Russia "for sale"

TV Mastery
Producer / Administrator

Stanislav Solovkin,
«Soar Productions»

Russia for sale
Producer's nature

Regional TV channels and local government overlook one fruitful work direction. CIS countries and, of course, Russia are potentially very attractive for the foreign TV and film companies. Foreign audio and visual content producers like our nature, culture and even our specialists. But they can't do anything without the help of Russian colleagues. I know it from my personal experience and can tell in what way our regional colleagues can be useful.

Foreign producer of TV and film content are very interested in the Russian specialists. Though not the creative ones, but so called «willing horses», who know foreign languages and can organise shootings: administrators, translators, transport coordinators, location managers, extras, etc. As the Russian legislation is less regulated concerning the hiring of manpower for a TV project, it is more sensible to hire the majority of such staff in the country of the shooting and not bring them with you.

The laws in other countries are less liberal. For instance, if you come to shoot anything in Brazil (it is a very developed country, concerning TV production), then you have to hire two locals for each three specialists, that you brought with you, even if you don't need them. And also you will have to pay them not the salary, that you deem necessary, but the one, that is assigned by the local trade union. Plus, in addition to all the taxes for the program or film shooting you will have to pain a large share to the Brazil treasury.

This tendency, that increases the cost of the TV content in other countries, has not reached Russia yet. That is why the country is used for the shooting by South Koreans, Americans, Englishmen, etc. Lately the Chinese started to come too: their government sponsors every promotion of the «Silk Road» brand, which goes through the former USSR countries. Also it is cheaper to rent the shooting equipment in Russia.

In the territory of Russia and former USSR there are many interesting and not so widely used visual objects and landscapes. Once we started cooperation with one Indian company to make a film, in which the heroine goes mad and Goa becomes covered with snow. This serves as a basis for the two-thirds of the plot, which can not be shot in India. And in we have lots of snow in Russia! Or in Georgia, where the colleagues finally decided to shoot.

But as much as the Russians or Georgians do not know India, the Hindu do not know Georgia. The foreigners cannot work without a local helper, who knows the mentality and the laws of the country. I help my colleagues to understand the country and organise an effective business process. Russian potential assessment hardly ever reaches 50% and that of Gerogia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Kazakhstan or Azerbaijan is deemed as 0%.

Our experience shows, that the producers of TV content are no less interested in Russia. We cooperate with the CBS channel from USA for 6 years already and help it shoot the «Amazing Race» show. We made 11 one-hour episodes in different cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Kostroma and Baku. This reality is devoted to traveling. Two teams two people each, who are somehow related (sisters, brothers, friends, spouses, etc) travel around the world, fulfilling funny, interesting and sometimes unbelievably difficult tasks. Each team should reach the «Pit-Stop» in order to win the prizes and not lose, that is not to leave the race and not to make the next leg more difficult.

Strange as it may seem, TV travelling is as much popular as TV cooking. The «Discovery» channel has had plans on shooting shows in the Polar Circle for a long time. Travel Channel constantly shows interest in Russia. BBC made the «Top Gear» special in St. Petersburg.
In order to make a one-two days shooting in our country you have to conduct a half a year preparation. So the foreign companies would have to send a decent 15 men crew and pay them a huge salary, which some of the richest channels cannot afford. The reliable local producers can significantly decrease the expenses.

There is this «facilitator» term, that in our case means a man or a company, that provide a full-support for a TV production. I can illustrate this with many shows example where the «Amazing Race» is not an exception. Producers come up with the contents of each episode: we do this here, that happens there, then the contestants go to that place... Everything they invent requires 3 main things: 1) qualified staff, 2) shooting permissions and 3) everything shoot be safe and cheap (that Hollywood-doesn't-count-money talk is a myth).
Suggesting our services are very timely especially during the current crisis times, when you need to earn the expensive currency and spend the cheap roubles. On the other hand, the dollar costs decrease leads to the decrease in the production costs in Russia and in the countries, where the national countries is tied to the dollar through the rouble (for example, Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan).

The main deal breaker for the shooting in Russia has always been the problem of getting the shooting permission. There are no rules, and the restrictions and problems are in abundance. If we want to shoot the Nevsky Avenue in St. Petersburg, it is not always possible to get a fixed price. It is unclear, if we have to get any permit at all. If we do not block the traffic, not interfere with the pedestrian movement, then why should we get any permit? But the common sense does not protect from a policeman coming up with the «What are shooting? Get the hell out of here. This is not allowed!». This is almost not regulated.

Locations, where there are fixed shooting rules are rare. For instance, those are the Moscow metro, airports or the bridges across the Moskva river. Everything else is subject to negotiation even in Moscow. When something is not regulated by the law, one person can tell you, that it is impossible to shoot, and then a location manager turns up and says it can be down for a certain price. Unfortunately, every agreement would be based solely on your words. And the foreign partners do not trust words. Because you cannot show them to a policeman, approaching you in the street - you have have a document. The cancelation of the shooting leads to a huge money loss. And those people are ready to make a «paper», but with no documents and for a triple the cost. You cannot explain this to foreigners...

I managed to get totally unbelievable permits. In 2010 in order to shoot the «Amazing Race» show in St. Petersburg in 8-9 locations, I had to get written permits during 24 hours from 180 different authorities - from the chief city policeman to a distinct police officer. It was to risky too work without this.

Collecting so many permits is insane! Taking into account the fact, that the local government and Russia as a whole are interested in making the work of foreign producers comfortable and transparent legislation- and price-wise. Sorry for being banal, but it is good PR for attracting the tourists. Kremlin and Hermitage are well known and the sights of small cities, like Kostroma, are not. If there is an opportunity to show them to hundreds of million of people all over the world, I do not understand why the local authorities do not help with that. Though I can guess: they do not care. And permitting anything, especially to foreigners means taking the responsibility. Saying «no» is always easier and safer.

  • After the «Brave Heart» movie was on, the Wallace monument in Scotland admission was tripled
  • The «Lord of the Rings», shot in New Zealand increased the tourist business profit in that country from 3 to 6 billion dollars
  • The «Crown» hotel in Amersham, where the «Four funerals and a wedding» was shot, is fully booked for three years ahead
  • After the «Mission Impossible - 2» the admission of the Sydney National Park doubled
  • The «Beach» increased the youth tourism rate in Thailand for 22%
  • The World Tourist Organisation thinks, that the famous American format the «Amzaing Race», produced by Bertram van Munster, Jerry Bruckheimer and Elsie Doganieri made over 110 people travel and they never crossed the boarders of their countries
  • The Rosslyn Chapel, shown in the «Da Vinci Code», is visited 140 000 people a year, this amount was 10 000 before the movie