Silver Screen, Gold Disc

Silver Screen, Gold Disc
Uwe Boll and the German Tax Code

Allen Varney | 23 Jan 2007 11:00
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Germany has, or had until 2006, the most generous shelters for filmmakers. Many other Western countries have similar filmmaking tax incentive programs (.PDF), extolled by funding consultants such as Peacefulfish.

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Blogger Stuart Wood, among many others, speculates Boll's films are intended to lose money. Were this theory true, it could help explain egregious expenses such as the accidental (?) shipment of 5,500 excess prints of BloodRayne. From a studio's perspective, might "Hollywood accounting" make it desirable to push a given film from break-even to tax write-off? Not so, Epstein tells The Escapist. "No, it is never advantageous to lose money, though a tax shelter may time-shift tax losses to a later year." Given Boll's career to date, and his likely performance ahead, that is weak consolation.

Still, we may at least take heart that, even in the extremely modest German film industry, it's possible to build a successful career in independent film. John Boorman, who directed Deliverance (not to be confused with Boll's forthcoming BloodRayne II: Deliverance), wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian (September 6, 2003) about the travails of the modern indie filmmaker in "the arthouse ghetto of low budgets and deferred fees":

"The independent film has to squeeze into margins and corners not occupied by the bullying blockbusters. The finance is cobbled together from co-productions, tax shelters, territorial pre-sales and, if you are lucky, as I was with my film Truth [released in 2004 as Country of My Skull], money from the [lottery-supported United Kingdom] Film Council. (I won £2m on the lottery without buying a ticket.)

"It took 18 lawyers to reconcile the contracts of all the participants. During those long weeks, as I waited in South Africa with my cast and crew, the picture teetered on the verge of collapse. A feature of independent films is that most of them fall apart, often days before they are due to start shooting, and, even sadder, sometimes a week or two after they have begun."

We don't like to think about it, but Uwe Boll represents a canonical indie success. Through shrewdness and persistence, Dr. Boll has successfully gamed the system and earned millions doing exactly what he wants. Tax shelter schemes for filmmakers have reduced barriers to entry and helped level the playing field for everybody - which means, unfortunately, everybody.

On the bright side, this proves a positive lesson: If he can do it, you can too. Anybody can.

Allen Varney designed the PARANOIA paper-and-dice roleplaying game (2004 edition) and has contributed to computer games from Sony Online, Origin, Interplay and Looking Glass.

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