Russian film biz faces prolonged uncertainty

New support scheme for the film sector still not forthcoming

MOSCOW -- Uncertainty reigns over the Russian film industry as the government still hasn't come up with a new support scheme for the local film sector to replace the old one cancelled last year.

Even though a government council for development of the Russian film industry was formed last May, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, nothing is known at this point about how much cash is to be spent by the government on the film industry next year and what agency is to administer it.

Earlier this month, an idea of creating a "federal film fund" was voiced at the council's session. The fund would administer all state cash, except for that allotted for funding first features and art house films, which would remain under the culture ministry's control, but no details were provided.

Local producers agree that uncertainty about state support adds to the industry's overall difficult situation caused by the global financial downturn. The unclear prospects of state funding have caused a steep decline in the number of arthouse films and first features, while private investors are focusing on commercially viable projects, a spokesperson for Central Partnership, Russia's largest independent film producer, told THR.

"While [under the old system], to participate in state support, you knew that you were to, for instance, submit a script, names of the director and other key crew members, today the situation is up in the air, and it's not clear what agency and under what criteria is going to select projects eligible for state funding," Timur Weinstein, general producer of WeiT Media told THR. He added that although state funding creates unfair competition between producers operating with state funds and those risking their own cash, in a crisis situation, state support for the industry is still essential.