Sun, Aug 05, 2012 - Page 14 News List

Russia courts Hollywood with vast new film studio business

By Anna Malpas  /  AFP, MOSCOW

A panel van passes by a sign for Glavkino film studio outside Moscow on June 27.

Photo: AFP

A Russian company has spent US$89 million building eastern Europe’s largest production facilities in a field outside Moscow and hopes to lure Hollywood majors to shoot and produce movies.

The idea is to create a modern flagship studio that will make Russia a competitively priced destination for film projects and in turn modernize the local industry.

“It is one of the targets for us to invite international projects to get their experience, to get their technologies,” Glavkino grou general-director Ilya Bachurin said.

Opened by former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in February, on a recent tour the Glavkino studios were still dusty from the construction process and smelled of paint.

Bachurin, 42, a former impresario and television executive, led the way through the studios to show off echoing sound stages and high-tech 3D equipment. The largest sound stage measures 3,108m2, a space so large that it swallowed up a bus parked in the corner.

“It is the biggest in eastern Europe,” Bachurin said. The studios have a Hollywood-style sign on the roof visible from passing planes. Their Web site boasts they are “equivalent to the best studios of America and Europe.”

So far one feature film has been completed at Glavkino: August 8, a strongly pro-Russian drama based on the 2008 Russia-Georgia war that was 90 percent funded by the Kremlin.

It aims to attract major global players to do studio shoots and post-production there and pass on their expertise to Russia’s technically lagging film industry.

“In fact we do not need their money — it’s not our major goal,” Bachurin said. “We need to attract their experience and their specialists: those who can make the studio a part of the big -international filmmaking industry.”

In June Glavkino gave British art-house director Peter Greenaway a voucher worth US$37,000 to spend on post-production for a planned remake of Death in Venice.

Greenaway told Hollywood Reporter he was considering Saint Petersburg as a location.

Without giving details, Bachurin said that Glavkino was planning to submit quotes for several big international projects.

One problem is that Russia offers no tax breaks for filmmakers. Add in a mass of headaches from tough rules on customs to visas and work permits.

“We are going to make special proposals, make prices lower,” Bachurin said.

“This is a pragmatic business. If it is convenient and profitable, people will be ready to do the math,” he said.

Viktor Ginzburg, a Russian-born film director based in the US was visiting the studios with a view to making his next film there — an adaptation of Viktor Pelevin’s novel Empire V.

He said he was impressed by the facilities.

“It seems terrific. They should dust it, though,” he added.

Yet he said the high-tech studios still lacked something: “film culture.”

“You need projection designers, art directors, set decorators, craftsmen,” he said. “Unfortunately there is a real problem in the Russian film industry right now with these key positions.”

That is a hangover from the 1990s when the film industry almost dried up and professions skipped an entire generation.

While Glavkino is new, it reeks of money and connections.

Its name uses Soviet-speak abbreviations: glav, or “main,” and kino, meaning “cinema” or “film,” to suggest the historic roots it lacks.

One co-founder with Bachurin is actor and director Fyodor Bondarchuk, 45, who made hit films including The 9th Company. His father Sergei Bondarchuk directed the Oscar-winning War and Peace.

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