It’s not every day that a prime minister drops in on a film studio — but then it’s not every day that a brand new studio facility is unveiled in Russia.
So the appearance of Russian leader Vladimir Putin Oct. 7 at the new Russian World Studios facility in St. Petersburg wasn’t much of a surprise since RWS has built, from scratch, the first new studio to open in the territory in 60 years.
Extra impetus to the celebration came from this year’s centenary of Russian cinema and the 10th anniversary of RWS.
Back in his home city, and on his birthday, Putin was in an unusually genial mood — not least because, against the global economic meltdown, the healthy growth of the Russian film industry is something to be more than cheerful about.
“It was right here, in St. Petersburg, 100 years ago when people watched the first Russian feature film ever,” Putin said at the event. “The attitude towards (cinema) has undergone several changes. Firstly, it was perceived as a wonder, then it became a propaganda instrument of enormous power — there is even a famous saying (of Lenin), ‘Cinematography is the most important of all the arts.’ ”
On hand for a roundtable conference were almost all the luminaries of the local industry, from high-profile Russian director and head of the Russian Union of Cinematographers Nikita Mikhalkov to leading execs, producers and commissioners at the country’s major TV channels covering the full cycle of the industry from development to exhibition.
Though there’s nothing dramatic about the studio surroundings, which are located three subway stops from the center of St. Petersburg in a region of newly built warehouses, inside it’s another matter, with facilities in a different world from existing Soviet-generation studios.
On hand were reps from major international equipment providers like Canon, Sony and ARRI. “RWS are people of knowledge and experience. We gave them suggestions on how to build this type of studio,” said Munich-based Dejan Ilic, CEO of ARRI. “Its advantages include the ability to combine existing technology, (including) high levels in analog, with digital technology.”
And a little help and encouragement from the Kremlin can certainly only help, too.