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Eduard Anatolyevich Pichugin

Eduard A. Pichugin, the general director of Lenfilm Studios.
He is a board member of the Union of Cinematographers in Russian Federation; President of "Kinoalliance", the National Association of the Cinema Professional Organizations; the board member of the Producers Guild of Russian Federation. He has been engaged in promoting movie presentations and building cinema theaters since 1999. He holds a degree as a Candidate of Economic Sciences, wrote and defended the thesis on “Cash Flow Management in the Cinema Industry” within the framework of his major – “Finance and Credit”. He is a founder of the federal movie theater chains "Kronverk Cinema" and "KINO CITY".

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RUSSIAN CINEMATOGRAPHERS DISCUSS PROBLEMS RELATED TO PROMOTING DOMESTIC FILMS ON INTERNATIONAL MARKETS AND AT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVALS

30/06/2011

On June 26, 2011, within the framework of the Moscow International Film Festival, we, representing the All-Russian Forum Kino Rossiyi 2020 (Russian Forum 2020) along with the Moscow International Film Festival, Sovexportfilm, and the First Channel conducted a conference “Reinventing International Promotion Systems in the Russian Cinema Industry”.

Leading Russian and foreign cinematographers expressed their ideas on how to promote domestic films at international film festivals and global markets; they also described their experiences and prospects for realizing joint international projects.

In general, the participants appreciated the conclusions and results of the conference. A great number of important questions, which we have ignored for much too long, were raised at the conference on promoting the Russian cinema abroad, conducted jointly with the First Channel and Sovexportfilm, operating within the framework of the Moscow International Film Festival. It had become obvious that, if we could not create a specific structure or a strategic plan, if all the producers could not pool their efforts together in order to enter international film markets, critical acclaim at festivals and film distribution successes of our cinema will remain things of the past. The conference turned into very live discussion platform, where we were able to develop several recommendations for State structures and public organizations. We are very pleased that the All-Russian Forum Kino Rossiyi 2020 (Russian Cinema 2020) has become a leading platform of our film industry. During our meetings, not only do we discuss different aspects of the Russian cinema, but we also create real programs for future activities.

Leonid Vereshchagin, General Director of the Moscow International Film Festival, greeted and welcomed the participants of the conference. He reminded us that, during the “Soviet era”, a very powerful system to promote domestic cinema had been put into place. Sovexportfilm was charged with this function, and this institution controlled more than 30 departments all over the world. “In many respects, our past positions have been lost; however, the mere fact that we have gathered together shows that we are ready to take up the challenge.” remarked Leonid Vereshchagin. The Director of the Moscow International Film Festival also noted that there has been a change in the awareness of society and the film industry. “We no longer regard the film industry as a marginal activity for a few old classical masters. In fact, the sector should be supported and revived, just as we are now reviving agriculture and heavy industry.”

Next, Grigoriy Iliev, Chairman of the Committee for Culture of the RF State Duma addressed the assembly: “We would like you to discuss several issues concerning State support of the cinema industry. The State support system has recently undergone considerable changes, and we would like you to evaluate these changes.”

The next speaker to address the audience was Denys Molchanov, Director of the Department of Mass Communication, Culture, and Education of the RF Government. He referred to the main problem for promoting Russian cinema in the following way: “The root of all our problems lies in the fact that we must have something to promote. On this account, I would like to quote the statement pronounced by the Chairman of the Government: “The State can help with the shooting of a film; it can help with its distribution and promotion. The only thing the State cannot do is to force people to watch bad movies.”

Then, it was the turn of Konstantin Ernst, General Director of the First Channel, to address the audience. He suggested that the participants should engage in further discussions, and immediately raised a controversial issue at the conference. “According to the most optimistic forecasts, Russian films occupy 15% of the film market. The First Channel conducted a survey, whereby 35% of spectators leaving the cinema theater stated that they would never go to watch a Russian movie. Our films are not very popular in our own country; neither are they popular abroad; we rarely win prizes at international festivals.” Konstantin Ernst also noted that successful projects did exist.

“However, Russian movies shot in Russian can bring in money. The two installments of “Dozor” (Night Watch and Day Watch) made 32 million in world-wide film distribution.” In general, Konstantin Ernst remarked: “Today, there is a huge cultural crisis in the whole world, and it has become more and more difficult to produce quality products and sell them afterwards. Therefore, if we, cinematographers, cannot overcome certain antagonisms, which have arisen between us, we will never learn to stand together and present a united front, but we will be left only with what we have now.” Konstantin Ernst also outlined his vision with respect to resolving the problem related to the promotion of Russian cinema. “We had a prominent production brand called Sovexportfilm. It helped the domestic film industry a lot, but now, everything has come to an end. Today, using Sovexportfilm as a fundamental basis, we should create a new brand name, which will be focused on integrating all sector levels: starting from ideas to film distribution. It is really important to create an organization dedicated to lobbying, similar to the MPA (Motion Picture Association) in the United States. Regarding contents, Konstantin Ernst remarked: “We produce silly movies, which no one wants to see.” These words were very much appreciated by the participants of the conference, and were often quoted in other speeches. “We must unite to promote our cinema industry. Not one single Russian producer or director will be able to break through and make it on the market on his own.” concluded the Director of the First Channel. Incidentally, Konstantin Ernst recently joined the Board of Directors of Sovexportfilm. At present, the re-structuring of this company has become one of the major challenges in the process of creating a viable Russian cinema industry.

Alyona Shumakova, selector of East European films for the Venice International Film Festival remarked in her speech that Russia is globally perceived in terms of old stereotypes. “Russia has not yet been able to work out a cultural image. It’s necessary for all of us to work on this.”

A constructive suggestion was made by Sergey Selianov, Vice-President of the Guild of Russian Producers: “Specific budgets are required to reduce risks for local distributors, and promote our film industry at the international level. We must re-organize our communications, our cooperation with distributors, whose countries are important to us: Germany, France, Italy, and to a certain extent, the USA.”

Laurent Danielou, a foreign producer, and Managing Director of Rezo Films, assessed the promotion of Russian films abroad. “Foreign films, which become popular abroad, usually belong to the art house category. It is important to examine what other countries did to protect and promote their films abroad. These films should at least be available to film distributors for screening purposes, but this kind of cooperation has not yet been worked out! Russia is the only country that does not assist in distributing its own domestic films abroad. For the time being, Russian films are far from being popular in other countries. However, there are an incredible number of plots and stories that no one wants to shoot here – about dissidents, Sakharov, Stalin…” concluded Laurent Danielou.

Another participant of the conference, Aleksey Uchitel, film director and Art Director of the Rock Film Studio, pointed out the main reason for the failure of Russian cinema abroad. In his opinion, it consists in the following: “One of the main problems in our film industry is that we are all isolated from each other and rather uncooperative. Unless we learn how to treat one another with respect, there will be no success in view!”

Aleksey Popogrebskiy, film director and scriptwriter, explained his ideas on co-production – joint production of films by Russian and foreign producers. He pointed out an important aspect of promotion. “If a film is to be successful at film festivals, we should have good ties and relations with foreign sales agencies!” Aleksey Popogrebskiy supported the idea of creating an international agency. “It is indispensable to train a Russian lobbyist and develop a promotion system abroad. Let’s have our own lobbyist; let’s all be friends with local lobbyists, and let’s be friends with local distributors!” Karl Baumgartner, producer of the Filmkunstverleih Pandora Distribution Company agreed with Aleksey Popogrebskiy. Karl Baumgartner particularly emphasized that co-productions played a key role in the film industry. “Co-productions are your best bet to achieve commercial success on the international market.”

Inviting international film projects to Russia has proved to be an extremely effective tool for promoting national cinema world-wide. Mikhail Churbanov, General Director of the Sverdlovsk Film Studio, delivered a report on this topic (the so-called Film Commissions). He stated that Film Commissions act as windows into Russia for the international film industry. “Using our infrastructures and Russia’s stunning landscapes, we can offer huge opportunities to our regions: this means proceeds for our hospitality industry, and it is also an opportunity to tell about ourselves. Regional officials are not at all familiar with this kind of work; it’s up to us to inform them.” remarked Mikhail Churbanov, “But, we have other problems, namely, personnel! Foreign producers do not want to work with our local employees. Educational and training programs for professionals constitute the most important problems for our film industry.”

In general, the participants appreciated the conclusions and results of the conference. A great number of important questions, which we have ignored for much too long, were raised at the conference on promoting the Russian cinema abroad, conducted jointly with the First Channel and Sovexportfilm, operating within the framework of the Moscow International Film Festival. It had become obvious that, if we could not create a specific structure or a strategic plan, if all the producers could not pool their efforts together in order to enter international film markets, critical acclaim at festivals and film distribution successes of our cinema will remain things of the past. The conference turned into very live discussion platform, where we were able to develop several recommendations for State structures and public organizations. We are very pleased that the All-Russian Forum Kino Rossiyi 2020 (Russian Cinema 2020) has become a leading platform of our film industry. During our meetings, not only do we discuss different aspects of the Russian cinema, but we also create real programs for future activities.

A resolution will be issued when all the results of the conference have been duly summarized. It will contain recommendations on supporting and organizing the promotion of Russian cinema abroad, which will be addressed to State authorities and professional organizations.

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