Russia is rich in history and massive in scale. Spanning 10 time zones, it is by far the world’s largest country. Russia offers a wealth of locations ranging from unique imperial splendour to vast frozen wilderness, from Soviet Era apartment blocks to shiny modern architecture.
Russia’s main agricultural locations including wheat, barley and rye fields are located in the warmer, southern regions of the country.
Cost & Rebates
Filming in Russia is quite expensive even when compared to more established service centres in Europe and North America. Moscow, much like New York, is a major business centre and as a result the factors of production are very expensive. Filming outside of Moscow or St Petersburg can add significant travel costs.
At present there are no tax incentives for foreign commercials or feature films shooting in Russia.
When To Shoot
Given the size of Russia, the climate varies considerably depending on the region and time of year. Much of Russia only has two seasons, a hot summer (peaking in July) and a harsh, very cold winter (with lows in January). Siberian wildfire smoke brings a period of smokey skies in affected areas during the summer months.
The most common visa entry options for crews coming to film in Russia are a Media Visa, Cultural Visa, or Business Visa.
Media Visas are most often applied for by journalists. Visiting crew submit their application and passport scans to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian fixer / service producer then deals with the Russian Foreign Ministry on your behalf. Once Telex numbers processed the Media Visa is stamped in crew passports. Process takes about 2 weeks. Visas are usually valid for around 1 month, which makes them good for short form projects.
Cultural visas are valid for around a year so a better option for long-form shoots or shoots involving multiple entries. Visiting crew submit their application and passport scans. Usually takes 2-3 weeks to process. Russian Immigration services issue physical invitations which the Russian fixer / service producer sends to the Moscow embassy for visiting crew to collect. The embassy takes about 3-5 days to process once they receive the invites.
Visiting on business visas is a better option for crews that don’t have the lead time and are only planning to shoot small-footprint shoots in mostly private locations. Not a good idea if you are planning a larger footprint shoot or are filming in sensitive locations.
Cast, Crew & Equipment
Russia has a small but good pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Local crews are non-union. Russia has a good depth of experienced key crew. Some crews speak fluent English. Talent is non-union and buyouts are negotiable. Russia is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples with over 100 local languages spoken. Talent looks offered consist mainly of people from former Soviet states with the largest groups being the ethnic Russians, Tartars, Ukrainians and Bashkirs. Most other talent looks need to be cast abroad. Russia has a range of standard and specialized camera, grip and lighting equipment available locally. For productions looking to bring in film equipment Russia is an ATA carnet country.