With relations between Russia and the U.S. growing frostier amid renewed allegations of election interference by Moscow ahead of the 2020 presidential polls, the new head of Russian movie support agency Roskino is banking on a thaw, as the country unveils a host of measures to lure foreign productions and boost the growing Russian film industry.
Just weeks after being tapped as the CEO of the state film promotion body, Roskino’s Evgenia Markova said she’s hoping to build on the interest she witnessed during this week’s European Film Market by introducing the world to the Russian biz. “What I hear and see from all sides is that everybody is interested in Russia,” she said. “They hear the vibe, but they don’t really understand to whom [in Russia] they should talk.”
This week in Berlin, Roskino held talks with organizations like the BFI and the Israel Film Fund to see how it could foster a more collaborative spirit with international partners.
While arthouse producers such as Alexander Rodnyanskiy (“Leviathan”) have long been fixtures at global markets and festivals, Markova said there is “a big interest in international development” from other local players.
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“I see a potential to attract the big producers from the television holdings, because they’re interested in global projects, they’re interested in international coverage, they’re interested in making something challenging and not [only] relevant for the Russian market,” she said. “They are ready to think global.”
Last year Russia introduced a tax rebate of up to 40% on qualifying local spend, allocating roughly $13 million for 2020, a number that’s expected to nearly double in 2021, according to Evgenia Danilchenko, head of creative industries support at Russian Export Center.
The government complemented that with a charm offensive in Moscow last fall, hosting 50 international buyers on a three-day visit where they were presented with more than 100 film, TV and animation projects in development and met with Russian industry counterparts. “From the buyers’ side, it was a very useful opportunity to see the whole market,” said Markova, with Russian attendees reporting increased sales after the event.
Preparations are underway for a splashy Russian presence in Cannes, with a full slate of panel sessions covering Russian co-production opportunities; the development of local VOD platforms; the role of women in the local film industry; and a guide to shooting in the vast country.
Markova sees such efforts as part of the gradual evolution of the industry. It was only seven years ago that Russia’s Culture Ministry took notice and began investing in the local film biz, she said. Within a matter of years, the domestic market was thriving, with total box office tripling, according to Markova. That’s led to a ripple effect for Russian content abroad, with the Roskino topper noting that global sales are growing 20% annually.
For Markova, that’s only the beginning. “It takes time,” she said. “There is no other way. It’s step by step.”