Killers, the mafia and prostitues: Is this Russian cinema?
Interview with actor Nikolay Romanov and film director Igor Chernishetsky.
Russian film director Igor Chernitsky is not against the production of a joint Russian-Armenian film and even has the screenplay in his mind. The only thing left is funding. The Russian Film Week has brought famous Russian film representatives to Armenia. Erit.am held interviews with two of them, including actor Nikolay Romanov and film director Igor Chernitsky. The latter are also the director general and artistic director of ЧЕРОМА фильм (Cheroma Film). Romanov and Chernitsky don’t know today’s Armenian film producers and figures in the industry and say it is due to the fact that American film rentals are dominant in the Russian market. There is not even room for European films, including Frence, Italian or Polish films. Igor Chernitsky proposes to open an Armenian cinema in Moscow and assures that it will work. How does the mafia work in Russian cinema? Who helps Kobzon? Whom does the market belong to and how much does a second of a film advertisement cost? Read the interview for the answers to these questions. Eritasard.am: Nikolay, how did you make an appearance in cinema? Nikolay Romanov: That was fate. I had dreamed of becoming a singer ever since I was a child. After ending military service, I traveled to Kiev to study and stayed at Igor’s home. I got accepted to the Pop School and studied for a year. During that period, Igor was shooting a film and offered me to work as a director’s assistant. One day, the actor that wanted to play the leading role hadn’t shown up, but the actress that had to rehearse had shown up. They told me to play. For the first time, I stood in front of a camera, after which I promised myself that I would never star in a film again. I didn’t like it. Then, Igor worked with me, gave me lessons, and after a while, I received a leading role. I was studying singing as well. Eritasard.am:: You compose the music for most of the films that you star in. N. R.: I composed the music for the very first film that I starred in as well. My dream came true. Sometimes they ask me if I am an actor, a singer or a composer. Those three are inseparable for me. Music helps me as an actor and vice versa. I feel good in each profession. Sometimes Igor gives me a text, keeps reminding me of the text until the melody comes to my head and turns into music. In a word, I play as an actor, a singer and a composer. Igor Chernitsky: Besides that, you also play the role of a studio director. Eritasard.am: Nikolay Romanov also has a film studio called ЧЕРОМА фильм (Cheroma Film). Chernitsky: Life has taught has that money has to be in our hands because nobody feels as much pain for the final goal as much as we do. It is no secret that there are many people in cinema for whom money is the most important thing. We had been procuring funds for a long time after the screenplay for the film Юнкера (“Yunkera”, Junker) was written in 1992. In the end, the Moscow authorities provided us with funding. We could have given the money to one of the film studios and have had them decide how to shoot the film. In 2005, we were offered to create our studio, and it has already been six years. We can even drink to that (laughing). When you see how much money is stolen in cinema, you realize that it is better to manage all that by yourself. Eritasard.am: How hard or easy is it to shoot a film in Russia that is of high value and profitable today? Nikolay Romanov: It is very hard to do that in Russia because even government funding provided to the film industry is not enough. You have to invest more money and convince people that you will return that money to them sooner or later. There are no rentals, and you have no guarantee that you will return the money in a year. Another problem is when the first channel produces the film, it does the PR for free. The films produced by ordinary studios require 50-100,000 dollars for advertisements. You need the same amount of film production for advertising. The conditions are not equal. Igor Chernitsky: The children of the great masters of the Soviet era like Bondarchuk or Todorovsky procure funding and produce costly films. They are standing like a wall wherever money determines everything and they aren’t letting anyone else enter. They might take a part of your money. When we were first starting in Russia, we were introduced to Iosif Kobzon. Everyone told us that he helped everyone. Perhaps he does, but we weren’t lucky. When he heard Nikolay’s songs and asked how he could help us, and we told him to help however he could. In response, he replied that Nikolay would earn more than he did. Nikolay: Another thing is that current film producers demand commercial films. They don’t need good films. Igor: Filmmakers make films that are based on instinct. We always want it to be stormy outside and keep ourselves warm inside. “Oh, they’re killing him, it’s a good thing they’re not killing me...” Why are there so many detective films today? Who needs them? The people viewing those films will think there are only assassins, killers and prostitutes in Russia. Art can’t only be entertaining. Nikolay: And the mafia. Eritasard.am: You produce history films that perhaps have lower ratings than the entertaining ones. What do you do in that case? Nikolay: We face a labyrinth. When we present our films at different festivals, we see that people accept them. There is always something that goes against something else. They wanted to destroy the Armenians, but that only made the Armenians stronger. Eritasard.am: Do there have to be reputable people at your premeries in order for your films to be successful, or...? Igor: Ernest, who is the head of the First Channel, is directly in touch with the Prime Minister. He calls the Prime Minister, tells him that MosFilm has problems and that there is a need for a meeting. We show the film at the end of the meeting, and then the cameramen stand in front of the Prime Minister and ask him about the film. He won’t say it’s “trash”. He just says it was fine, and they show that on “Vremya” news program. It means that everything has been seized. What is the mafia? The mafia is when everything around you has been seized. In that case, why doesn’t the Prime Minister watch Подпоручик Ромашов (“Podporuchik Romashov”, Second Lieutenant Romashov) and give his evaluation? He has to watch all the films and evaluate. Eritasard.am: Mr. Chernitsky, you sometimes star in your films. Is it because you want to put yourselves in the actor’s shoes? Igor Chernitsky: My first profession is acting. As you see, I don’t play the leading roles in my films. After searching for a long time, I’m not able to find the important character that I want and am compelled to play the role. Eritasard.am: Nikolay, you are involved with finance and administrative affairs. Doesn’t that disturb you? Nikolay Romanov: Of course it does. I spend a lot of time on paperwork. I love the metro only because I manage to read a book while going somewhere for a business meeting. When I can’t take it anymore and am about to explode from the confusion, I tell myself that one of my roles is to be the director general. We do many things by ourselves, but that is an informed choice. Eritasard.am: When will you visit Armenia again and what will you be presenting? Nikolay: It depends if Armenia chooses our film Подпоручик Ромашов (Podporuchik Romashov, Second Lieutenant Romashov) for the Golden Apricot International Film Festival. Igor: Since Подпоручик Ромашов (Podporuchik Romashov, Second Lieutenant Romashov) is my smallest “baby”, I am a little warmer toward it. We have heard many good things about the Golden Apricot International Film Festival and would like to participate. Gallery: Interview with Nikolay Romanov and Igor Chernishetsky. Interview by Tsovinar Karapetyan