Choosing filming partners on location
One of the biggest challenges for any producer when choosing locations is deciding how adventurous to be when it comes to international production.
There is an understandable desire to explore exotic new frontiers, but the risk is that this can lead to unexpected (and expensive) problems. The risk is greatly reduced, however, if you find a reliable on-the-ground partner. Good local fixers or production services companies can identify seldom-seen locations, take the pain out of permitting and come up with solutions to unexpected obstacles when they occur.
Stanislav Solovkin, CEO and founder of Moscow-based Soar Productions learned his trade adapting entertainment franchises like Survivor and The Amazing Race (pictured above) for leading Russian networks.
He launched his own services company Soar Productions in 2007. “By the time I launched Soar, I had a strong international reputation,” he says. “And I knew I could provide a service both sides would trust and respect. I was born in Uzbekistan and grew up in Moscow. I speak the language and know the local mentalities.”
Soar doesn’t claim to have been the first Russian or ex-Soviet producer to have worked with international partners: “But we were definitely the first company to provide full service at every stage, starting with location scouting, visas, permits, hotels, ending up with manpower, logistics and consulting.”
Key to his approach is his philosophy that “people everywhere are great and friendly. All you need is to appreciate you are a guest in their country and that you value their values. Keep away from politics, don’t touch anything before asking and keep smiling. Be the sort of the guest who is welcomed back.”
Soar can get producers into any of the former CIS countries (Commonwealth of Independent States, all former Soviet republics), says Solovkin, though right now the ones he regards as easiest to visit are Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“In Kyrgyzstan, for example, you can get all you need for your production easier than in most of the countries we traditionally consider film-friendly and civilized,” he says.
“All these countries are very cost-effective and most are visa-free or have visa-on-arrival regimes. They have minimal permitting formalities and breathtaking scenery. In Russia, you have Moscow and Saint Petersburg with their outstanding architecture, and Yakutia and Kamchatka, with their climate extremes and untouched nature.
“Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are so small and varied, you can find a high mountain, seashore and desert – all within a couple of hours of easy driving.”
Productions serviced by Soar include CBS’ The Amazing Race, which visited Moscow, Azerbaijan and Georgia, CCTV China’s Silk Road - 2000 Years Crossroads (pictured above) and SBS Australia’s The DNA Nation with Ian Thorpe.
In Italy, you get similar attention to detail when you work with Recalcati Multimedia, a full-service production firm launched in 2012 by industry veteran Leo Recalcati.
Explaining why international producers should consider Italy, he says: “There are a lot of reasons for choosing to film in Italy. For a start, Italy is the world capital for design, fashion, and food. Those are our biggest strengths, and those are the aspects of Italian life that people try hardest to reproduce.”
Then there are the tax incentives, which have provided a huge boost to the film and television industry in Italy.
“Tax incentives are a driving force behind the recognition of skills and expertise that have lain dormant for too long, and they also serve as a very powerful promotional tool for Italy itself,” says Recalcati.
“But they aren’t the only reason a production company from abroad might be tempted to invest in Italy. There are other forms of support at both the regional and local level that provide producers with financing in the form of ready cash.”
Not to be overlooked either is Italy’s superb array of locations, says Recalcati, who cites spectacular landmarks like Lake Como, Venice and Sicily, which is where he is from:
“Every time I read about a project or receive a production board, I immediately connect the emotional heart of that project to the experiences I’ve had in a specific place. I filmed in the snow for the first time in the Dolomites, for example. And when I’m in Puglia, I’m always thrilled to see how traditional fishing platforms (trabucchi) are being transformed into open-air restaurants. And, of course, there’s Tuscany, which has its own special sense of magic and mystery.”
To get the best out of what Italy has to offer, Recalcati says “it is essential to have an Italian production partner who can take all aspects of the project under his wing. In my case, I work with colleagues and consultants with a great deal of experience in the industry.”
Recalcati works with various partners including tax credit advisors and production crew who have been with him for more than ten years.
As with Soar, Recalcati’s approach has won business “from all over the world, including markets like the US, Europe, Egypt, and the Middle East. Recently, we had a wonderful experience with a South Korean company that set a very successful TV series in Italy - Sa-Im-Dang: The Herstory. Since then, I’ve continued to develop contacts with other production companies in Seoul.”
Recalcati says he thrives on this kind of collaboration with international partners: “When we sign onto a project, our philosophy is to work hand-in-hand with our partners, focused on a common goal, despite cultural differences or budget constraints, so that we can create something that is visually powerful. For me personally, what I do for work is an enormous source of fun. That means more than the production fee.”