Russian prod’n prototype; Fee-Free has Mass. Appeal

Russian prod'n prototype; Fee-Free has Mass. appeal

Russian prod’n prototype

The Russian revolution will not be televised … but it will be on film.

Producer Irina Borisova describes herself as a patriot of her country who wants to revive Russian cinema for a worldwide market. To that end, she is shooting the indie feature “The Virtuoso” in Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia, with an American cast and an American/European crew.

Mercedes Ruehl, who was recently added to the cast, plays an Estonian nightclub singer who dreams of Paris and Broadway. Her love interest is a down-on-his-luck American stage performer (Keith Carradine) struggling to resurrect his career amid the chaos of pre-WWII Europe. Mia Kirshner, Judd Hirsch, Brian Dennehy and Bronson Pinchot round out the cast.

Alexander Buravsky (“Katala”) wrote the screenplay and directs with Alexander Kustanovich. Borisova exec produces. Pic is being shot by Vladimir Klimov, cinematographer on “Vor” (The Thief).

Producer Roee Sharon points out that had the film been made with an American studio, production costs would run at least $20 million versus the $9 million they’re budgeted for.

But Sharon complains that dealing with translators, administrators and shipping of equipment is a “major magilla.” And unlike dealing with film commissions and regulated permit processing, payment must be made to certain locals to elicit cooperation.

Borisova, president and founder of VideoArt, Russia’s fourth largest ad and production agency, sees this film as a prototype combining American film production efficiency with European stories, locations and low cost.

* * *

Fee-Free has Mass. appeal

Massachusettes Gov. Argeo Paul Cellucci expects filming of DreamWorks feature pic “The Love Letter” to inject millions of dollars into the local economies of northern Essex County. Rockport, Gloucester and Manchester-by-the-Sea are the selected film sites for 14 weeks of production.

Film and TV production generated $101.2 million in state revenues during ’97, due in part to the state’s successful Fee-Free Locations Program.

“The impact on tourism is significant after a film’s release,” said Robin Dawson, director of the Mass. Film Office. “After ‘Little Women,’ the state realized a $50 million increase in revenues.”

“The Love Letter” will be the third DreamWorks film to be shot in the commonwealth over the last 18 months. A portion of “Amistad” was shot at the Mass. State House in March ’97 and “In Dreams” was filmed in the Northampton area last fall.

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