Hollywood eyes Russian opportunities

Paula Wagner, David Unger see room for growth

MOSCOW — Russia is ripe for the development of Hollywood-style professional services, top North American talent agents, managers, producers and finance professionals in Moscow for a film industry focus said Tuesday.

Film industry professionals including producer Paula Wagner, David Unger of ICM, and Martin Katz, chairman of the the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, and producer of David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis,” in town for the Moscow Business Square event, agreed that Russian remained virgin territory for many services considered essential in the West.

“Russia has a long and illustrious tradition of filmmaking but movies made here are made for local audiences,” Unger said.

In box office terms, it is the world’s fifth largest market, has a wealth of stories and talent, but has yet to become an international player in the way that the Spanish, Indian or Chinese film biz had, he added.

Unger, who has just signed a Russian model, Natalia Vodianova, whom he hopes to launch in film and advertising, said developing a star system could bring immeasurable benefits to Russian producers and directors, who could capitalise on the increased value top talent can add to projects.

Wagner, who helped launch Penelope Cruz’s Hollywood career when the actress was cast in the remake of “Vanilla Sky,” said that casting foreign actors in international movies could do a lot to raise appeal in foreign markets and increase box office takings.

But to make Russia more attractive for international filmmakers, the country needed to offer tax incentives and ensure it had a strong crew base.

“I would like to see more Russian actors in American films and I certainly will make the effort to bring them over, not just to play bad girls or boys but for really substantial roles,” Wagner said.

Katz, who urged Russian producers to take advantage of a long-standing — but as yet unexploited Russian-Canadian coproduction treaty — said the opportunity for Russia to play a fuller role in the international business was wide open.