Issue 1, 2016. February-March

   

GEORGIA DEVELOPING NEW INCENTIVES TO ATTRACT FOREIGN FILM COMPANIES

A new component, Shoot in Georgia, is being added to the government's Produce in Georgia program this year. The Economy Ministry is betting on financial and technical assistance to bring more film shoots to Georgia. Investor.ge spoke with Deputy Economy Minister Ketevan Bochorishvili about the program.

The idea to make Georgia a magnet for international film producers is not entirely new. Foreign film directors have been exploring Georgia as an inexpensive but attractive location. The country's low-level of bureaucracy, diverse environment and climate - as well as its rich culture - have also added to its appeal.

Maia Edilashvili

Georgia's Soviet architecture served as a backdrop for the 2015 thriller Partisan, starring Vincent Cassel

The Ministry of Economy's program focuses on film producers in France, Germany, India and the U.S., according to Deputy Economy Minister Ketevan Bochorishvili.

Bochorishvili is part of a team that is actively reaching out to producers.

"Throughout the first half of 2016, we will meet foreign producers and attempt to interest them through road shows and presentations. Our expectation is that in the second half of 2016 we will have at least three foreign movies produced in Georgia," Bochorishvili told Investor.ge in an e-mailed interview.

The program, part of the Ministry's Enterprise Georgia initiative, which also involves the Ministry of Culture and the Georgian National Film Center, includes a package of financial and tax initiatives for production companies that opt for Georgia.

Twenty-Percent Cash Rebate

The plan offers a cash rebate system that returns 20% of production costs to producers, according to the program's webpage.

The Ministry of Economy and the Embassy of the U.S. in Georgia jointly hosted Mary Ann Hughes, Vice President at the Walt Disney Company, and Joe Chianese, Executive Vice President of Entertainment Partners (EP), in Georgia in September.

While in Georgia, Hughes and Chianese advised the Ministry on developing legislation and incentives to help the movie industry - and, in turn, the Georgian economy.

The Georgian government and the U.S.Embassy are now working to follow up on their visit by bringing Disney and other American film production companies back to Georgia.

Bochorishvili said that Hughes and Chianese "expressed interest to cooperate and to support the Shoot in Georgia initiative. Following their advice, we have started to prepare a look book, bringing together all key Georgian locations."

"We are in a process to draft our action plan and will announce specific news as we move on," the deputy minister added.

More foreign Movies with Georgian Settings

Annette Bening

The idea to make Georgia a magnet for international film producers is not entirely new. Foreign film directors have been exploring Georgia as an inexpensive but attractive location. The country's low level of bureaucracy, diverse environment and climate - as well as its rich culture - have also added to its appeal.

Russian-American filmmaker and video artist Julia Loktev was charmed by Georgia's "very unique-looking" landscapes, making them almost a main character in her 2011 movie, "The Loneliest Planet." BidzinaGujabidze, along with Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal and Israeli-American actress Hani Funtenberg, star in the film. A story of an engaged couple's camping expedition in the Caucasus Mountains was described by Interview magazineas a film "largely silent, but loaded with nuance."Interview also described the film's Georgian landscapes as "overwhelmingly beautiful."

Loktev was quoted as saying: "I was very picky about the kind of landscape that the film would have, because the landscape is almost like music in the film. It sets, completely, the mood of the film. I didn't want something that was rocky, that was arid. I also didn't want trees. These mountains are huge and green and open; they just seemed so right for the story."

Michel Hazanavicius was charmed by Georgia's Soviet-era apartment blocks, which were the backdrop for his 2014 film "The Search," starring Annette Bening as a French-born, Chechnya-based NGO worker.

The country's Soviet architecture also attracted Australian-born director Ariel Kleiman for his 2015 thriller "Partisan," which starred Vincent Cassel.

Enter Bollywood

India's immense movie industry has also eyed Georgian landscapes. In 2011, Chakri Toleti directed "Billa II," an Indian thriller, and chose Georgia as one of the film's locations.

Another Bollywood romance, "Ishqedarriyaan," was shot entirely in Georgia and features Kvareli Lake, Alazani Valley and Tbilisi streets- includingthe former Parliament building, the Bridge of Peace and Hero's Square. According to a Rustavi 2 TV report, 40 percent of the film's $400,000 was spent in Georgia.

Exporting Georgia

Over the last three years, Indianfilmmakers have made three movies in Georgia, two music videos and five advertising videos, spending 7,000,000 lari ($2.93 million) and employing over 800 people, Bochorishvili said.

"The arrival of international movie companies helps create jobs for locals, improves their qualifications, promotes the country's image and pushes those fields ahead, which is important for creating a high quality film," Bochorishvili said. The Indian productions have brought images of Dartlo in Tusheti, the Vardzia cave complex in Samtskhe-Javakheti, the streets of Tbilisi, Rustavi and Borjomi-as well as national folk songs and dancing -to Indian audiences.

Currently, Georgia's movie industry brings in 3,000,000 lari(approximately $1.25 million) in revenues yearly and the goal is to double this amount, Bochorishvili said.

"The availability of local resources, both human and technical, has to be taken into account. Now, with existing resources, we can work on a maximum of that the demand is rising, we will support the industry and increase ourcapacity," she told Investor.ge.

"Also, we would welcome projects mentioning in their plots that Georgia is the filming venue. In this case, we will provide additional incentives," she added.

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