Russian public film finance is undergoing major reforms as the country begins a slow process of adopting the soft-money-supported international coproduction model prevalent in Europe.

The 2010 launch of the Cinema Fund — a government body that channels around $64 million annually for production support through eight major production companies — was criticized by many independent producers.

Supporters of the system — backed by Russian prime minister and former president Vladimir Putin — claim it simplifies and streamlines an earlier system characterized by bureaucracy and plagued by allegations of corruption.

The fund has already financed 36 feature-length projects and is aiming to increase its international outreach with the establishment of an $8 million annual co-production fund.

A network of regional film commissions is developing to assist productions but does not offer financial support.

An annual industry-backed coproduction forum takes places during the Moscow Film Festival as part of a Moscow Business Square event and independent producers from both Russia and Germany are working on finalizing a long-awaited coproduction treaty between the two countries, which are already active partners on a number of projects.

Private equity funding is available in Russia for commercially strong projects. Although much of the annual domestic box office — which broke the $1 billion barrier for the first time in 2010 — is generated by Hollywood blockbusters, a handful of local films make serious money and can generate local financing.

Recent top domestic movies include winter holiday season movies “Yolki” (Six Degrees of Celebration), produced by Timur Bekmambetov, which has taken in around $23 million, and cartoon “Three Heroes and the Shamakhanskaya Queen,” grossing more than $19 million.

Moves to modernize Russia’s aging Soviet-era studio infrastructure were delayed by the global economic crisis of 2008 but there are signs that some projects will go ahead.

Mosfilm & Gorky Film Studios: Moscow’s Mosfilm and Gorky Film Studios offer large soundstages, wardrobe, lab and post-production services and — at Mosfilm — backlot facilities.

Lenfilm: Lenfilm in St. Petersburg is planning to modernize under a $10 million-$15 million public-private partnership with Sistema and its subsidiary Russian World Studios, which already runs a newly built studio in the city that includes a 2,000 sq. meter soundstage, digital and post-production facilities.

Options: Other studio projects are on the drawing board in other cities, including Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Vladivostok and Grozny.

Companies offering production facilities, crews and equipment are concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Gear: Timur Bekmambetov’s Moscow-based production and distribution shingle Bazelevs offers a complete cycle of film production. Other service and equipment rental companies include Bogdan and Brigada, Cinelab, Russian World Studios, and Media City.

Labor Force: Crews are widely available in Russia, where a strong TV production sector has maintained employment possibilities for crew, although English-language skills can be patchy. International producers report that language skills and technical know-how are generally a mismatch, with younger workers more likely to know English but less likely to be highly skilled.

Independent production companies have gained a reputation in recent years for improved post-production and vfx skills, with CGI capacity sometimes on par with European standards.

Bazelevs: This company has built a reputation for its special effects work on movies that include “Wanted,” “Black Lightning” and “Yolki,” and Moscow’s Kino Direktsiya (Film Direction), headed by Anatoly Maksimov, who has produced films that include “Day Watch,” “Night Watch,” “Admiral” and “High Security Vacation,” has also built a strong profile in the field.

Other Vfx Shingles: Cinelex, Cinemateka, Donskaya 32, Gorky Film Studio, Magic Film, Mosfilm and Star Media Russia.

The National Film Commission of Russia
An industry-backed initiative was set up in 2009 with the Russian Culture Ministry, RFilms, Russian World Studios, Gorky Film Studio and regional studios.
14 Kalashny Pereulok, Moscow
+ 7 495 690 37 06
Web: http://www.nfcr.ru
Email: info@nfcr.ru

The Cinema Fund
Elena Romanova, head of international relations
11 Savvinskaya naberezhnaya, Moscow 119435
Tel: + 7 495 287 84 42

Russia is expensive compared to other Eastern European countries, has high taxes for those who don’t wish to pay in cash — social taxes are 37% plus 18% value added tax — and the lack of English-speaking crews and production executives can hamper productions. According to one European producer who’s worked in Russia, “it’s not a place where you go for services — only if you have no choice because your project is taking place in Russia.