Russian shoots slowly coming into focus

'Captivity,' 'Checkmate' to begin lensing in country

MOSCOW — Location shooting in Russia may be starting to pick up, despite a perception that Eastern Europe offers more value. In addition to Korean companies looking into eastern Russian locations (Variety, May 9-15), a few Western films are taking the plunge.

First up is Roland Joffe’s “Captivity,” set to begin lensing in territory’s capital at Mosfilm studios (standing in for Manhattan) later this month.

Pic is part of a four film co-prod agreement between U.S. producer Mark Damon and Ramco Films, whose Leonid Minkovski and Sergei Konov will produce the thriller with Damon and Gary Mehlman.

Also shooting this month is “Checkmate,” directed by Olivier Bonas. Thema Productions will shoot the thriller in St. Petersburg; local partner is Big Star. Fionnula Flanagan and Jeremy Northam star.

Big Star Ent. also recently announced a deal with U.K.-based financier Future Films to bring new productions to the territory.

Big Star wants to offer a “one-stop shop” to companies wishing to produce their projects in Russia and the CIS, to help with film production and financial services.

“The film production industry in Eastern Europe is exploding, making it the perfect time to partner with Future Films in this new joint venture,” says Big Star prexy Natalya Scherbakova. “The recent economic changes in the former Soviet Union, Russia and the CIS countries have made them desirable locations for film projects.”

“Russia features many scenic location opportunities and under-utilized studios while offering inexpensive labor costs, making it possible to undercut the costs of producing in other Eastern European countries,” says Future Films’ Stephen Margolis.

Since main cities Moscow and St. Petersburg still lack film commissions, navigating the local infrastructure remains a challenge. Big Star is banking that its experience producing features and TV shows in the 1990s will enable the production company to finesse Russian red tape for its Western partners.