Russia has two main production facilities: Mosfilm in Moscow and Russian World Studios (RWS) which has facilities in both Moscow and St Petersburg. The consensus among producers is that the country needs more modern facilities. Post facilities abound - in addition to RWS and Mosfilm, Cinemateka and Dr Picture have good reputations - but most Western producers shoot on location for a few days and prefer to return home for post-production.
'We only shot two days there because of the distance,' says Alex Garter, the US producer on Warner Bros' Get Smart, which shot in Moscow in March 2007. 'There are some very good post facilities there but it didn't fit into how we had modelled the picture.'
'There is a lack of depth in their experience (with post-production) but they're improving,' suggests Marc Lorber, senior vice-president, production, at US-based Marvista Entertainment, who has consulted for Sony, Disney and others in Russia. 'The Russians have acquired software and equipment but they often haven't worked on it to the level you might find in other territories.'
Producers who have shot in the territory say working in Russia requires patience. 'Everything takes twice as long,' says Les Weldon, US producer on Millennium Films' Command Performance. 'While Moscow is a great city with amazing production values, they make films a different way there.'
Shooting in Russia is not cheap. Permits can be complicated and it is essential to have someone on the ground who understands local conditions. All non-CIS visitors need visas, a process which usually takes six weeks. Traffic in Moscow and St Petersburg can be horrific. Creature comforts are not up to Western levels, producers say, and Moscow is short on hotels.
On the plus side, most producers find the actors talented and the locations stunning. Even the military is helpful. 'You can call up the army and say, 'I need 300 conscripts at 8am,' and they'll be there,' Lorber says.
Most producers are happy with Russian crews' abilities, but the territory retains a reputation for a lack of transparency.
One producer says: 'They'll tell you anything is possible. And with enough money and time, yes, anything is possible. The question is, is it possible with my money and time''