No Porn, No Sitcoms And No Soap Operas: The Croatian Ministry Of Culture’s Rules

By U Cast Studios
June 30, 2022

No Porn, No Sitcoms And No Soap Operas: The Croatian Ministry Of Culture’s Rules
Image Courtesy Of IMDB

While digging into the production of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent I contacted the Croatian Ministry of Culture for information on their support to the movie.  They responded with details, and a copy of the regulations governing their financial subsidies to movies that shoot in Croatia, which prohibit money going to pornographic, situation comedy and daytime drama products.

This article was originally published by Spy Culture.

Culture ministries are curious beasts – for example, in most European countries reality TV is not considered high quality enough to deserve state support, but in Malta it does qualify, and you can get up to a 40% rebate on production expenses – one of the highest in the world.  The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – the movie where Nic Cage plays himself working for the CIA to infiltrate a gangster’s mansion compound, but where Nic, the gangster and the CIA end up writing a screenplay – benefited from rebates from both Croatia and Hungary.

To their credit, the Croatian Ministry of Culture got back to me quickly, saying it was their Audiovisual Centre that handled the deal, who confirmed that they provided ‘HRK 4.418.587,68 (approx. EUR 589.000)’ in rebates.  Not a huge sum, but on a $20-30 million production, it adds up.  When you consider they were only filming in the country for 15 days, that figure looks a little different.

The helpful Croats also offered this link, which gives details of filming locations used in this somewhat satirical and often raucous comedy.  As expected, the gangster’s villa in ‘Mallorca’ was actually in Croatia, and the ‘cute Spanish town’ where Javi and Nic go on an LSD-fuelled ramble was actually Dubrovnik.

The Croatian Ministry of Culture’s Cultural Test

In order to qualify for this kind of rebate (effectively a cultural subsidy) your film has to pass a cultural test.  These are the norm across Europe and the commonwealth countries, though the exact requirements vary from test to test.  The Croatian regulations include a copy of their cultural test, which requires at least six points out of a possible twelve, with up to two points for each of the following:

Storyline and topic of the work are based on a person, character or events which are part of Croatian or European culture, history, mythology or religion or narratively coherent interpretations of the past and the future

The work is set in a Croatian location or another European location, or its pictures represent Croatia or another European country or cultural setting

The work is inspired by or based on the adaptation of an existing literary, musical, theatrical or audiovisual work

The work focuses on contemporary political, social or cultural topics and/or contents

The final version of the work is in the Croatian or another European language

The work features a contemporary artist from another discipline and his/her contribution is a substantial part of the work

Because these tests have been homogenised by the EU’s overriding notion that a film depicting any European country is beneficial to all European countries, you don’t have to set your story in the host country in order to get your hands on the state’s cash.

Curiously, you get points for basing your production on an existing book or play or musical or other film or TV show.  This, in effect, disadvantages original scripts and encourages cultural conservatism.  You also get points for being set in the present, or at least focusing on ‘contemporary political social or cultural topics’.  Again, this disadvantages original stories set in the past or future, unless they can persuade the Ministry of Culture (MiniCult?) that the contents are relevant to the present.

I do wonder how Unbearable Weight was assessed – after all, it is obviously inspired by the Sean Penn – CIA entrapment of El Chapo, itself modelled on the movie The Interview, itself modelled on the unlikely friendship between Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un.

Cock Blocked: No State Funding for Porno

Certain productions are simply not allowed any rebate from the Croatian government.  Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, Game of Thrones, Succession and Berlin Station have all benefited from filming subsidies, but entire genres are blocked from access to state funding.

The Croatian regulations say:

(8) Works not eligible for a financial incentive are:
– promotional audiovisual works and/or commercials
– works which advocate violence, racism, hate speech and/or has pornographic content and similar
– works which promote behaviour contrary to interests of public health, protection of human rights, public security, and similar
– daytime drama (“soap opera”)
– situation comedy (“sitcom”).

‘Works which advocate violence, racism, hate speech’ and ‘works which promote behavioru contrary to… public security, and similar’ are fairly broad, but entire genres – porn, sitcoms and soap operas – are simply not allowed, regardless of whether or not that porn promotes rebelling against the government and racist hate speech.

Indeed, both Strike Back and Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard do advocate violence – they are typical shoot em up gunplay fetish action movies (yes, I know Strike Back is a TV show).  Both are listed on the Filming in Croatia website, which is run by their Audiovisual Centre.  Ditto Game of Thrones, a violent, rapey medieval melodrama.

Of course, these rules are likely to be flexible for higher-profile productions because, contrary to the EU’s agenda, most European countries are actually competing to make themselves first-class filming locations and are obsessed with national branding.  Being perceived as a beautiful, friendly, modern nation is such a nebulous goal that you can’t put a price on it, nor adhere to strict regulations and insist that producers remove the violence and implicit bigotry from major productions.

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