book a ticket

National cinema, co-production and shooting opportunities in Russia: business programme of BRICS Film Festival

The BRICS Film Festival business programme featured discussions of national cinema aspects, international festivals, opportunities of co-production and film shooting in Moscow.

The producer Gabriel Bortolini (Brazil), the producer and director Hasan Firdausul (India), the producer Milton Reddy (South Africa), Chairman of Changchun Film Group Chuan Zhuang Yang (China) participated in the roundtable Specific Aspects of Cinematography and Distribution.

Gabriel Bortolini: "Brazil has a national fund that invests over 100 million dollars a year in cinema, and when you release a film with the support of this fund, it also gets a share of box office receipts, which enables reinvesting these funds in cinema. So, the support is increasing. Brazil is also actively involved in co-productions. There are no exact figures for this year yet, but at the moment it's around 150 million reals. Brazil has a huge audience and offers a good market for film distribution. There was a certain downturn during the pandemic, but today the industry is recovering. Last year, Brazilian movies were seen by a higher percentage of spectators than Hollywood films. Brazil is very interested in co-production. In my opinion, this not just gives an opportunity to increase the production budgets of films, but also to explore different territories. Three of our co-productions are participating in the Cannes Film Festival, including a co-production with Germany. So, we would be happy to engage in even more joint projects".

Milton Reddy: "We are one of the smallest countries with a population of just 60 million, but we have the most developed film industry in the continent and have been producing films for decades. We also have the continent's most developed distribution network, streaming services, pay TV and the network of cinema theatres. We have a lot to offer partners from different countries. The divisions of the company I work for take part in the production of independent films, large-scale film projects, including for international companies, and distribution. I am now investing my efforts in promoting South African content across overseas markets, so for me it is a great honour to attend Moscow Film Festival and a great opportunity to establish partnerships".

Hasan Firdausul: "India is a country where cinema is not only about emotions, but also about movement. It is a country with diverse religions and languages. We are one of the largest film producers globally producing around 3,000 films in 16 different languages. Also, cinema plays a very important role, not only contributing to the country's economy, but also keeping the country's integrity, uniting it and moving it forward. We have about 30 states and everywhere we have beautiful locations and wonderful studios. We are already working with 17 countries around the world, doing co-productions and we look forward to further collaboration with other countries".

Zhuang Yang: "China is now starting to take the lead in the world cinema. Last year, we managed to set a ticket sales record, more than 3 billion tickets were sold. Last year, we also released about a thousand films, including 800 feature films, and we continue to step up production rates. Last year's box office leader was the film Full River Red by our renowned director Zhang Yimou, which broke the ticket sales record totalling over 4 million yuan. Today, Chinese cinema theatres are beating Hollywood's box office receipts. We bridge the gap to replace Hollywood films only by showing our domestically produced films, but also films from Thailand, India, Japan, and France. So, we are determined to strengthen cooperation with other countries and enrich our native culture through cinema. That is why, we openly welcome films from Russia and the BRICS countries. Do visit us in China".

The presentation Moscow – a Cinema City brought together General Director of Moskino cinema chain Igor Mikhailyuk, Board Chair, Soyuzmultfilm Studio, General Director, Gorky Film Studio, Board Chair, Russian Animated Film Association Yuliana Slashcheva, Executive Director, Film and TV Producers Association Olga Zhukova, KION producer Irina Scherbovich-Vecher, CEO, LOOK FILM Vladislav Momdjian, and Founder, XOVP Studio Yuriy Yarushnikov.

Igor Mikhailyuk: "The Moskino Film Park, located 29 kilometers from Moscow, is a huge territory of about a thousand hectares. It includes such locations as a train station, airport, various villages, Moscow of the 40s, cathedral squares, where film producers can shoot films to avoid congestion filming in the real Moscow. It is also planned to build sets of other cities in the film park. The first phase of the park has already been finished. The project will be fully implemented by 2030. It will be a cluster both for filmmakers and for tourists. Moreover, Moskino as a cinema chain has a huge experience of working with the audience. We have 13 cinemas, one library with a cinema hall: a total of 25 screens and 3,300 seats. We aim to promote and popularize films from different countries. Also, there is Moscow Cinema Platform working in several languages. It aggregates a range of services and facilities necessary for film production. It offers information about companies providing props and equipment, and various locations to choose from. Also, Moscow Film Commission has been working since 2018. For example, last year, the Commission supported 550 projects at 3,500 locations in Moscow. The united platform has a function to apply for booking of locations, get all the necessary permits for shooting. The Commission also provides visa support and helps facilitates the accommodation of film crews and the search for co-production partners".

Yuliana Slascheva: "Gorky Film Studio is the only site in the Moscow film cluster having its own production facilities. The first stage of the studio modernization has been finished by now: today we have five working pavilions and six new studios have been opened for shooting digital content, also offering LED screens and graphics. Now we are producing a feature film Letter to Ded Moroz with six live CGI characters. Today our collection includes more than 200 thousand pieces of costumes and props. Clothes, accessories, furniture, household items of different ages are available for rent. All these items can be found in a digital catalog. In less than five years, we have produced 14 feature films, including partner co-productions, 29 documentaries and over 48 hours of popular science content. We now have four feature films in production. Besides Letter to Ded Moroz these are Never Too Late starring Sergey Lavygin, How I Met Her Mother and Tour with the Ivanushki. We also started producing our first series based on the works of Korney Chukovsky featuring Viktor Khorinyak and Agata Muceniece. At Soyuzmultfilm Studio, we also are actively planning production. One of our tasks is to give a new life to the golden collection characters. Besides Cheburashka, which sequels are being produced, 9 other feature films with Soyuzmultfilm characters have been planned – ranging from Winnie-the-Pooh and the characters of Prostokvashino to those of The Mitten.

Olga Zhukova: "Russia is a country with incredible filmmaking potential. It has modern and historical cities, magnificent sand dunes, waterfalls, forests, fields. There are diverse available locations! As part of the Cinema of Russia program, the Producers Association is promoting favorable conditions for producers of both Russian and foreign film content. For Russian filmmakers, we are offering a program of rebates, which works in 14 regions, and we are working on a federal rebate program for foreign film producers. This will be available in Moscow quite soon. Moreover, film commissions are working in 48 regions providing assistance with the selection of locations, casting, props, renting filming equipment, and much more. Such film commissions will soon appear in eight other regions".

Irina Scherbovich-Vecher: "We have recently filmed Amur project, with lots of shootings in Thailand, and we felt the difference in approaches. We, for example, do not offer weekly payment options, which allows for budget optimization, with only shift and monthly available. It will probably be important to highlight for our foreign colleagues that now we are attractive now not only due to the exchange rate, which is favorable for foreign producers, but we are also very attractive in terms of payment. We have no such thing as a trade union, as strange as it may sound. We have no set rates or minimum work hours. The working shift in Russia is 12 hours, but this covers the time from calling the crew to the "Cut" calling. Of course, we have overtime work, which is paid, and which we are trying to avoid. And we have a language-barrier free professional community".

Vladislav Momjian: "Lookfilm is one of the leaders in producing content for online platforms in Russia. We produce from 10 to 15 projects a year, including series and full-lengths films. We are now actively working with Turkish producers. In Moscow, we can offer a full range of production services. We have a large production base, own transport, cameras, a computer graphics studio, set design, warehouses for costumes, props, a large administrative team, free support in the English language for most of crew members. We believe we are an innovative company in the market, as 10 years ago we developed and launched an online service for planning and organizing the shooting process, which has no parallels in the market. In its 10 years of operation, this product has become a standard for the Russian industry, more than 80% of Russian companies use it every day, plan shootings, draft reports and production documents. Now we have more than 30 thousand registered users and more than 5 thousand projects. By now, we have also designed a solution to tap into international markets and consider potential collaboration with foreign producers and investors to adapt the product. We have already localized in English and Turkish, but it is fully ready for localization in any other languages".

Yuriy Yarushnikov: "XOVP shoots using virtual production technology. We can seamlessly merge the real and the unreal, right on the shooting set, when the director sees what's going on himself. We use diode screens for this and the Unreal Engine, which translates the background to the screen in real time. This has been a trend in the global film industry in the recent 2-3 years. In Russia in 2021 this technology was used in only 3% of projects, and in 2023 this share was 16-18%. For example, this year saw the release of Aleksey German Jr.'s film Air, which was presented at Tokyo International Film Festival. For its production, we built probably the largest screen in Europe, more than a thousand square meters wide. This allowed the director to repeat one take right on the set as many times as necessary, until he gets what he wants, without fully exhausting the actors. The actors themselves, including Sergey Bezrukov, said it was a mind-blowing experience for them. It was impossible to complain about the weather or other conditions. Besides, Air became the first film in the world, where the air battles were shot with virtual production. And after this the shooting, we got an unexpected call from Epic Games, the designers of the Unreal Engine, asking who we are, how we did it, and why they didn't know about us. Well, so now you can know about us – we are ready to work together".

The producer and president of the Ethiopian International Film Festival Yirgasheva Teshome Amare, the actress Florence Masebe (South Africa), the Indian producer Ramakrishna Ramamoorthy Srinivasan, the Brazilian producer Gabriel Bortolini, Chairman of the Chinese Changchun Film Group Zhuang Yang, the Iranian producer, CEO of the film distribution company FilmIran, the founder and owner of the Ali Satrapi, the Egyptian actor Mohamed Shakwu Ali, Director, International Sales Department of the Russian film company Central Partnership Leyla Atakishieva participated in the roundtable Festivals as an Opportunity to Enter the Global Film Market.

Yirgasheva Teshome Amare: "The Ethiopian International Film Festival has been hosted for 18 years. Usually, we only have Ethiopian films in competition because it is not always possible to compare them with American, European or Russian films. We present other films in out-of-competition programmes. A film festival is a platform where filmmakers come together and where films are promoted. And our festival has always supported that, especially given that there is no government cinema support in Ethiopia".

Florence Masebe: "Film festivals are quite an important part of the film industry because it's where you get to know the films, not just the people who make them. We learn from other people and their filmmaking style, learn each other's stories and through that come to know each other better. It's important for us to show our films at festivals and it's important for others to bring their films to our festivals. The oldest film festival in South Africa is held in Durban. A film market is also hosted there, and there is another important part of the festival, the Talent Campus, which helps young people to get a start in the industry. Another key festival we host is a documentary festival, and there is also a major international film festival in Johannesburg. We also organize National Arts Festival, which is generally focused on art and performance, but in the recent few years a film festival has also been introduced as part of the National Arts Festival. In our country we have a vision of what should a variety of film festivals look like, but we are also very serious about looking out to opportunities for South African filmmakers beyond our domestic events. It's welcoming to see a lot of South African filmmakers participating in the BRICS Film Festival and this Moscow International Film Festival".

Ramakrishna Ramamoorthy Srinivasan: "It is very important for filmmakers to attend film festivals where, if I may say so, they get an academic education. Watching a film at a festival is similar to a religious catharsis, it is a revelation of our mind in the darkness of a cinema hall. And if I see at least one such film during the festival week, it means that the festival was a success, it changed not only me, but someone else, too. Festivals are a real cultural revolution for people!"

Gabriel Bortolini: "Brazil hosts over 50 festivals in different cities, and some of them are a bit older than Moscow Film Festival, such as São Paulo Film Festival, which hosts its 48th edition, or even the Brazilian Film Festival, which is 57 years old. When it comes to me, I am a producer and the curator of the Petropolis Film Festival, a small urban festival hosting its 14th edition. In Brazil, we usually say that there are two different careers in cinema: one of them is the festival career and the other is commercial. But I'm sure that festivals should primarily be held to show the diversity of cinema".

Ali Satrapi: "Iran's output is 110-120 locally produced films every year, and many of them have a festival track record both at home and abroad. Directors such as Farhadi, Panahi, Rasoulof are among the most famous in the world. Our cinema is being recognized despite all the difficulties and restrictions we are facing. I don't know if I should be happy about or regret it, but in Iran we often make films just for festivals. I hope that national and international cinema will come up with films showing Iran as it is, not as other countries would prefer it to be like".

Zhuang Yang: "One of the oldest film festivals globally, Moscow International Film Festival plays and important role in advancing international cooperation and allows us to promote international films. Founded in 2016, the BRICS Film Festival's mission was to form cultural ties, to introduce the peoples of our countries and to promote cinema as an art that unites us and our cultures. Although it was established not so long ago, it has vast prospects. The BRICS countries cover almost 27% of world's area, and their population accounts for 42% of the total Earth's population. No doubt, there are so many film fans among them. So, I encourage each of us to promote our countries and participate in the BRICS Festival".

Mohamed Shakwu Ali: "We all need cinema, which is a streamlined dream, a script for escaping our chaotic every-day life. Egypt has seven or eight international film festivals, the oldest of which is Cairo Film Festival. I started my career not as a filmmaker, but as an oral surgeon. And at some point, I had to change, being a doctor became boring, so I became a film director, then I started teaching at a cinema school, and now I'm a professor of film production at Cairo Film Institute".

Leyla Atakishieva: "In the last two and a half years our company has changed its focus. Of course, we have always paid great attention to the markets of Latin America, Asia, China, India. The BRICS countries have always been our partners and festivals of these countries are playing a great role for us now. For the last few years, we have been particularly active at festivals in China. The films presented there are usually sold to Chinese distributors. We also are actively participating in Goa Film Festival and Film Market, and we are looking towards the Middle East, although we haven't participated in festivals in Saudi Arabia or Egypt yet, despite we have successfully worked together with the Middle East. I believe festivals do not guarantee good film sales in certain territories, they are more about art, so for us, as a film distribution company, it is important to attract spectators from all over the world through festivals".

Chairman of Changchun Film Group Chuan Zhuang Yang (China), the actress Florence Masebe (South Africa), the first female film director in UAE Nayla Al Khaja, the Indian producer and director Hasan Firdausul (India), the Iranian producer, CEO of the film distribution company FilmIran, the founder and owner of the Ali Satrapi, Counsellor, Head of the Department of Culture, Education, Press and Public Diplomacy, Embassy of Brazil in Moscow Suzuki De Amorim Carlos, participated in the roundtable Co-Production Prospects and Genre Preferences of BRICS Spectators.

Hasan Firdausul: "We have co-production agreements with 17 countries. Brazil, China and, hopefully, Russia are among them. Co-productions help us share our culture, traditions with other countries, to develop our society. High-level co-production agreements are certainly important, but we should not forget that 95% of co-productions are made through the cooperation of individual production companies. And I personally look forward to working with my Russian colleagues".

Florence Masebe: "All co-productions can work in two ways, as per their scope, at a state level and a personal level. If there are agreements in place at the state level, it makes production easier – you can work within the official framework and get certain preferences, including tax benefits. So, I would like to see such agreements signed between all the BRICS countries".

Zhuang Yang: "For China, co-production is by far the most promising, productive and efficient way to cooperate with other countries and to develop its own cinema. The first co-production film, V Yedinom Stroyu,was made back in 1959 in cooperation with the Soviet Union. Now China has signed 20 co-production contracts with different countries. The most popular films have been co-productions with Hong Kong and the United States. Moreover, in 2023, 37 films were co-produced with other states, including Thailand, Canada, the Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, and Russia. Cooperation memoranda have been signed with all these countries. The most important task for us is the localization of co-produced films. We have to consider cultural differences and tailor each film to a particular market and local cultural features. This is the key and, as a matter of fact, the most difficult aspect that we have encountered in many projects. We believe everything, from scripting, filming, post-production, distribution, marketing, should be done jointly, considering the specific features of partner countries".

Nayla al Khaja: "I started 20 years ago as the first female director in my country, and it wasn't fun. The Gulf countries where I come from are considered rich, but there is money for everything except for cinema. It's not as attractive to investors in terms of profits, it's easier to invest in real estate, agriculture, warehouses and so on. I hope that the success of blockbusters from the BRICS countries will break this "curse". Right now, the UAE, as far as I know, has no co-production agreements with other countries and this is definitely a missed opportunity. Despite we have a small size, we have quite a lot of financial capacities and I just feel that they have not been properly used to develop the film industry".

Ali Satrapi: "Western countries and Hollywood are introducing us to their culture, including cinema, very actively. We, the BRICS countries, do not have the proper and sufficient knowledge about our neighbours. And if we concentrate on bringing our cultures closer, understanding each other better, we will be able to find important and interesting topics for films that will bring us closer".

Suzuki De Amorim Carlos: "Brazil has co-production agreements with 13 countries. And right at this time, we are negotiating such an agreement with Russia. Our audience is greatly interested in films from different countries, and co-productions would help us enhance this interest. The Brazilian Embassy in Russia hosts its own film festival, this year it will see its 15th edition, and I invite everyone to attend".