and now for something completely different: NOT ONE, BUT MANY YEAR ZEROS

The following story, with Joana Amaral Cardoso reporting on a press conference from the Portuguese Association of Film Producers, was printed in today's issue of daily newspaper Público. Translation mine.

Film producers sound the alarm: the fact that [pay-TV operators] Zon, Optimus, Meo, Cabovisão and Vodafone do not pay the annual contributions mandated in the new Film Act may create "successive year zeros for Portuguese cinema", and the opening of the financial support tenders for 2014 may be at risk. The Association of Film and Audiovisual Producers (APCA) demanded yesterday a "political solution that will allow the sector to survive" during this impasse - according to the Institute for Cinema and Audiovisual (ICA), an impasse that has cost 11 million euros since July.

At the heart of the issue is the non-observance by the five pay-TV operators of their required annual payments (€3,5 euro per subscriber, calculated according to the median number of subscribers); the operators are protesting the rate's constitutionality, and their not being at liberty to choose the projects they would prefer to support with their contributions, among other points raised. Since the operators have refused to pay, producer Luís Urbano [O Som e a Fúria] pointed out in the press conference that puts at stake "the opening of the 2014 tenders, due at the end of October". The 2012 tenders were suspended and the resulting paralysis made the period known as "year zero" for Portuguese cinema.

The producers predict there will be a "legal battle" between the operators and the state that may take "three to four years" to solve. Director Luís Galvão Teles challenged "the government to admit its responsabilities" and to stop "the collapse of the sector" in front of a roomful of film professionals. Luís Urbano, accompanied on the podium by director Luís Filipe Rocha, Galvão Teles, APCA president and producer Pandora Cunha Telles and producer Paulo Branco, pointed out "the sector cannot wait for such a long time". Apritel, the association representing the operators, has announced they will react to the Film Act with "all legal mechanisms available".

Asked about the type of political solution the producers expect to make up for the lack of monies, Urbano defended it's the government that should define its response. "The future of Portuguese cinema is going to be decided in this game. Either there is a political response, or the sector dies." The producer also announced he will sue the state for any financial losses incurred, and Pandora Cunha Telles has said that, if no solution comes up soon, "APCA and all producers affected will take legal measures." "We have started a period of fight," said Urbano. Branco says that "one sector [the TV operators], no matter how strong it is, cannot strangle another", and pointed out it's a matter of non-observance of the law.

The annual contribution is at the heart of the public production financing model, through ICA, but Paulo Branco reminded "the sector does not live on this money alone." "It is an essential starter for us to double or triple the financing of Portuguese films [in the market]." The risk of total shutdown and unemployment for "hundreds of professionals," raised by Luís Filipe Rocha, is as urgent as the risk of confirming this year's tenders, since without that confirmation the banking guarantees to shoot films approved for production in 2013 cannot be unlocked.

The press conference brought together producers, actors, screenwriters and directors and pointed out, among the many dates of the complex process [...], all the professional film associations have sent a letter to Prime-Minister Passos Coelho on this subject a month ago. "We still have not had an answer", said Pandora Cunha Telles.

Branco noted the monies at stake are "a drop of water in the ocean of Portuguese audiovisual" - "less than the money needed to bankroll a Woody Allen film", he said ironically - and Pandora Cunha Telles quantified the fee as 0,87% of the median monthly profits of the pay-TV operators. Luís Filipe Rocha lamented the "deafening silence" of the Presidency and of the competent ministry. Director and [opposition] Member of Parliament Inês de Medeiros clarified from the audience that the subject will be up for debate in the Parliament October 9th, when the financing model of the Portuguese Cinemathèque will be discussed with the presence of the State Secretary for Culture.


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