With a new all-inclusive cash rebate, Georgia is sure to become a top location among international filmmakers. In March 2016 the Government of Georgia introduced Film in Georgia, a cash rebate programme offering 20-25% cash rebate on qualified spend in Georgia.
Georgia was the first country in the region to launch a cash rebate programme, which should stand as a statement of Georgian government’s dedication to expanding the film industry. In only a couple of months the country attracted five international productions that were shot in Georgia in cooperation with local production service companies and film crews.
Zurab Maghalashvili was named head of the Georgian National Film Centre (GNFC) in March 2016.
Under a deal signed with Russia in September 2016, hundreds of films made from 1921 to 1991 are to be returned to Georgia. The first four films returned on 17 November 2016.
According to the GNFC, two Georgian feature films were produced in 2016. DeDe, the feature debut by Mariam Khatchvani, is a coproduction between Vladimir Katcharava’s 20 Steps, Mike Downey ‘s Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME), Igor Nola’s MP Film Production and JaJa Film Productions. This Georgian/British/Croatian/Dutch coproduction follows a young woman who lives in a harsh mountain region and who, as her lover dies, must obey tradition by marrying the first man who offers his hand. Shooting wrapped in February 2016.
The second Georgian feature film produced in 2016 is Khibula by acclaimed George Ovashvili. The film is a Georgian/German/French coproduction about the first president of Georgia, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, in the final chapter of his life. It was produced by Alamdary Films in coproduction with Germany’s 42 Film and France’s Arizona Productions. Shooting spanned 46 days in March and April 2016.
Three animated films were produced in 2016: Jino, directed by Davit Kiknavelidze and produced by Lira Production, Frani, directed by Vladimer Sulaqvelidze and produced by George Vasadze, and Pocket Man, directed by Ana Chubinidze and produced by Kvali XXI.
Five documentary films were produced in 2016: Items, directed by Nino Gogua and produced by CINEMARK, Listen to the Silence, directed by Mariam Chachia and produced by Opiodoc, Brand and Show, directed by Zurab Inashvili and produced by Art Film Studio, Gogita’s New Life, directed by Levan Koguashvili and produced by Ioan Films, and I Swam Enguri, directed by Ana Bukia and produced by Gemini.
Acclaimed Georgian helmer Zaza Urushadze also shot his new film, The Monk, in 2016. This comedy-infused drama about a monk who falls for a mysterious woman in a remote village where he serves was produced by Estonia’s Allfilm in coproduction with Georgia’s Cinema24. This is the same team that made Tangerines, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar in 2015. The Monk has been acquired by Picture Tree International.
Five international productions were already shot in Georgia in 2016 as part of the Film in Georgia Programme.
The US production The Clown, directed by Anthony Lucero and starring Lily Collins, Holliday Grainger, Harry Treadaway, Lukas Haas and Pål Sverre Hagen, was shot in September-October 2016 with the Georgian company Misty Dawn servicing. The film was produced by the American companies Hunter Image Media and St. Tisa. Most of the shooting took place in Georgia, and most of the technicians were Georgian.
German/Georgian/French coproduction My Happy Family by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, was produced by Augenschein Filmproduktion GmbH, Polare Film (Georgia) and Arizona Production. The film will be shown in January 2017 at the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of Sundance Film Festival.
Other projects receiving cash rebate under the Film in Georgia programme are Indian feature films The Machine by Abbas and Mustan Burmawalla (with production services provided by Betterfly Productions), as well as Gautamiputra Satakarni directed by Krish and produced by First Frame Entertainment, and PSV Garuda Vega directed by Praveen Sattaru and produced by Jyostar Enterprises PVT (with Sarke Studio providing services in Georgia).
A total of 198 films were distributed in Georgia in 2016, of which ten were domestic films, compared to 106 films distributed in 2015, of which 19 were domestic films.
One of the domestic films released in 2016 was The Summer of Frozen Fountains by Vano Burduli, a Georgian/Russian coproduction between Studio 29+7, Film Company CTB and Gemini. The film was released in Georgia on 21 January 2016, with Studio 29+7 handling the sales.
In March 2016, German Public Broadcaster 3sat acquired TV rights for the Georgian/German documentary When the Earth Seems to Be Light by Salome Machaidze, Tamuna Karumidze and David Meskhi. A 45 minute version of the film had its German TV premiere in October 2016. 3sat broadcasts in Austria, Switzerland and Germany.
When the Earth Seems to Be Light was produced by Georgian Artist Collective Goslab in coproduction with Georgia's Zazarfilm and Germany's Jörg Langkau. London-based Taskovski Films is handling the sales.
In 2016, House of Others by Rusudan Glurjidze was Georgia's candidate in the Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards. House of Others / Skhvisi sakhli is a Georgian/Russian/Croatian/Spanish coproduction. It was produced by Liga Productions in coproduction with Cinetech Ltd, Kinoskopik SL and Embrio. The film participated in the Karlovy Vary IFF’s East of the West competition in 2016.
EXHIBITION AND BOX OFFICE
No new cinema opened in 2016. There is only one chain of multiplexes, the privately owned Rustaveli/Amirani Movie Theaters consisting of Cinema Amirani LTD (three screening halls, 648 seats) and Cinema Rustaveli LTD (five screening halls, 858 seats) in Tbilisi, and also Cinema Apollo LTD (one screening hall, 154 seats) in Batumi. The same company operates CAVEA cinemas consisting of two multiplexes: CAVEA IMAX, with ten screens including an IMAX screen (one screen with 33 seats is not working) and CAVEA MOLI, with five screens and 752 seats.
There are currently five cinemas in Georgia with 23 screens (including one IMAX). All except one are digitalised.
Rustaveli/Amirani Movie Theaters also runs divisions, Film Distribution LTD and Light Bank LTD, dealing with film production.
The 2016 admissions top ten is topped by The Jungle Book with 49,380 admissions, followed by Suicide Squad (38,814 admissions), Zootopia (32,805 admissions), Deadpool (31,651 admissions), The Secret Life of Pets (30,680 admissions), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (28,543 admissions), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (27,892 admissions), Captain America: Civil War (26,514), Doctor Strange (26,349) and The Revenant (25,930).
The most successful Georgian films in cinemas in 2016 were: Moira, directed by Levan Tutberudze and produced by CINE-TECH, with 2,983 admissions, The Summer of Frozen Fountains, directed by Vano Burduli and produced by “29+7”, with 925 admissions and Brother, directed by Teona Mgvdeladze-Grenade and produced by MPM Film (France), CINE-TECH (Georgia), Millimetrfilm (Georgia), with 245 admissions.
Total admissions increased by 59.74 percent from 719,705 in 2015 to 1,149,668 in 2016.
Total gross increased by 46.35 percent from 2,305,901 EUR / 6,653,274 GEL in 2015 to 3,374,806 EUR / 9,737,881 GEL in 2016.
Domestic films’ admissions dropped by 85.78 percent from 31,666 in 2015 to 4,506 in 2016. Domestic box office dropped by 73.55 percent from 95,413 EUR / 275,299 GEL in 2015 to 13,134 EUR / 36,430 GEL in 2016.
GRANTS AND LEGISLATION
The Georgian National Film Centre handles cinema strategy and allots state funding. The total amount of funding in 2016 was 1,181,202 EUR / 3,164,712 GEL.
GNFC gave out 2,287,000 EUR / 5,878,000 GEL in 2015, almost double the annual support for film industry in 2014, which was 1,172,834 EUR / 3 m GEL.
Encouraging European coproductions is a key part of the GNFC’s strategy for the development of Georgian film industry. Georgia launched its coproduction scheme for feature films in 2010 and also launched a new call for documentary coproductions in March 2014.
The Regional Film Fund of Adjara, on the Black Sea coast, launched in 2012, is also expected to boost the film initiative. On 24 February 2015 Georgia joined the Creative Europe Programme in Brussels.
New projects by Levan Koghuashvili, Rusudan Chkonia and George Ovashvili received production support from GNFC at the beginning of 2016. Each project was granted 190,000 EUR / 500,000 GEL. The projects are: Fourth Brighton by Levan Koghuashvili, Venice by Rusudan Chkonia and Khibula by George Ovashvili.
GNF allotted 222,519 EUR / 600,000 GEL for the production of two debut features at the end of January 2016. The winning projects are Negative Numbers, directed by Utta Beria and produced by Magnet Film, and Spooky Mom, directed by Ana Urushadze and produced by Artizm. Each project received 111,259 EUR / 300,000 GEL.
GNFC gave 54,000 EUR / 150,000 GEL for the production of two short animated films for children in February 2016. The winning projects are Pocket Man by Anna Chubinidze, produced by Studio Kvali XXI, and Zolemia by Nina Samanishvili, produced by K. Janelidze. Each of them received 27,000 EUR / 75,000 GEL.
At the end of June 2016 GNFC allotted 307,700 EUR / 800,000 GEL to two feature films - Namme, directed by Zaza Khalvashi and produced by Batumi Art-House Film Studio, and Horizon, directed by Tinatin Kajrishvili and produced by Gemini. Each project received 153,850 EUR / 400,000 GEL.
In October 2016 GNFC allotted 47,600 EUR / 134,712 for the production of five short films, and on 30 November 2016 GNFC granted 169,383 EUR / 480,000 GEL to five low budget feature films. The list includes projects by Giorgi Katcharava, David Abramishvili, Tamaz Narimanidze, Irakli Chxikvadze and Giga Liklikadze.
The tax incentives programme, which went into operation in 2016, offers a 20% cash rebate of qualified expenditure with an additional rebate of 2-5% based on the promotional value of the production.
David Vashadze, Head of Export and Distribution at GNFC, told FNE: "We think that this decision is crucial for Georgian film industry. There are many film production companies looking for new and very diverse territories. Low bureaucracy and a film friendly atmosphere are very important, but without financial incentives the possibility of attracting a big number of foreign productions is not very high.”
The minimum limit of qualified expenses is approximately 190,000 EUR /500,000 GEL for feature films, TV films, TV series/mini-series, or animated films, and approximately 114,000 EUR / 300,000 GEL for documentaries, commercials, reality shows and music videos.
The programme has two stages. After shooting wraps in Georgia, 20% of qualified expenditure is automatically returned to the production company. When the film is finished and released, it is assessed according to pre-defined criteria (Georgia is mentioned as an acting place on the script level, well-known locations are used, etc.) for the additional 2-5% rebate. Both Georgian and foreign projects may participate.
No cultural test is required in order to apply for the initial 20% rebate, and the rebate also applies to key non-resident salaries paid in Georgia. The online application is valid for two years.
A group of location scouts and producers from Hollywood visited Georgia in June 2016. They had been invited by the GNFC and Enterprise Georgia. The group included representatives working with five major studios: Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, 20th Century Fox and Disney. Earlier in 2016 two Georgian agencies presented in the US the country's cash rebate programme Film in Georgia.
In August 2016 a group composed of major players in India’s Bollywood film industry also visited Georgia.
Well-known producer and actor Zurab Maghalashvili was named the new head of the GNFC on 25 March 2016, replacing Nana Janelidze.
In August 2016 Zurab Maghalashvili announced GNFC’s plan to retrieve Soviet-era Georgian films stored in state archives in Russia, and also old Georgian film tapes scattered in Georgia. After restoration and digitalisation, they would be stored in a new building. There are 700 – 1,200 Soviet-era Georgian films stored in Russia and approximately 120,000 film tapes in Georgia.
“The treasure of Georgian films, including silent film masterpieces, starting from the early 20th century until the 90s, is stored in the Russian Federation, at the Gosfilmofond. They are negatives of feature and documentary films, recorded voices and sounds, animated films and television films. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all these remained in Russia with both positive and negative effects. Georgia lacked the infrastructure necessary to move the films to Georgia, but it was for the best, as otherwise it would have been disastrous for the films”, Maghalashvili told FNE.
On the other hand, approximately 120,000 film tapes covering more than 100 years of Georgian cinema are stored at the repositories of the Georgian documentary film studio Mematiane, the film studio Kartuli Filmi and the National Public Broadcasting Archives. They are also a part of private collections. Many of them need to be cleaned and stored properly before being transferred to digital.
GNFC started taking the first steps by inviting international experts, e.g. from the French CNC, to give their advice on the condition of several classic films. ”I hope we'll launch the project in near future, present it to the government and receive the funds to get started. We will have to gather a group of restorers to clean the scanned material, do the color correction and the sound cleanup. Achieving desirable results will probably take decades.
We are also searching for a team of architects to design the film repository. We are trying to find out the number of films stored in each Georgian studio, which of them are copies, which of them can be restored and digitalised. We cannot say exactly how much the project will cost for both building the archives and the digitalisation, probably tens of millions of euros. For now the state is our only supporter”, Maghalashvili told FNE in August 2016.
Four classic Georgian films made during the early Soviet era were returned to Tbilisi in an official ceremony on 17 November 2016. The first four films returned were The Last Hour by Mikheil Chiaureli, Holtze and Amerikanka by Leonard Esakia and the documentary Buba by Nutsa Ghoghoberidze, Georgia's first female director.
Caucasus School of New Cinema, which opened within the Caucasus University in Tbilisi in 2016, aims to raise a new generation of film industry professionals by teaching the students not only skills, but also visions. The school, initiated by director and scriptwriter Dimitri Mamulia, opened in April 2016 and in autumn 2016 it welcomed its first students in its two major programmes, film direction and scriptwriting.
No new TV channel was launched in 2016. TV channel TV 8 was launched in 2015.
Private channels, Broadcasting Company Rustavi 2, and TV Imedi and GDS are usually the producers of TV series. Public Broadcasting – First Channel also produces documentaries. TV channels do not fund independent film production as a rule, but it depends on the individual case, according to sources from GNFC.
Report by: Iulia Blaga (2017)
Source: Georgian National Film Centre