Issue 6, 2011. December-January

   

STAGE RIGHT: BOLLYWOOD DIRECTORS SPOTLIGHT GROWING INTEREST IN GEORGIAN FILM

A growing interest in Georgia from foreign film producers and directors in Bollywood and Europe could mean more investment, more tourism and greater access to resources for Georgian films.


From Hollywood to Bollywood, there are an increasing number of foreign films being produced in Georgia. While the productions are a boost for the country's image as a film destination, a new agreement with the European Union's Eurimages could mean more resources for Georgian films.

Filming for two Indian movies - Bilia 2 and Double Trouble - initially scheduled for October and November, and Georgian officials and film directors hope more will follow.

Chakri Toleti, the director of Bilia 2, estimated a budget of roughly $500 thousand for his 20 day shoot in November.

Georgia, he noted, is a new location which is a commodity for an industry that produces, on average, nearly two films a day.

Toleti and his colleagues are following a long tradition of filming in Georgia. A favorite backdrop for Soviet directors for decades, the country's diverse climate and good weather have the potential to compete with Prague, noted the international award winning Georgian director, Nino Kirtadze.

Kirtadze, now based in Paris, said Georgia's climate - which varies between the sea and the mountains within a matter of kilometers - could be a magnet for film makers looking for exotic locales on a budget.

"In a very small country you can have totally different and landscapes. You can have a desert, you can have a mountain... you have sea, you have cities. You can shoot Iran, for example, in Georgia," she said.

But producer Gia Bazgadze noted that stunning backdrops alone are not enough for Georgian cinema to "break through" to the international film market.

"The industry is moving slowly, but moving forward, in the direction of improvement in Georgia. More films are shot, more producers are showing themselves on the market; you see more directors, more studios and more production companies," he said.

But Bazgadze, who is also a partner in the largest chain of movie theaters in Georgia, noted that tax incentives are vital for the industry to attract foreign film-makers.

"To make this country attractive for film-makers, you need some tax incentives to be established here and have the rebate system that is happening in many countries, including European countries," he said.

The Ministry of Culture and the Georgian National Film Center are currently working on a draft law that will create tax incentives for film production teams, he added.

A new agreement between the European Union's Eurimages grant co-financing progam and Georgia is also "highly important," Bazgadze said.

"It is very important that Georgia makes coproduction go international. For that, the best news is that Georgia became part of Eurimages. I think this is the most important achievement that happened over the past several years."

Eurimages will give Georgian filmmakers a chance to reach a wider audience, noted Georgian National Film Center Director Tamara Tatiashvili. The center played a pivotal role in bringing Eurimages to Georgia.

"Being a member of Eurimages means that Georgia is part of the wider European scene in a way, so it has equal rights, like the Romanians or French to co-produce together," said Tatishvili.

"I think it is very important and motivating for young Georgian producers and directors to have this opportunity to be equal with their peer colleagues from European countries."

Director Ketevan Machavariani, who debuted her movie ‘Salt White' at the prestigious Karlovy Vary Festival, agreed that Eurimages would be an essential help for filmmakers.

"Eurimages really should be a big support and big issue for Georgian film," she said.

"Last year, after Georgia became an eligible member of Eurimages, we went to Sarajevo. The trip was organized by the Georgian film center...everyone, every European producer during the meeting mentioned that Georgia is now a member of Eurimages and that it is a good opportunity to start cooperation and collaboration with Georgian producers and film directors."

The program will also help with financing, and could prove to be a boost to filmmakers who are struggling to fund their projects. The film center provides subsidies and grants for Georgian film- makers, but Tatishvili noted the budget is much smaller than the film industry's potential.

"Georgian film makers will be successful if they tell truly Georgian stories as long as they show them in a way that is appealing to an international audience," she said. "This is the language of cinema."

The more exposure Georgian films receive - either through co-productions, festivals or awards - the more the world will learn about Georgia, noted Machavariani.

"Any appearance of Georgian movies on international venues is important to let people know that Georgia exists...it is a promotion of the country," she said.

Bazgadze noted that films have helped tourism develop around the world, from the explosion of tourists to New Zealand following the Lord of the Rings series to a new call for monuments in Europe after the Da Vinci Code blockbuster.

"The government should be treating film-making as a business," he said. "One of the benefits of film is for developing a country's tourism industry: you already have many examples where a film substantially increased a country's tourism potential."

Keti Bochorishvili, the director of the Georgia National Investment Agency, believes Bollywood directors can introduce Georgia to a whole new audience of film-goers.

"[In] Bollywood there are about 500 new movies a year; at least two movies a day. So when one producer discovers [a location], they have a pulling effect," Bochorishvili said.

"[The movie business] is really good for the budget in two ways. Whatever investment comes into the country, it stays in the country... everything stays in the country. It makes the economy move forward."

She added that the government is also hoping to cash in on the Bollywood effect: the apparent power of Indian films to draw scores of Indian tourists to the countries where their favorite films are shot."We want this sector to develop in Georgia; for Georgia to become a film production location... the biggest result that it will create is an awareness of the country," she said, noting the number of Indian tourists that have flocked to Switzerland to visit the backdrop of their favorite films.

"We would expect increased numbers of tourists coming to Georgia... and it will be easier for us to talk about Georgia after this movie than it was before this movie."

Toleti said that Georgia has the makings of a new international filming location."I think that once we expose Georgia to our film industry, others will want to come," he said in a telephone interview from his office in India.