The Screen International Best Pitch Award was presented for the third time during Tallinn’s Baltic Event co-production market (Dec 1-3). This year’s winners, Russian director Alexei German Jr and producer Artem Vassiliev, talk about their project Under Electric Clouds.
German Jr., who made his feature film debut with The Last Train, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2003, has been working on the screenplay for his fourth feature for the past year and a half, and it will be his first film where the story takes place in the present time.
“We would like to have a look at Russia from different perspectives and points of view,” German Jr. explains. “And reflect on the present day through several different stories where war and peace, poverty and wealth, the past and the future co-exist.”
The six interwoven storylines — one, for example, about a worker from Kirgizia coming to Moscow without any knowledge of Russian and another about a young soldier in his first battle in a distant war — will take place from summer to winter and be set in big cities as well as in the outlying parts of modern Russia.
According to German Jr, the film will “continue the heritage of the Russian cinema, creating a bridge between tradition and modern film language and being accessible for viewers of various countries.”
The project was first pitched this year at the Connecting Cottbus East-West Co-Production Market in Germany at the beginning of November. “We received several proposals from potential German co-producers and also saw interest from German [public] film funds,” producer Vassiliev recalls.
He had previously attended Connecting Cottbus with Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s Dau, which is currently in production and being produced by Phenomen Films, a company he left this year.
Under Electric Clouds is being produced by Vassiliev’s own Moscow-based film and television production outfit Metrafilms, Vassiliev having handled German Jr’s 2008 film Paper Soldier during his time at Phenomen.
Vassiliev and German Jr came to Tallinn at the beginning of December with around $2.6m (Euros 2m) of the film’s $4.2m (Euros 3.2m) budget in place. “We’ve received around $1m support from the Russian Ministry of Culture and hope to receive around $1m from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ukraine. We also have financial partners in Russia.”
In addition, Vassiliev is in negotiations with Rossiya TV Channel about coming onboard. “They like the project, but we are still in discussion about the size of their possible participation,” he says.
Coming to the Baltic Event, they were aiming to find co-producers and a sales agent for the project. “At the moment, we are targeting mainly Germany and France, although we received some proposals from other countries such as Finland and Holland. We had some useful meetings during the Baltic Event, but we didn’t make any final deals yet – we are planning to do this within the next month and a half.”
“Ideally, we would like to start the pre-production at the end of February and start shooting in summer 2011,” Vassiliev explains. “We are planning to shoot in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kiev and the Crimea in the Ukraine. But there is approximately a week of studio interior shooting which we can do abroad.”
He admits that Under Electric Clouds won’t be an easy project logistically. “We have six different stories in one film with different casts and locations. The challenge is to find an appropriate production combination which is working toward the main creative idea.”