Issue 3, 2019. June-July

   

FROM BOLLYWOOD TO HOLLYWOOD: GEORGIA'S FUTURE AS A FILM LOCATION

Georgia hosted a delegation of Hollywood producers and cinematographers from April 28-May 1, part of the government's ongoing efforts to attract foreign filmmakers to the country. Investor.ge spoke to Film in Georgia's project manager Tatia Bidzinashvili about the government's efforts to attract filmmakers and the growing interest from US studios.

Georgia's film industry is moving from strength to strength, with local directors picking up international awards for artistic and documentary work. Now the government is increasing its efforts to attract international filmmakers to Georgia.

A recent delegation from Hollywood underscored Georgia's growing prominence in the international film community.

The delegation included representatives from companies such as Universal Pictures and HBO, with their work spanning from Transformers, Star Wars: the Force Awakens, Sky Fall and others.

Hollywood producers and filmmakers travelled from Tbilisi to Rustavi, Kazbegi, Chiatura and Batumi to check out Georgia's potential film locations. They also learned about the government's incentives to attract filmmakers to Georgia under the state-run Film in Georgia program.

American interest has been steadily growing in Georgia, says Tatia Bidzinashvili, the project manager at Film in Georgia, the agency dedicated to promoting the cinema industry in the country.

"The delegation's visit was a big step forward in the process. We have expectations that soon we will start [seeing the implementation of American projects] in Georgia.

I also want to note that the composition of this delegation was unprecedented, as it included top managers of these companies. Some projects are already being negotiated on."

The Film in Georgia programme was launched in 2016, and its main aim is to promote the filming of TV series and films in Georgia, in addition to animation and documentary works. In doing so, the programme seeks to create new jobs in the country, stimulate the growth of the local film industry and promote the country and what it has to offer abroad.

Girls of the Sun (Les filles du soleil)


My Happy Family


The Search


How to Sell a War


The programme has introduced a cash rebate mechanism, allowing filmmakers to get up to 20-25% back on the amount of money they spend in the country. While both international and local production companies can make use of the programme's advantages, the minimum cost of a project must exceed 500,000 lari to be eligible for cash back.

Bidzinashvili notes that Film in Georgia does more than just offer financial incentives to shoot in the country.

"We work on the principle of a one-stop shop...we assist in organizational matters. For example, if a road needs to be blocked for filming, we take care of the issue and settle it with the local municipality.

"Moreover, we offer location-scouting services. As soon as the scriptwriters, producers or directors decide what landscape or building they will need to work in outside the studio, the search for a suitable location begins. We can quickly compile a database of interesting locations. It all depends on what type of movie they are shooting and what type of script.

"These days, films that take place during World War II are very popular. In this case, we have a number of buildings that are appropriate for 'filming' the Soviet period. But if a film needs more European-style streets, then David Aghmashenebeli Avenue and Sighnaghi, in Kakheti, are very suitable for this.

"If they need to shoot in mountain areas, we have Kazbegi and Svaneti. That is, we have many opportunities in just a small area, all this makes the system flexible for foreign producers."

Currently, Bidzinashvili says, 22 projects have already been implemented, of which the majority have been Georgian-European co-productions.

Of those, several documentary films have already been made that have received acclaim both at home and abroad.

An artistic film called And Then We Danced, a Swedish-Georgian production, was shot in Georgia and nominated at the Cannes Film Festival.

Two years ago, the film Girls of the Sun (Les filles du soleil) was also shot in Georgia, and presented at the Cannes Festival.

A Georgian drama film filmed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross titled My Happy Family - a Georgian-German project that was shown in the 2017 World Cinema Dramatic Competition section of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival - has also been quite popular.

As for the resources the programme has brought in, Bidzinashvili says 57 million lari ($20.8 million) has been spent since the beginning of the programme in 2016. A number of projects are in the pipeline.

The programme has also attracted attention further afield than Europe and at home.

"We also have a good relationship with Asian producers. The budget of one of the latest large-scale projects carried out by Bollywood in Georgia exceeded 10 million lari. Chinese film producers shot a series in Georgia called Mask. All the episodes of this Chinese series were filmed in Georgia, however, it is possible that the series will continue, and in the future there may be a Chinese company shooting in Georgia."

As for the future of the programme, Bidzinashvili is confident it will continue strongly.

"Today there is very high competition, since many countries offer similar mechanisms and this is no longer a novelty. However, Georgia has an advantage, because it is not an established market and it is very diverse. And we can offer competitive prices. It can be said that shooting costs three times cheaper in Georgia than in any other European country."

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