The meeting participants discussed the future of the Russian cinema, improving the efficiency and the rational use of state support for the film industry, training professionals for the industry, as well as the Russian audience’s expectations from the national cinema.
At the beginning of the meeting the President asked the participants to observe a moment of silence in memory of outstanding film director Pyotr Todorovsky, who died in Moscow earlier today at the age of 87. Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the director’s family and loved ones.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
I said good afternoon, but in fact today is a sad day. As you know, Pyotr Todorovsky, an outstanding Soviet and Russian film director, cameraman, screenwriter and actor, has died. I offer my condolences to all his loved ones. (Moment of silence.)
Colleagues, we meet regularly to consider ways to develop the cinema, this highly important field and art form. I think you'll agree that state support for the Russian film industry has been growing in recent years, but the industry’s current issues cannot be resolved by money alone, although, of course, it is impossible to achieve anything without it.
In recent years, allocations for the film industry just from the federal budget amounted to almost 58 billion rubles [approximately $2 billion]. Proper conditions for the industry to flourish have been established, or at least a great deal has been done to that end. We have taken into account the wishes of hundreds of film industry professionals, film directors and distributors, to adopt the necessary legal framework; concessions have been agreed for film production financing, both in terms of customs regulation and film studios’ economic activity, and significant tax incentives have been provided. To effectively address the industry’s problems we have created a profile government council and a federal fund for social and economic support of the national film industry, which has broad powers and capabilities.
As for funding, I would like to share some information with you, which is generally known and there is nothing secret about it. The amount of funding for the film industry has increased by 12.5 times from 2000, when it amounted to 528.6 million rubles, until 2013. Today, in 2013, the funding is 6,612,200,000 rubles. The figure was only 528 million, and now it is 6.6 billion.
The government is doing a great deal to help the Russian film industry become competitive and meet the demands of the time. Naturally, people expect a commensurate result: to have more and more films produced every year that will match the strategic objectives of national development and the needs of society, films that will have a serious, creative and educational impact, that will carry an educational and creative charge, promote healthy living, patriotism, spirituality, compassion and responsibility.
However, we must admit that we are still far from reaching all of these goals. Foreign films are gaining ground in the Russian box office, and the share of viewers' interest in Russian films at the box office now stands at only 15.5%. I have often said that the state can help to make a film but it cannot get people to watch a film they don’t like. We can reserve places in cinemas for Russian films but the question is how to fill the seats with viewers.
Most importantly, Russian viewers do not lose faith in our domestic film industry; they dream of a strong, national cinema and genuinely enjoy its successes. Remember how the public acclaimed Faust, The Admiral, and such unfortunately rare creative triumphs for our film industry as Yelena, The Brest Fortress, which, by the way, were made on a very modest budget. Legenda No. 17 took by storm millions of viewers of all generations and has been at the box office for over a month, despite the appearance of new foreign blockbusters.
I am firmly convinced that Russian viewers do not choose between foreign and Russian films, but between the good and not so good ones, to put it mildly, and are always ready to give preference to Russian films. When I say a good film, what I am referring to is its artistic value. That is what is important for viewers, who need films that describe ordinary human relationships and feelings. And the films that make us feel proud of our nation and its history have always been and will always enjoy great success.
Of course, these are just wishes. The state must not use censorship, dictate its terms or put pressure on the industry. Culture professionals have complete freedom of choice and expression. But freedom is not everything. You must earn public trust and respect for your work, make sure it is in demand and maintain the standard constantly.
I would like to remind you that I addressed the Film Council in November 2011, — and many of its members are present here today, — with a request to consider a kind of ethical charter for the members of the Russian film industry. I would like to come back to this issue, considering the way things are, as well as the opinions of the viewers, who keep complaining about the prevalence of mediocre films. I believe that such a charter and a list of its signatories can become a benchmark for the Government’s strategy and the continued support of the film industry.
In addition, it is important to investigate the situation and put an end to the dishonest attitude towards state support. Unfortunately, there are cases when the state allocates substantial funds, sufficient for implementing the projects of filmmakers and distributors, and these funds are used badly or, oddly enough, not used at all. The project initiators change the rules of the game in the process. It is unacceptable in any industry to waste state funds or use them inappropriately.
In recent years we have seen the emergence of large qualified producers capable of implementing quality projects, and you must go to those professionals if you believe there are certain topics that are important to convey on the film or TV screen. I say this because some agencies aspire to set up their own studios. I don’t think we need that. Agencies must deal with their own set of issues.
Speaking of professionals, I cannot ignore the current state and prospects of Russian film education. Many of you here know that I recently signed an executive order, in which the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (Russian State University of Cinematography) has been classified as a particularly valuable cultural heritage site. It is a well-deserved status, which reflects the university’s symbolic role in the preservation of the national film school’s unique traditions. However, it is also a great responsibility, because the flagship institution must always be the best of the best and lead by example.
It is no secret that many filmmakers today complain about the level of education provided at specialised educational institutions. According to them, and we should take their opinions seriously, the curricula are often outdated, to put it mildly, professionals are no longer trained for a number of specialties that are much needed for the modern film industry. The film industry employment market currently needs over 100 professions, while universities train specialists in only 10 of them. Training centres must move with the times (this applies to all educational centres); in fact, they must be one step ahead, they must work for the future. We have university professors and film industry professionals with us today, and I propose that we think together about how to meet the challenges facing this field.
These are the issues I propose we talk about today, but, of course, as in our previous meetings, feel free to raise any questions you deem necessary. My colleagues and I are at your disposal, so let’s start our discussion.