Fox Adds ‘Mohican’ To Its Russian Slate

EXCLUSIVE: Fox International Productions is developing another project with actor-turned-filmmaker Yuri Kolokolnikov. Irokez, which translates as “Mohican”, is a $10 million period comedy written by Yaroslav Chevazhevsky (Kuka), who is already making Victory Day for FIP. Victory Day is a Harold and Maude-style road comedy about a Russian teenager on a road trip with his Babushka grandmother to the famous Red Square May parade. Pushkin hopes to begin shooting next year in Moscow.

FIP is also developing a Russian-language remake of Working Girl, the 80s comedy which starred Melanie Griffith as a secretary who rises through the ranks of corporate Manhattan, and Tony Scott’s action movie Man On Fire, which starred Denzel Washington. Rezo Gegenieshvil, who’s Heat (Zhara) remains one of Russia’s highest-grossing local films, is directing this Russian Working Girl remake. Currently shooting is We Are Family, a comedy about a hapless manager desperate to impress his fiancée, produced and directed by Renat Davietiarov, creator of the hit Love As a Carrot franchise. FIP is in post-production on Love As a Carrot 3, the third instalment of Davietiarov’s comedy series. Fortissimo is handling international sales on FIP’s road action thriller Alien Girl.

Russia has shaken up its film funding system. Instead of funding movies on a film-by-film basis, it has ring-fenced $68 million for eight established producers including Timur Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs (Night Watch), Nikita Mikhalkov’s Tri-Te (Burnt By the Sun 2) and Fyodor Bandachook’s Art Pictures. The plan is for each of the eight to make three movies a year with the money, raising 30% of the budget themselves. This has incensed other Russian producers frozen out of the funding circle. Producers used to be able to apply for grants of up to $1 million apiece. Kolokolnikov says that for him, not being part of this inner funding circle is irrelevant. Producers spend so much time worrying about state handouts, they don’t think about the movies they’re making, he says. For a filmmaker raised in a country that until only fairly was run on state centralist lines, Kolokolnikov takes a free market stance: “Government money is destroying the industry. State handouts should be used to prop up failing industries or be better spent on orphanages.”

Hollywood can now cover up to 50% of the production costs of a Russian film. There used to be a 30% funding ceiling. The change came into effect in May. And Russia has loosened how it defines a local film, enabling foreigners to be in key technical positions providing above-the-line talent is Russian. Given that the state is covering two-thirds of production costs of the eight inner circle producers, foreign producers coming in on official co-productions is attractive. Foreign producers can bring their own soft money with them. For example, the number of German/Russian co-productions is expected to increase significantly. On average, Russia has been making just 10 international co-productions a year.

Local box office is robust and production investment continues to grow. There was a 12% rise in ticket sales last year to 132 million. Production investment reached 9.8 billion roubles ($314 million), nearly double what it was four years previously.

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