The fact that Russia has stunning shooting locations has never been in doubt. The problem was the perception that it was a relatively closed book to the West. But that is all changing.
At the Association of Film Commissioners Cineposium in St Petersburg in September, the Russian hosts, including the Russian Office of Film Commissions, went out of their way to welcome and entice international production figures in attendance. A tour of the impressive looking studios certainly helped.
But the biggest statement came in November with the official launch of a 40% cash rebate for foreign film productions. Signed into law by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, around $1m has been allocated for the incentive for 2019, $11.7m for 2020 and $23.5m for 2021.
Russian producers have already received requests from foreign partners to provide production services and come aboard international projects as co-production partners.
“The launch of the rebates will allow the Russian film industry not only to integrate into the world film economy, but also become a major new hub for international film production. For us, it’s not only the conditions to shoot more films in Russia, but also a chance to show Russia the way it has not been seen abroad before,” said Pavel Stepanov, deputy minister of culture in Russia.
Russian producer Mila Rozanova, also manager of international sales at Mars Media, adds: “We have a good production infrastructure that has been tested already on local projects. We have a lot of young professionals who are English speaking and adaptable for international productions but we have never had the tools to attract international partners.”
Through the scheme, producers can access reimbursements on eligible expenses which include travel, consular fees, employment of local professionals and film stage rentals.
The rebate (selective not automatic) has been created and will be supervised by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development. Applications will be assessed by an “expert board” of candidates nominated by the Ministry of Culture.
Feature films and TV series must spend at least RUB15m (approximately $235,000) to be eligible for the rebate. Documentaries have a smaller threshold of $59,000 while animation is at around $78,500.
The rebate is set at 30% of the estimated amount of expenses in the Russian Federation but this can rise to 40% for films which hit certain targets, for example productions which shoot 19 days in the Russian Federation or spend RUB75m ($1.2m) in the Russian Federation or have 80% Russian crew.
“Recently almost every international production ignored Russia as a filming location, preferring Budapest or Kiev,” says leading producer Alexander Rodnyansky (Loveless). ”Hopefully the rebates might finally change this trend.”
Russia is so much more than just cold winters and vast planes covered with snow. It is spread over 5 climate zones, where you can find literally any landscape, including forests, such as the Curonian Spit Dancing Forest, hot deserts in the south and 100,000 rivers. While, some cities offer climates of the French Riviera, such as the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where temperatures can reach 35°C between June and August.
“No matter what landscape or season you are looking for Russia has it,” enthuses Val Kupeev, CEO of the Russian Office of Film Commissions, to KFTV.
Val Kupeev, CEO, Russian Office of Film Commissions, firstname.lastname@example.org