Belgium is an attractive proposition for international producers. It has a much-vaunted tax shelter system, worth up to 42% of Belgian spend to incoming productions and also offers substantial regional funding through Screen Flanders, Wallimage and Screen Brussels.
The country’s complicated ‘waffle-iron’ political arrangements for its two major regions are to the advantage of film¬makers: Flanders and Wallonia have their own film funds and film agencies. Among these are Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), a local agency with an international outlook that has supported Oscar-nominated films such as The Broken Circle Breakdown and Bullhead.
Meanwhile, production companies and tax shelter financiers including Scope Invest, Umedia and Belga Films Fund are seasoned operators in high-profile international film and TV production, with hundreds of credits to their names.
However, there is the possibility the tax shelter may be damaged by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike tax credits in other European countries, this is not an automatic system: it is a fiscal incentive available to businesses that invest in film production. Industry observers fear businesses simply will not have the profits to invest in the tax shelter in the coming year or so.
“A lot of companies are not making profits this year — or [are making] less profit than previously,” says veteran producer Peter Bouckaert, managing and creative director, film and TV drama at Eyeworks Film & TV Drama. “[The virus] is going to have, and has already had, a huge impact on the capacity in the market to raise tax shelter funds.”
Some are proposing the tax shelter system should now be turned into an automatic scheme. It is accepted, though, that some form of fiscal stimulus is crucial to the wellbeing of the local audiovisual industry and must be preserved at all costs. Any changes should not affect international productions looking to shoot in Belgium.
Belgium lacks a megastudio like a Babelsberg or a Pinewood but locals insist the country offers the crew and facilities that international visitors need. The new Lites studio, which opened last year in Brussels, has five professional soundstages as well as one of the most advanced waterstages found anywhere in Europe. Over the last 12 months it has attracted significant projects, including Leos Carax’s Annette starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver.
At the time Covid-19 stopped production, Lites was also hosting Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s The Deep House, a French-produced English-
language underwater horror movie backed by Umedia, which was due to resume in June. Season two of Norwegian oil drama State Of Happiness is expected to shoot at the facility later this year.
Antwerp-based AED Studios hosted Thomas Vinterberg’s submarine drama Kursk in 2017.
Wallonia-based fund Wall¬image recently invested in Lorcan Finnegan’s sci-fi drama Vivarium, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, while Screen Flanders has supporter Koen Mortier’s Netflix-backed Second World War documentary Liberation Route. Screen Brussels Fund recently backed Italian director Massimo Donati’s road movie/thriller Carnet d’Epices, which is due out in April 2021.
Crew expertise has grown as more and more international production has come to Belgium, and English is generally spoken. International productions tend to bring their own heads of department but Belgium is renowned for its
world-class technicians. The most feted names include cinematographers Nicolas Karakatsanis, who has worked extensively in Hollywood, and Ruben Impens, and editors Job ter Burg (Brimstone, Elle) and Ludo Troch, father of director Fien Troch. Companies such as Lites rent out lighting and camera equipment as well as studio space.