“We couldn’t even contemplate existing outside the co-production market”
Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...
Valentina Iusuphodjaev • Head, Moldovan National Film Center
Having just been appointed as head of the Moldovan National Film Center, the respected producer tells Cineuropa her plans for the future of the local film industry
A respected Moldovan producer, Valentina Iusuphodjaev is now the head of the Moldovan National Film Center, following a six-month period during which the institution had no general manager at all. Here is what Iusuphodjaev says about her plans to support the Moldovan film industry, which currently faces a debilitating lack of resources, only producing a few features a year that very rarely reach international audiences.
Cineuropa: You have waited six months to be officially appointed as head of the Moldovan National Film Center, after winning the contest for this post last autumn. The centre did not have a general manager all this time; how was this possible?
Valentina Iusuphodjaev: This is a question I would like to have an official answer to as well. Besides closed doors, the rumours talk about a certain push from the government’s party at the request of the former head of the centre. In a corrupt system that works for personal interests, where political intrusions can affect any aspect of people's lives, anything is possible. All this while our country is facing a profound crisis and we have a provisional government with limited functionality.
Only months after leaving office, the former head of the centre, director and producer Valeriu Jereghi, received the biggest financial support in the history of the institution. How would you comment on this situation, and how do you plan to proceed as the head of the centre?
It is embarrassing. But beyond the ethical aspect, there is the legal one. The matter was referred to both the National Authority for Integrity and the National Anti-Corruption Center. The previous activities of the centre have repeatedly raised eyebrows, sparking criticism and even official complaints. But the Ministry [of Culture] chose not to get to the bottom of it. When one tolerates or tacitly approves some form of abuse, one actually nurtures that abuse.
I am well aware that things will not change overnight. But I strongly believe that observing the grading system [for competing projects], and establishing rigorous, clear criteria for project selection, international collaboration and an upright team will help me reset the activity of the centre. A healthy, open, collaborative dialogue with the industry will also help. Simultaneously, we need to improve the financing process; it should be more transparent and help us find those projects that are valuable and that will have an impact on the international market.
What would you say are the biggest challenges you face before getting there?
The biggest issue is that we don’t have a cinema fund. The financial support comes from the state budget, and one of the rules is that if you win support for a project, you have to access and spend the money in the same budgetary year! This condition is extremely inappropriate for filmmaking. The “keep at arm’s length” attitude of the decision makers and their lack of engagement would be another challenge. There’s also the fragility of our little community of filmmakers, the insufficient funding and resources, and the unattractive salaries that will make finding qualified people for the centre’s team difficult.
I would even say that it is too early to speak about a film industry in Moldova. Filmmaking here is somehow chaotic and sporadic. New, more welcoming fiscal laws for national and international productions would definitely stimulate the industry.
The centre currently supports local productions with relatively small amounts. What can be done in order to increase the levels of funding?
The centre should be in continuous and straightforward negotiations with the legislative and executive branches, supported by the filmmaking community. I would focus on a few complementary directions. The first would be the inception of the cinema fund and its mechanism for financial supply. I have studied various foreign systems, but very few would suit the specific Moldovan situation. Anyway, the fund should be supplied via taxes from telecommunications companies, internet providers and VoD platforms. Another direction would be the inception of a film hub similar to the IT hub [supported by the state with lower income taxes]. Finally, the cash rebate scheme should be resurrected. For now, it's only a draft law gathering dust in a drawer.
How important are co-productions with Romania and other European countries?
We couldn’t even contemplate existing outside the co-production market, and I see co-productions with Romania as a strong relationship builder for our countries. We need a budget exclusively dedicated to co-production, and here, we go back to the necessity of having a cinema fund. Only through this fund will we be able to synchronise with the international entities.
International co-productions would bring us expertise, a diversification of resources, visibility and access to the international circuit. In return, we could offer smaller production costs, easy access to locations, a modest but less restrictive form of financial support and, why not, new creative perspectives. This year’s Berlinale Golden Bear for Olga Lucovnicova [and her short film My Uncle Tudor] is proof that we don’t lack talent; we only need to offer this talent a way to develop and flourish here, at home.
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