Russian film fund scheme off to a slow start

Copyright issues, dubious BO prospects hamper selection

MOSCOW -- A $20 million scheme for financing local film projects, launched by major Russian producer and studio operator Russian World Studios (RWS), has yet to get off the ground due to copyright and debt issues, as well as unclear commercial prospects of most of the applications.

RWS announced the program earlier this year -- at a time when government support for the film industry is uncertain and private investors have virtually abandoned it -- encouraging producers whose projects were suspended, as well as those with new projects, to apply for funding.

"We have considered more than 70 projects at different production stages," Yuri Sapronov, RWS' CEO, told THR, adding that the company decided to release funding only for two features so far -- both of them being new projects rather than those lacking cash for completion.

"When launching the program, we expected that there would be many projects already in production or even halfway through completion," Sapronov said. "However, we haven't found any that would meet our requirements, such as a current subject, a potential artistic value and good commercial prospects."

Moreover, some projects turned out to be heavily debt-ridden or had unsolved copyright issues, which became the main reason for rejection. "All these factors are important for a final decision, because as producers we have to understand clearly why we invest in each particular project and how the investment will be returned," Sapronov explained, adding that it is difficult to find a local project that would have goodbox office prospects and an artistic value at the same time. "The crisis has forced a lot of Russian film industry professionals to be more cautious and to admit that not only a creative ambition is a key, but a return on investment as well," he said.

Still, RWS is determined to continue with the program and consider more projects, even though the total number of applications is smaller than the company originally expected. The two selected projects are "Daddy's Daughter," a new feature by director Dmitry Meskhiev, and a story about Russian downshifters to Goa by writer/director Pyotr Buslov.