Issue 6, 2011. December-January


STAGE LEFT: THE POTENTIAL OF THE GEORGIAN FILM INDUSTRY spoke with Gia Bazgadze, a producer and part owner of Light Bank productions - as well as the largest chain of cinemas in Georgia, about Georgian film as a business and the potential of being part of Eurimages.

Georgian film is making a slow but steady comeback, thanks in a large part to the enthusiastic support of cinema lovers like Gia Bazgadze.

A managing partner at Ernst&Young in Georgia, Bazgadze's first foray into the film industry was strictly business: he and his partners started buying, renovating and reopening movie theaters in Tbilisi. Now they have the largest chain of movie theaters, as well as their own production company - Light Bank - that makes films for the local market.

Several years ago, however, Bazgadze decided he wanted to do more: so he became a producer.

Today, he has three art house films on his resume, and an impressive array of accolades from international festivals.

But not many of his business colleagues have followed in his footsteps.

"It is not easy to cover the expenses of the film with the small number of screens that are in Georgia. The market is limited and the number of screens is also limited," he said.

"If you want to make a Georgian film commercially successful, you have to expand this market, you have to go outside...either to Russia or international."

The Georgian film industry, Bazgadze notes, is not yet commercially viable for any production with a budget over 200 thousand lari.

But agreements with Eurimages, an EU-driven program that supports films, should make it easier for Georgian films to gain wider exposure in European markets, which is an important step toward commercial success, he noted.

"[F]ilm making is a risky thing. It is like gambling. Of course every business person wants to make a profit, and the more guarantees the better. That is why they are not jumping to invest in filmmaking as a business," he said.

"Most of the businesses that are investing now, invest because they want to help this business, they have some patriotic incentives or something like that. I was the same. When I started this, I like the cinema, I really wanted to help young directors - I really wanted this business to move forward and I think I contributed something to that, together with others."