Movie laws discourage foreign directors

April 12, 2009, Sunday/ 13:19:00/ MİNHAC ÇELİK
Making movies in Turkey can be quite a challenge, particularly for foreign directors, due to Turkey's filmmaking regulations, which significantly bring down the number of foreign-made movies shot in Turkey.Experts agree that if Turkey's regulations were changed to be less discouraging, moviemakers would be lining up in front of Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism for filming permits.

Despite its many advantages, such as natural beauty and a diverse climate, foreign directors have not chosen Turkey as a favorite filmmaking location since they have, understandably, been turned off by Turkey's legal regulations, exhausting red tape and tax requirements, which drive up costs and prolong shooting time.

Many prominent members of the Turkish cinema sector stressed that if the necessary changes were made, there would be a queue of foreign filmmakers eager to shoot films in Turkey. It would be of great benefit not only in terms of foreign investment but also as an excellent opportunity to promote Turkey's unique landscape and cultural and historical heritage.

Haluk Önal, secretary-general of the Scriptwriters Association of Turkey (Sen-Der), complained about high taxes and customs problems in a phone call to Sunday's Zaman. However, he said there were very successful firms that have a strong background in providing good quality line production services including technical and administrative support. He drew a similarity between the cinema and tourism sectors in Turkey, saying, “What Turkey achieved in tourism after the '80s could be reached in this industry through long-term policies.''

Talking to Sunday's Zaman, Ali Akdeniz from Anka Film, a Turkish-based line production services company, noted that he has trouble explaining to his foreign counterparts the reason why movie producers must pay taxes to the Turkish government while many countries pledge to partly reimburse shooting expenses. He admits Turkey is superseded by some countries due to their lack of regulations. “jIn Bulgaria there are two or three $50 million projects in progress every year; yet, I am trying to persuade a German movie company to wait until a new tax bill is passed by the Turkish Parliament.''

As Akdeniz asserts, many countries offer special advantages for foreign moviemakers, unlike Turkey, where the Ministry of Culture and Tourism only supports projects with Turkish partners. In Morocco, where the first foreign film was shot in 1897, the Moroccan Cinematographic Center (CCM) provides a number of price reductions in transport and accommodation and effectively simplifies legal procedures. Moroccan authorities are busy with a project that will transform the city of Ouarzazate into a film production paradise, predicting that at the end of the project, which has a $3 million budget, it will create a $180 million market and 8,000 new jobs in 2016.

Akdeniz also states that inconsistencies among various state agencies in the application of legal and bureaucratic rules are another factor that makes life difficult for foreign moviemakers. For example, he says it is practically impossible to import imitation firearms and weapons for use in battle scenes to Turkey due to the immense difficulty at Customs, which in turn leads to low-quality scenes in films. He continued: “Every time I present documents to prevent film from being X-rayed at airport security checkpoints, I have to explain again and again each time there is a different police officer on duty.”

A group from Sen-Der has prepared a draft tax incentive document which is currently awaiting Ministry of Culture and Tourism approval before being sent to the Turkish Parliament.

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