“Film is not an industry of demand but of supply”

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

Film producer, founder of Araprod production company Gorune Aprikian works on co-productions with several countries. He visits Armenia often and attempts, through his connections and knowledge, to spur Armenia’s film industry toward clearer legislation.

In Aprikian’s opinion, the need for a law on film has long been ripe, since without it, many Armenian-European film projects are unnecessarily inhibited and Armenia cannot completely integrate into the European film system while at the same time thinking about expanding its domestic market. 

In your opinion, what is first and foremost needed to develop Armenian cinema?

I want to ask a question: where will Armenian films be screened?

Films shot according to Armenia’s system and only with Armenia’s efforts are [already] screened only in Armenia. And since there are no movie theaters, toil away as much as you want, the film won’t be seen by a large number of viewers. And to have screenings in other countries, one has to be very familiar with international systems and use them intelligently.

I think, for the development of Armenian cinema first and foremost needed are movie theaters. Making a film is meaningless if there’s nowhere to screen it. If there are no movie theaters, the film becomes either made for television or DVDs.

Opening movie theaters, as a business project, perhaps, is not profitable in Armenia.

I’m sure that’s not the case and various movie theater chains can be quickly opened. I know, for example, that a movie theater will open in Dalma [Garden] Mall, as well as in other venues. And the quicker that process occurs, the better it will be for cinema. Now there are new technologies that allow screening costs to be significantly reduced. Small movie theaters can be opened in different centers — and it will work quite well as a private business.

In Armenia, they often say that people don’t go to watch films. But I want to remind [you] that film is not an industry of demand but of supply.

If there’s something to watch, will they come?

Of course. You don’t ask viewers what they want to watch — you offer to viewers, or rather, actively market [to them].

In France, for example, the number of people wishing to buy movie tickets was decreasing year by year. But 10 years passed and viewers doubled. This happened due to something very simple: movie theatres increased, were renovated and modernized. It’s a very important pre-condition, since a person living anywhere has to be able to watch films under good conditions and near his or her home. 

And the country that wants to develop cinema has to provide movie theaters for residents of not only the capital, but also all cities. 

In Armenia, there’s no law regulating the film sector and films are respected as much as, say, shoe production. Doesn’t this hinder film production?

In small countries, the law firstly protects its own production. For example, in France, which compared to the US is a small country, that law guarantees the development of national cinema. If there was no law, French people would watch only American films. 

There’s no country where without a law on film is able to withstand the US and its mighty film production. Perhaps, the only one that could is India, which has its own type of cinema and resists the American pressure. But there are one billion Indians, and Bollywood produces as many films in a year as Hollywood.

“French television is obliged to invest in film production. This is defined by law, and thanks to this, financial allocations to film are steadfast”

I think, apart from the US, which wants to build an open film market, all the other countries try to protect their culture. France is a huge expert when it comes to this, considering cinema an important part of cultural policy. The French practice of protecting its national culture is based on the idea of “cultural exception,” which states that cinema cannot be in the open market, as shoes, food, or other products. 

Of course, every country tries to find its way of protecting film production — and to protect not only the artists (believe me, that’s quite easy), but also those working on the technical aspects (editing, audio, color, and other experts).

We know, for example, that on Thursdays when a new film is usually screened in theaters in France, no state TV channel shows films. That day, it seems, is a day of “film silence” on television. Are these small steps also advantageous [for developing cinema]?

That worked quite well when cable TV hadn’t yet developed. Now it’s not so effective.

How do TV stations and film producers work together or compete?

First of all, French television is obliged to invest in film production. This is defined by law, and thanks to this, financial allocations to film are steadfast. 

Let me say that the [TV] channels are not at all enthusiastic about this law, since many don’t have an interest in film development, but the law compels them. The channels want to be free from film and work more easily. 

But this law has a very important positive role. Since many French films are produced with money from television, the pre-sale model is applied. Even films that haven’t yet been made are considered sold and are distributed, since they are guaranteed to be screened on television. 

On the other hand, when television becomes the largest funder of cinema, it begins to dictate its taste to cinema. Many film producers prefer to make films for television. But we know from history that that doesn’t always have a good ending. It was known back during the Egyptian festivals that the funder of art, as a rule, gives the ending to art. 

French cinema, appearing in the hands of television, has no choice but to change. Complying with the requirements of prime time becomes paramount. Since a majority of films are screened in the evening, when the audience is great, they begin to follow every shot of the film carefully. The main characters, for example, can’t smoke on screen; their vocabulary changes; and I’m not even talking about more serious stipulations. Film begins to play by television’s rules. 

Basically, television censorship is applied to cinema and demands standard films?

Yes, the television audience is great; everything is being done so that all TV viewers feel satisfied. Auteur films are very rarely shown on television; [what’s shown] more so are comedies that all members of the family will understand. 

In Armenia, complaints about television are many. 

It’s the same all over the world — television, in general, is not a place for high taste. Italian television, for example, is the concentration of that poor taste. For the whole day, on air are partly naked girls who host various games. The way to counter this, perhaps, is to diversify the channels. If every channel has its own style and audience, the picture won’t be as bad. 

For many years you’ve been trying to support the adoption of a law on cinema in Armenia. Thanks to you, the director of and professionals from the Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (National Center of Cinematography and the Moving Image in France, or CNC) visited Yerevan. In your opinion, why isn’t there any progress?

This issue is systemic. Of course, I can’t be sure of what law on film Armenia needs, but that it is necessary is a fact. I think, first of all, needing the law are local professionals and producers, who, living in Armenia, will be able to spend the amount allocated to them in Armenia. 

I’m happy that there are attempts to establish connections with international organizations (for example, Eurimages).

Also, a cooperation agreement between the National Cinema Center of Armenia and the CNC has been signed, but I want to stress that it’s not yet a document regulating co-production. Such an document is very much needed.

For example, if I, as a producer, want to work with Armenia, in order to formalize the “citizenship” of the future film, I’m forced to use another country’s agreement, since Armenia’s legislation doesn’t provide for that option. And it turns out that I’m forced to refer to a third country in order to include Armenia as a co-producer. 


The film Paradjanov, for example, is produced by four countries, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, and France, each of which, having at least 10% participation, could be considered as co-producer. I and the film director, Serge Avedikian, definitely wanted to participate in this project, and the issue wasn’t just funding (especially since our contribution wasn’t particularly large), but that we couldn’t imagine a film about Paradjanov being made without Armenia’s participation. And securing that participation was difficult. 

I think, adopting a law on film will also help producers in Armenia. The need for them in Armenia, by the way, is quite great. 

It’s interesting that a great many film critics and directors participate in the Golden Apricot Film Festival (where you were a guest) but very little producers.

The work of producers is quite hard: they take on all the difficulties, never being sure that they’ll be able to get back the money they invested. Of course there are producers in Armenia, but they more so are forced to do that work under the circumstances. Say, a film director or actor is forced to also become a producer to develop his or her project. But a professional producer is a self-sufficient expert, who knows the laws of different countries well and is able to use them correctly.

Of course, I am prepared to help Armenian producers with advice in every way. But first of all, the sources of funding cinema need to be specified by law. 

Let me cite a few examples of film financing. In Great Britain, film is funded by the lottery; in France, there’s a tax on movie tickets that goes to film production; and in Belgium, those who make contributions to cinema are exempt from taxes. So, there are various laws that support cinema.

It’s important to understand that a steady stream of funding, on one hand, helps movie theatres, and, on the other hand, producers, who know quite well how to find money, how to spend it, and how to collaborate with international structures.

For example, there are many producers in Georgia who are familiar with the European system. Georgia signed a cooperation agreement a long time ago and is actively involved in co-production. Armenia has to do that too.

To what extent does the dissemination of cinema help the media sector? Many major European news outlets have film divisions which promote film and create an environment of anticipating news about cinema. 

PR for film is very powerful in France. Everywhere, especially in the TV industry, there are shows and debates about film, and they are critiqued in the newspapers. In general, you have to bring attention to film; otherwise, people won’t go to watch it. If it was up to the people, no one would go to movie theaters but would prefer to stay at home and watch old American films on disc. 

I repeat, the most important thing is to have a movie theatre near one’s own house where one can watch good quality films. This is especially necessary for young people, who will enjoy going to the movie theater and won’t think about moving to other places. The idea of leaving the country usually comes up when you don’t find entertaining places in your own country.

Basically, the lack of a movie theater chain is one of the main reasons of emigration from Armenia?

Of course cinema is not the answer to [the] emigration [problem], but every sector benefits society in its own way. Art, especially cinema, also has that “usefulness”.

The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is approaching, and Armenia wants to create films on the topic. Are their international co-production projects?

I’m aware of a few projects, and I myself am trying to implement two projects. I know that there are Turkish projects as well. Making a film is German [film director] Fatih Akin, who is of Turkish ethnicity. Of course everything can find a place in international projects — even drastic rejection. But I’m familiar with Akin’s film script, and I think it will be good and will have a great response in Turkey. 

We should’ve made films on this topic long ago. Actually, there are quite a few films from Armenia about the Genocide — it seems there hasn’t been a good film after Nahapet. 

“There are shows and debates about film on TV, and they are critiqued in the newspapers. In general, you have to bring attention to film; otherwise, people won’t go to watch it

Armenia has many stories (and not only Armenian) that can be turned into films. I consider making a film only on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide somewhat pointless. I would like to stress that nowadays you can’t make a film only from the perspective of the past. Even if you’re using historical material, it definitely has to be the present, the connection with and the impact on the present.

Let me make another, more general observation: the world will be interested in Armenian cinema only when the country develops and disseminates the words of its artists to the world. 

 Interview conducted by Nune Hakhverdyan


Add new comment

Comments by Media.am readers become public after moderation. We urge our readers not to leave anonymous comments. It’s always nice to know with whom one is speaking.

We do not publish comments that contain profanities, non-normative lexicon, personal attacks or threats. We do not publish comments that spread hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *