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Greek Creators in a State of Emergency
4 March 2014
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Despite the recent blooming of Greek Cinema, with praising articles in the international press and a constant presence in international festivals, back home, a whole community is struggling to survive. The lack of money from the Greek public bodies has brought almost finished co-productions founded by Eurimages on the verge of losing the fund. Moreover, domestic productions are suspended due to the sudden shutdown of ERT S.A., the national television.

In this context, two important actions took place these days in Athens. The first one, an open letter addressed to the Greek state officials, from Panos H. Koutras, director of A Woman’s Way, and the producer of his new film Xenia, Eleni Kossyfidou, attempting to draw attention to their almost-finished film and to the filmmaking in Greece in general. The second, a press conference held by the Greek Documentary Association and the Greek Film Directors and Producers Guild (ESPEK) in order to inform the international filmmaking community about the actual situation in Greece.


With the motto “Creators Under Threat” (CUT!), ESPEK and Greek Documentary Association pointed out the lack of financial resources for Greek productions, after the shutdown of ERT S.A.

“It΄s been nearly a year since ERT unexpectedly ceased operations, - as an economic reformation measure - and still no one has been paid, even though the transient public body, EDT, the Public Television, is already on air, broadcasting normally. Yet, the Greek government’s action directly resulted in all productions funding being put on hold, as the broadcaster’s financial dues were strangely transferred to the Ministry of Finance. And the ministry simply refuses to fulfill its obligations by constantly delaying to pay the accrual and invested sums acquired for the programs, which ERT S.A. has already broadcast” said documentarian Anneta Papathanasiou, representative of CUT!.

“This unacceptable delay can cause serious problems to the producers for several reasons. With the outstanding excuse that the Greek film community does films -good ones indeed- that travel in festivals and so on, the Greek Minister of Culture and the Minister of Finances, are making cute statements about the new Greek cinema, when, it is well-known that if not all, most of the recent films were made by self-funded work and small producers”, she adds. In addition, the documentary sector, working mainly with the National Television, is drawing its lasts breaths. 

ESPEK and Greek Documentary Association didn’t forget to mention the problem of financing the international co-productions and referred to Koutras’ open letter. 

“One of ERT΄s duties according to Law N.3905/2010 is to invest the 1,5% from its profits, to the Greek cinema. The decisions of the Board were all published on Cl@rity, the Open Government Portal. Films already in production or about to start, with singed contracts and decisions published on Cl@rity were left without Greek official financial participation. Many projects are funded by European Programs such as MEDIA and Eurimages. Any inability to meet the conditions of the contract may withdraw the funding. Moreover, the producers aren΄t able to pay their dues to their foreign co-producers. Not to mention invoices that have been drawn up but still not paid. At the same time, co-producers and creators cannot deal with the payment of lawns they have got in order to make their films neither can they afford to pay the crew and everyone involved in the production. It is very likely that all of the above can lead the co-producers and creators to legal conflicts, because the first of them fail to comprehend this madness. They think we’re making fun of them, when in reality the Greek State is the one making fun of all of us, finding legal pretexts to sweep the problem under the rug” said producer Markos Holevas from the Greek Film Directors and Producers Guild.

On top of that, he pointed out that “when the Ministry of Finances took over managing EDT, they inherited the responsibility of repaying the debts of the anonymous society ERT S.A. (the legal status of ERT). Now EDT, the new public TV is a public body, and even when those repayments will be attributed, they will come close to 12% short due to withholdings in favor of the State”. 

The Greek Film Directors and Producers Guild and Greek Documentary Association have been trying constantly to assert their rights. On August 8th 2013, they have sent an Extrajudicial Protest-Invitation, asking the Ministry to pay according to its obligations. Until today they have not received any answer. After lots of calls, meeting and promises nothing seems to get into place and Greek productions find themselves at a dead-end. “At least 70 producers, filmmakers and documentarians, and up to 2,000 workers of all specialties (cameramen, sound engineers, editors etc.), are facing the threat of financial extermination”, said Anneta Papathanasiou.

“At Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, which will take place from 14-23 March, the movement CUT! will inform the foreign colleagues and European institutions about the situation, and ask for their support. We will react in every legal way, publicizing our problem and utilizing our art. We need your support”, they concluded.

“We have reached all margins of patience and endurance, and have depleted all forms of attempt to communicate and consult with appointed representatives. We address, as director and producer, to all the state representatives involved -due to the circumstances- directly or indirectly in filmmaking in nowadays Greece”, state Koutras and Kossyfidou
They are one step away from the completion of the production of the film Xenia, a co-production between Greece, France and Belgium.

The companies and institution involved are:
From Greece the following producer are involved:
ERT S.A, in order to be compliant with the Law N.3905/2010.
“While filming last June, we learned about the sudden shut-down of ERT. We continued, of course, shooting. It was impossible to stop, by professionalism towards our producers, and consistent to our consciousness as filmmakers. Of course, we took a huge risk doing this, having an absolute faith to the commitments of a legitimate state apparatus. So, here we are today”.
ERT S.A. no longer exists and the state turns a deaf ear, resulting in the suspension of cash flow by French banking entity Cofiloisirs. Even more, with Eurimages threating to withdraw the fund, filmmakers risk missing international film-festival deadlines and there is a risk of adverse and unpredictable claims by their co-producers.  
The joint statement goes on. 
“We wonder why such healthy and dynamic actions from the Greek cinema and its people are backfired. Being the only Greek cultural product recognized internationally, Greek cinema conveys Greek culture and the creativity of its most active people […] we also wonder for how much longer state laws are going to get trampled by state itself”, they say referring to the N.3905/2010 Law on the protection, enhancement and development of cinematography and other provisions by the Greek Film Center [...] "for how long culture in this country will be disgraced by people who decades now swagger about it being -in all its facets and expressions- the spearhead of the modern Greek state ".
“We ask from those in charge to take over their real, legal and ensured by law responsibilities […] towards all the Greek filmmakers who are in debts and exposed by the pending situation of the national broadcasting sector”. 
Concluding, Koutras and Kossyfidou, ask “without any delay, to notify us if they’ve changed their minds on being co-producers. We would know at least, explicitly, to what extent we are alone, as filmmakers and Greeks”.

  A Woman`s Way
  Eleni Kossyfidou
  Penny Panayotopoulou
  Angelos Kovotsos
  Panos H. Koutras
  Marcos Holevas
  Anneta Papathanasiou
  Greek Film Center
  NOVA - Multichoice Hellas SA
  Feelgood Entertainment
  Media Programme
  Centre national du cinéma et de l`image animée (CNC)
  Greek Film Directors and Producers Guild (ESPEK)
  Greek Government Shuts Down ERT The Public Radio and Television Broadcaster
  Greek Law on Reinforcement and Development of Film and other Provisions
  altcine Explore movies by Country People To read
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