Russia courts co-production partners

Producers target U.K. as English-language market

MOSCOW — The Russians are coming … to London mid-November for a one-day industry event to promote co-productions and distribution in the U.K.

The first Russian-British Co-Production and Distribution Forum — organized in association with Russia’s federal Cinema Fund, the British Film Institute and London-based Russian cultural org Academia Rossica — aims to connect leading film professionals of both countries with each other and explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership.

Designed to coincide with the fifth Russian Film Festival in London, a series of meetings at the BFI on Nov. 11 will familiarize participants with key features of the funding and tax incentives available in both countries and showcase projects and films from both sides.

Elena Romanova, head of the international department at the Cinema Fund, says Russia has co-production treaties with France, Italy and Germany, but cooperation with Britain had been neglected.

“We don’t need a specific treaty with the U.K. — we can work with British producers under the European co-production convention,” Romanova says. “But developing contacts with the U.K. is essential if Russian producers want to reach the international market, which is dominated by English-language film.”

The move is part of an increasing focus on co-productions in Russia, where local movies’ share of an annual $1 billion box office has slumped in recent years from 30% to less than 15%.

The Cinema Fund put approximately $6 million into five Russian co-productions this year, and would have spent more had there been sufficient quality projects, Romanova says.

Under its co-production funding rules, up to 70% of the Russian budget can be sourced from state coin. And although there is not a specific amount put aside for co-production, the Cinema Fund’s head, Sergei Tolstikov, has indicated in the past that around $8 million per year can be made available.

The Cinema Fund’s budget for 2012 will not be known until later this year, but Romanova says now is the time for British producers to start talking projects with potential Russian partners.

“Hollywood is too far away, but Britain is not, and is a natural partner for co-productions with Russia,” Romanova says.

Russian participants joining Romanova at the industry event include producers Sergei Selyanov, Igor Tolstunov, Artem Vasiliev, Natalya Ivanova, documentary director and producer Vitaly Mansky and distributor and agent Raisa Fomina.

On the British side, Chris Curling of Zephyr Films, co-producers of “The Last Station,” will attend, along with representatives from companies including Stealth Media Group, Warp Films & Warp X, Tailormade Prods. and Bankside Films.

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