As the new 25% Finnish cash rebate system for film productions approaches its six-month ‘anniversary’, even the people supervising the incentive scheme are surprised at its success. “Yes, we’ve been surprised,” says Merja Salonen, product manager at Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (now Business Finland), tasked with administering the rebates that were introduced at the beginning of 2017.
“As of mid-May, ten funding decisions had been made, totalling 3.5 million euros, with a further nine applications worth 2.3 million euros in process.”
The total annual cap for the rebate as it stands is 10 million euros, although Merja confesses to “sweet dreams of doubling the incentive budget to 20 million”. The incentive, approved by a Government decree and passed with admirable speed into law, brings Finland in line with other countries aiming to attract film productions to their shores. It completes the range of competitive assets, including Lapland’s uniquely unspoiled natural environment and exotic winter weather, which Finland can offer to prospective producers.
“The Finnish cash rebate system has been designed to be as easy and clear as possible to users. Producers who are considering filming in Lapland, for example, should contact us at Tekes or the Lapland Film Commission, which is one of five regional commissions in Finland. The Lapland commission, under the House of Lapland ‘umbrella’, can help in finding a suitable Finnish co-producer or production service company. To get the rebate, it is necessary to work with one of these production ‘co-ordinators’,” says Merja.
These agreements cede four responsibilities to the Finnish partner: the acquisition of services and staff, the actual rebate application, updating of the mandatory cost breakdown, and arranging audits.
Merja suggests that the funding application should be lodged when at least 50% of the funding for a production is confirmed, and distribution has been agreed. Copies of agreements and letters of commitment must be included in the application.
“The cash rebate is available for Finnish and foreign production companies for feature and documentary films, scripted fiction and animated productions. Qualification for funding is according to four minimum criteria, which are made clear before anyone starts to make the application,” Merja explains.
Firstly, the production must meet the minimum budget in its category for the total production. Secondly, it must meet a minimum spend sum in Finland. Thirdly, the production must include Finnish artistic creative work or landscapes and architecture. Fourthly, a distribution agreement must have been obtained for at least one territory and one platform. Applications are made using the Business Finland online service that also gives details of the minimum spend limits and eligible costs.
The aim is to finalize decisions within 40 days of the application being lodged.
“The rebate is available for purchases and rentals from businesses registered in Finland during the production. Applicants should look at the cost breakdown on the website. Typical costs are Finnish crew salaries, script writing, shooting, post-production, accommodation, freight, scenography and acting,” says Merja.