani – has his own successful production and distribution company, PTD which has made Andy Bausch’s last two films, including his homage to Luxembourg’s most famous screen actor, the late Thierry van Werveke.

That film, inThierryview, was one of the winners at the last bi-annual Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis, which the Film Fund has been organizing since 2003 to reward local talent. The Filmpräis awards now include a separate section for documentaries after consecutive juries noted that the quality of home-made films such as Claude Lahr’s Heim ins Reich, should also receive recognition.

In 2007, in an effort to attract even more co-productions, the tax certificate scheme was extended to include money spent within the EU on Luxembourg projects. This means it can now amount to a total net investment by the state of up to 20 million euros per year, although the highest annual sum has so far been 15.3 million.

The Grand Duchy can now boast some 36 production companies, of which 20 make films on a regular basis. A further 12 companies are specialised in post-production, sound studios and special effects and some 20 service companies that supply audiovisual material are directly involved in the industry. In addition, there are three animation studios and a production studio in the Weiergewann industrial zone in Contern that comprises four sound stages.

Today between 450 and 500 people earn their living from the audio-visual industry in Luxembourg. Those figures will increase as more and more young people attend film schools abroad and young film makers such as Jeff Desom, Laura Schroeder, Govinda van Maele and Saesa Kiyokawa, who won the best short film prize for Routine in 2009, break through. In Luxembourg, the Lycée Technique des Arts et Métiers has been running a BTS (brevet de technicien supérieur) in animation since 1990, and the locally-based EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) training institute for European film producers – with courses in Luxembourg and other European cities – is recognised as one of the best in Europe. In addition, audiovisual coproduction agreements with Quebec and Canada, France, Germany and Austria have been put in place. A similar agreement with Switzerland will be signed in the next few months and negotiations are also at an advanced stage for a bilateral convention with Ireland. It is clear that Luxembourg’s film industry is being taken seriously all over Europe and beyond.

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SOURCE: http://www.paperjam.lu – Duncan Roberts

THE MODERN LUXEMBOURG FILM INDUSTRY IS NOW WELL ESTABLISHED BECAUSE NEW CREATIVE AND EXECUTIVE TALENT HAS LEARNED QUICKLY FROM THE SECTOR’S EARLY PIONEERS.

It is debatable as to which film is responsible for kick-starting the modern Luxembourg film industry. An argument can be made for 1983’s film Congé fir e Mord, which was made on a shoestring budget of 1.7 million francs by the AFO group and was chosen to open the new Utopia cinema in Limpertsberg. But if Congé… , made by creative and talented amateurs, was more of an appetiser, then towards the end of the 1980s two films really gave the public a hunger for locally made films. Both Andy Bausch’s cult 1988 heist movie Troublemaker and the 1989 Nazi occupation drama Schacko Klak can lay claim to being the birth of professional cinema in Luxembourg. Troublemaker is cited by a whole generation of local directors, producers and technicians as the catalyst for their decision to try and make a living from film. Bausch had also gathered around him a team that included many of those who are now driving forces in the local industry. Schacko Klak, commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the independence of Luxembourg, was such a success that local producers and politicians decided it was high time to create professional structures for the burgeoning industry.
Boisterous infancy

What can be agreed upon is that 1988 and 1989 were pivotal years for the Luxembourg film industry. It was in 1988 that the government created a law establishing a temporary fiscal scheme specific to audio-visual investment certificates (CIAV). This allowed film makers who invested in Luxembourg a 30% return on monies spent in the Grand Duchy. A year later, in 1989, the Centre National de l’Audiovisuel (CNA) was established to “preserve, develop and promote Luxembourg’s audiovisual heritage.” Now located in a purpose-built facility in Dudelange, the CNA hosts film screenings, lectures, exhibitions and training courses for adults and youngsters. It also helps market local productions under the “Films Made in Luxembourg” label. Within the framework of the CNA the Fonds national de soutien à la production audiovisuelle (Fonspa) was created in April 1990 to manage a direct subsidy programme that provided selective financial aid to local productions.

So, by the time Pol Cruchten’s 1992 social drama Hochzäitsnuecht became the first Luxembourg film to be officially selected for the Cannes film festival – it screened in the Un Certain Regard section – the local industry was enjoying a boisterous infancy. The tax certificate scheme had attracted production companies from the United States and Canada who were eager to reap the benefits of the fiscal advantages and make use of Luxembourg’s historical locations. Many of the early co-productions were films and series made for television, but they were nonetheless significant in scale. It was Delux Productions that first grabbed the trans-Atlantic potential with a clutch of made-for-TV films that attracted internationally renowned actors such as Timothy Dalton, Linda Hamilton, Sam Neill and even a very young Kate Beckinsale. But while Delux looked to the Anglophone market, a young local company was forging a name for itself in the Francophone market. Jani Thiltges and Claude Waringo were putting samsa film on the map by making small local films (the company’s first effort was way back in 1987, and it was also responsible for Schacko Klak) and by co-producing films by promising talent from Belgium. Among them were the Dardenne brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre, who made two films with samsa before going on to win the Palme d’Or twice at Cannes. Critically acclaimed co-productions, such as Frédéric Fonteyne’s Une liaison pornographique, followed. But, crucially, samsa never forgot its roots and to this day the company encourages and supports the cream of local film-making such as Genevieve Mersch, Beryl Koltz and Dan Wiroth.

As the end of the 1990s drew near, Delux had moved into feature films that would be given a general, if limited, cinema release with the likes of Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book (starring Ewan McGregor), An American Werewolf In Paris and Shadow of the Vampire (with a stellar cast including John Malkovich and Willem Defoe). Later, the company would make films such as The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Merchant of Venice that would attract global superstars of the calibre of Al Pacino and Scarlett Johansson (both films were shot on what was Europe’s second largest outdoor film set, a replica of Venice built in Esch-sur-Alzette). The Carousel Picture Company – a company set up by former Delux producers – was also attracting international names to its studio-based sci-fi and historical action films.

Flurry of activity

In 1999 Fonspa was restructured as an independent entity with its own director, Guy Daleiden. Film Fund Luxembourg, as it was now called, began to actively promote the local industry and Luxembourg as a location. That meant being present at foreign film festivals and trade fairs, and since 2003 Luxembourg has had its own pavilion in the Cannes Film Market village. The 21st century began with a flurry of activity as the number of productions being made in Luxembourg rose dramatically – 18 feature films were completed in 2002 and a total of 26 projects (the highest number yet) received selective financial support in 2003. The likes of Andy Bausch and Pol Cruchten were still making films. The former’s Le Club des Chômeurs became one of the biggest ever home-grown box office hits, while the latter made an acclaimed version of a favourite Luxembourgish novel, Perl oder Pica. But new local talent was also emerging. Genevieve Mersch, until then best known for her acclaimed documentaries about Luxembourg, made her first feature film, J’ai toujours voulu être une sainte. And young animation director Thierry Schiel also made his debut with Tristan et Iseut and opened the way for others to follow – most notably Melusine Productions, whose stop-motion feature Panique au Village was screened at Cannes last year. Tarantula, a small independent company run by Donato Rotunno that had made a series of short films and documentaries, also started branching out into feature films in the early part of the decade.

But it has not always been plain sailing. The Carousel Picture Company was declared bankrupt in 2005 and others production companies have also stared closure in the face. However, if some companies have failed others have emerged to take their place. Nicolas Steil’s Iris Productions struck gold first time out with Le Club des Chômeurs and is now focusing on francophone co-productions with a social message. Paul Thiltges – brother of Jani – has his own successful production and distribution company, PTD which has made Andy Bausch’s last two films, including his homage to Luxembourg’s most famous screen actor, the late Thierry van Werveke.

That film, inThierryview, was one of the winners at the last bi-annual Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis, which the Film Fund has been organizing since 2003 to reward local talent. The Filmpräis awards now include a separate section for documentaries after consecutive juries noted that the quality of home-made films such as Claude Lahr’s Heim ins Reich, should also receive recognition.

In 2007, in an effort to attract even more co-productions, the tax certificate scheme was extended to include money spent within the EU on Luxembourg projects. This means it can now amount to a total net investment by the state of up to 20 million euros per year, although the highest annual sum has so far been 15.3 million.

The Grand Duchy can now boast some 36 production companies, of which 20 make films on a regular basis. A further 12 companies are specialised in post-production, sound studios and special effects and some 20 service companies that supply audiovisual material are directly involved in the industry. In addition, there are three animation studios and a production studio in the Weiergewann industrial zone in Contern that comprises four sound stages.

Today between 450 and 500 people earn their living from the audio-visual industry in Luxembourg. Those figures will increase as more and more young people attend film schools abroad and young film makers such as Jeff Desom, Laura Schroeder, Govinda van Maele and Saesa Kiyokawa, who won the best short film prize for Routine in 2009, break through. In Luxembourg, the Lycée Technique des Arts et Métiers has been running a BTS (brevet de technicien supérieur) in animation since 1990, and the locally-based EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs) training institute for European film producers – with courses in Luxembourg and other European cities – is recognised as one of the best in Europe. In addition, audiovisual coproduction agreements with Quebec and Canada, France, Germany and Austria have been put in place. A similar agreement with Switzerland will be signed in the next few months and negotiations are also at an advanced stage for a bilateral convention with Ireland. It is clear that Luxembourg’s film industry is being taken seriously all over Europe and beyond.

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