Russia goes beyond state coin

// Variety

Russia is getting serious about co-productions, with changes in the way public money is channeled to filmmakers making international cooperation more attractive.
The boom years that saw hundreds of films made in Russia with local coin did little to encourage producers to look abroad for finance.

All that changed last year when the Ministry of Culture, which oversaw the distribution of public funds to filmmakers, unveiled a new funding system with some $68 million granted to eight large production companies.

The idea is that producers— including Nikita Mikhalkovs Tri-Te studio and Kino Direksiya, which works with Russian pubcaster First Channel— will make at least three movies a year with the money, pulling in 30% of the budgets from private sources and working with other industry partners.

The change has spurred independent producers to develop a greater openness to co-productions.

«Although co-production is still not a big issue for most Russian producers, we are trying to raise awareness of the benefits of working with producers from other countries— particularly those in Europe,» says Anna Katchko, a producer with Moscow-based Tandem Production who helped organize the Business Square event to encourage co-productions at Junes Moscow film festival. «It is likely that in the coming years there may be less money available for arthouse productions, so it makes sense to begin looking at different models for funding such films.»

They are not entirely without official backing. Amendments to the cinematography law introduced in May are designed to make co-productions easier.

Alexey Sokhnev of the Ministry of Cultures cinematography department says changes ease earlier restrictions on the percentage of foreign investment permitted for a film to qualify as Russian— and therefore be eligible for public funding.

«There will be more opportunities for foreign producers to make films with Russian partners even if they are not working under existing intergovernmental treaties, as producers can apply for state support in Russia,» Sokhnev says.

The rules ease conditions that made working with Russian filmmakers outside of those treaties harder. Now, provided the main producer is Russian or a Russian company, half the investment can come from a foreign producer, half the creative team— director, scriptwriter— can be foreign and up to 30% of the crew.

The new regulations should see the number of co-productions grow from only 40 in the past four years, Sokhnev says.

German producers are likely to be among the key beneficiaries of the new rules. Efforts to establish an intergovernment co-production treaty have been under way for some years and filmmakers in both countries have forged close links.

Fostering strong co-prods ties is the CentEast Moscow Film Forum, aimed at presenting a selection of Russia and Eastern European works-in-progress for distributors, sales agents and festival programmers. The event, which runs Oct. 22–24, will involve a day of screenings and a day of one-on-one meetings.

Its a joint initiative between Moscow-based independent production company Tvindie and the Warsaw Film Foundation.

«It is essential for us to do co-productions, because it will allow our films to get wider distribution and it will result in more competitive productions that we able to produce,» says Yevgeny Gindilis, head of Tvindie. «The other important consideration is the possibility to finance our films more independently outside the malfunctioning system of the state financing in Russia.»
— Nick Holdsworth


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