Coin for filmmakers reduced to $100 million

LONDON — The budget of the Russian Cinema Fund will be cut by more than a third to $100 million next year following changes in the way state money is distributed to filmmakers.

The cut, confirmed Friday, comes after the Ministry of Culture moved last month to assume full control of managing public support for cinema in Russia.

Until then the Cinema Fund, set up in 2009, was chiefly responsible for channeling money to a group of eight, now 10, major Russian production companies and supporting international co-productions.

Its budget came from two different ministries, economic development and the culture ministry, and the fund had semi-autonomous powers to make spending decisions. Some aspect of cinema — documentaries, cartoons and socially important films, were funded by the culture ministry.

That changed late November when culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, supported by influential deputy prime minister Vladislav Surkov, engineered a palace coup and took over direct control of the fund and changing its priorities.

A key criticism was that funding was failing to engineer an increase in box office for Russian films, which now account for only 13% of the country’s annual $1.3 billion cinema receipts. Films from major production companies supported by the fund account for just 2% of overall box office.

The fund will now mainly support commercially-viable projects, although funding decisions will be approved by the culture ministry. It will also continue to support international co-productions and co-development funds established in recent years with France, Italy and Germany. Full details of precisely how it will operate are expected early next year.

Sergei Tolstikov, executive director of the Cinema Fund, said it was important not to swing form one extreme to the other.

“For two years, we have been requesting a strategy for the development of the film industry from the culture ministry, but we haven’t received one. Still, we need to understand what our goals and resources are and where we are going.”

Russian producers and directors say the twin funding strategy remains confusing.

“The government has basically two wallets, and a filmmaker doesn’t know where to turn to,” director Andrei Proshkin (“The Horde”) said.

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