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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MPA Cash Funds Russian Producers

Hollywood recognized the efforts of Russian producers to rebuild the country's ailing movie industry as the Motion Picture Association announced the winners of its Producer's Awards this week.

The MPA, a consortium of the largest and most prominent companies involved in the world distribution of American films, specially set up the $20,000 cash award to encourage the most promising Russian producer and chose to bestow the riches in the course of the 21st Moscow International Film Festival.

The successful candidate should combine "the talents of an artist with that of a businessman" and his films must enjoy widespread popularity, MPA president Jack Valenti had written in a letter to Nikita Mikhalkov.

The award, however, had to be split in four, since Sergei Selyanov, Leonid Vereshchagin, Igor Tolstunov and Alexander Litvinov were all found to fit the description.

"It has been very difficult to pick the best producer ... it was virtually a mission impossible," said Martin Landau, an Oscar-winning actor who presented the awards Wednesday at a ceremony at the Aerostar Hotel.

Landau said that at most film festival awards producers often remain in the shade. It was "one of the first times" when an award was being given to a producer, he noted.

"For all the years I've been in cinema, I've heard that film is a director's media. But in many cases, the director is hired by the producer," he said.

Mikhalkov said the MPA awards had come as a pleasant surprise. He pointed out that the aspects of producing and picture editing, so crucial for a film's success, used to be nonexistent in Russia.

"We just accepted money from the state and didn't worry about whether it would be enough to complete the film or not. Now individual people assume responsibility for packaging of the project," Mikhalkov said.

"We are very proud that our American colleagues who have never had state subsidies ... and enjoy the first place in the world film industry are making this symbolic gesture."

Landau praised Russian producers for being "real pioneers" and learning from scratch.

The four producers are leaders in their field in Russia and the engines behind the most deserving productions of recent years.

Selyanov, who works for the St. Petersburg STV Studio, produced recent Kinotavr winner "Blockpost" and the wildly popular "Peculiarities of National Fishing" (1998), while Vereshchagin, of Nikita Mikhalkov's "3T Studios," was behind the Oscar-winning "Burnt by the Sun" (1994) and "The Barber of Siberia" (1999). He has also been involved as a coproducer in Western films such as "The Russia House" (1989).

Tolstunov's credits include "Mama" (1999) and "The Sharp-Shooter" (1999), while Mosfilm's Litvinov produced the Russian epic "Yermak" (1996) and "Tough Love" (1999).

Alexander Golutva, the chairman of the committee for cinematography, called the awards ceremony "revolutionary."

"As representatives of the great Hollywood, the MPA is shattering the myth that they are up to seize all the world markets," he said. "Today they are giving an incentive to a potentially powerful rival."