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12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Alternatives




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This article is from the Bulgaria FAQ, by Dragomir R. Radev radev@tune.cs.columbia.edu with numerous contributions by others.

12-1 Bulgarian Cinema - Alternatives

Yes, there were, and there are, attempts for film productions outside of
the Center's aegis. For example, Sergei Komitski's "A Bullet for Paradise"
(Kurshum za raja), produced by the director's brother, opened on May 1,
1992. It was the first independent film after a forty-five year wide hiatus
in the private producers' business, and was entirely funded with Roumen
Komitski's own investments.
The story of a young shepherd, who accidentally becomes involved in
the struggle for national liberation at the turn of the century, does not
limit itself to the popular formulas of the "Eastern", but also tries to
analyze the mechanisms of the power and to revise some ethnopsychological
myths of the region. Although the movie received favorable critical reviews
and relatively positive viewers' response, it turned out to be a financial
disaster for its producer. The reason was stated above: it is virtually
impossible to cover the production costs only from the national
distribution.

Another example is "The Alchemist's Dream" (Mechtata na alhimika) by
Rangel Vulchanov who did refuse state subsidy from the Center and turned
the project into an entirely French production. In fact, the system of
European co-productions, with more or less foreign money involved, is the
only reasonable alternative to the NFC system of support. Although the
Center contributed to the production of eight new features with public
money last year, it is more than willing to encourage international funds
for Bulgarian projects. As a result, at least three recent movies are
French co-productions.

Considering the fact that its own budget is very limited, the Center worked
hard and managed to make Bulgaria the third East European member of
Eurimages after Poland and Hungary. Eurimages is an all-European fund that
financially supports co-productions between its members. In the first three
years of its existence, the Fund supported one hundred and one European
co-productions, providing 12% of their funding. "A very important part of
our job is to secure Bulgaria a role in the international film society,"
says Dereliev. "Now we also hope to get access to the MEDIA program." MEDIA
is a financial program of the European Community and its goal is encoded in
the abbreviation itself: Measures to Encourage the Development of the
Industry of Audiovisual Production. A year ago, the EC experts counted
Bulgaria as a surprising sleeper where the processes of restructuring of
the film industry were running at a faster pace compared with the other
East European countries.

The National Film Center tries to support not only the ninety-three new
private producers as an undoubted demiurge of their current occupation, but
to assist the Boyana Studios in its painful transformation and reconstruction,
as well. For now, it seems that the only way for the Balkans' largest studio
complex to escape extinction is to set up joint ventures with foreign
companies. And indeed, last year no fewer than eleven foreign companies
commissioned the Boyana to produce bigger or smaller parts of their new
films. Primary European productions were sent to Bulgaria, but the
American doyen of B-movies, Roger Corman, said in 1990 that he would
consider shooting all of his films in Bulgaria. His first two movies shot
in the country were "Death Stalker IV" and "Queen of the Barbarians III".
"The average budget for a film in Bulgaria is five to six million levs
(currently, $1=28 levs), but with official salaries as low as twelve hundred
levs per month, it can cover a lot of labor. Most important, though, is that
we deliver work of a quality that matches international standards. This is
confirmed by the foreign directors, such as Steven Spielberg, who have shot
here or sent for, say, Bulgarian animators." To these words of Mikhail
Kirkov, chief of Cadence Animation, which is part of the Boyana Studios, I
may add only that the actual salaries of film professionals are rather
several times higher.

 

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