Russian President Calls for Tighter Control of Film Industry Subsidies

Vladimir Putin Meeting Russian Filmmakers 2013 H

“Wasting state money in any field is unacceptable and so is misuse of funds," says Vladimir Putin.

MOSCOW -- At a recent meeting with Russian filmmakers, President Vladimir Putin called for tighter control over funding provided by the government to the film industry, also suggesting that a code of ethics be drafted for the sector.

The meeting, which was held on May 24 at Putin’s residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was attended by several major directors and producers, including Fyodor Bondarchuk, Vladimir Menshov, Nikita Mikhalkov, Karen Shakhnazarov and Sergei Selyanov.

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“Unfortunately, there are cases when the government allocates serious money to film producers and exhibitors, and it is utilized poorly or, strange as it may sound, is not used at all,” Putin was quoted as saying by the wire service RIA Novosti. “Wasting state money in any field is unacceptable and so is misuse of funds.”

The president also advocated the idea of a code of ethics for the sector, which was first mentioned over a year ago and could allegedly improve the quality of films made in the country. “Taking into account the current state of affairs and, first of all, the opinion of viewers who continually complain about the prevalence of mediocre [films], I would like to again raise this question,” he said.

When Putin first broached the idea of such a code a year ago, he said there is too much violence on Russian screens and invoked the example of the Hays code, the strict censorship program that was used to regulate the content of the U.S. film industry from 1930 to 1968. Putin didn't elaborate further on what his proposed regulatory code would entail for Russian filmmaking.

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Meanwhile, Putin wasn’t in favor of the idea of reducing ticket prices for local films in a bid to raise the proportion of local fare at the total box office, as some in the domestic industry had proposed. “People will go and watch what they want anyway,” he commented.

Prior to the meeting, culture minister Vladimir Medinsky mentioned the possibility of a change in the state-financed film funding system, under which all cash would be administered through the cinema fund, while all decisions will be made by the culture ministry. Currently, the fund and the ministry distribute roughly the same amount of government cash between filmmakers.

Until recently, the two organizations had been effectively competing for the right to administer state funds. But Medinsky's plan would mean that all decisions are made by the culture ministry, and the fund would operate simply as a bank of sorts. Many in the film community would prefer the fund over the ministry as the body responsible for funding decisions, as they fear the ministry will exert too much ideological pressure.