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Film Finance Forum. Interview with Mark Foligno, MoliFilms

In the end of June a new Film Finance Forum 2011 was held in Moscow within a frame of the 33rd Moscow International Film Festival. The event gathered many famous American and European Film Producers as well as other important members of the Film Industry. The speakers shared their views on modern movie business with the audience while emphasizing the current role of Russia in this sector.

The future outlook for the Drama genre, the factors contributing to commercial potential of modern films and the reasons for failures of games based on movies were our key topics in the Interview with a very experienced and talented producer, Mark Foligno, who is currently managing his MoliFilms production and distribution company in the UK.

Mark Foligno (MoliFilms)Since 2003 Mark Foligno was working as the Managing Director of Molinare production company based in London. During the course of his career there Molinare has become one of the largest privately owned post-production companies in the country with notable drama, feature and documentary film portfolios. In 2008 Molinare was acquired by Indian media giant – CCL.

Mark Foligno was also one of the Executive Producers for The King’s Speech (2010), which won 4 Oscars. In April 2011 he left Molinare to fully focus on his new job and to lead MoliFilms to its glory. The latest project of the company to be presented to the public in the near future is the new Drama movie entitled Best Laid Plans (2011) starring Stephen Graham and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.

- Hello! Please, introduce yourself to our readers.

- Hi! I’m Mark Foligno, and I work as a Chairman of my company, which is called MoliFilms. We raise finance and undertake productions of feature films mainly based out of London. We also do international co-productions starting a Chinese one soon.

- Have you ever been to Russia before?

- It is my first time in Russia, and I was very pleased, when I had been asked to speak at the Film Finance Forum Moscow. I haven’t been here before, and it is very interesting for me to come out and to introduce myself to Russia. I enjoyed my trip and had a chance to do a few tourists’ things. I visited Red Square during one of my evenings in Russia and some other places afterwards. So far, so good, and I liked it.

- What were your expectations ahead of the Film Finance Forum 2011?

- Well, you know, the great thing about these Forums is the opportunity to meet new people and to network with like-minded people. In fact, we all are in the Film Industry, and we all enjoy the Film Industry. Otherwise, we simply wouldn’t be here. I think, the opportunities that Russia offers with its massive growth potential are great.

The UK has long traditions in filmmaking very much like Russia. We both are very passionate people about films. For that reason, it was very interesting to come out and to meet new people, who are my colleagues in Russia.

- The King’s Speech (2010) has reached universal acclaim worldwide. How would you explain that on the Producer’s side?

- Ultimately, The King’s Speech represent one of those films every generation comes to along the way. You can watch it if you are 8 years old, and you can watch it even if you are 88. The consequences and the opened market opportunities of this film were much bigger than any of the producers including myself could expect.

Mark Foligno (MoliFilms)We all hoped it would be a hundred million dollar film, but it ended with grossing up to four hundred and fifty million dollars. [Smiles]. We think that it was a combination of reasons contributing to that. The team was brilliant, and the great actors were chosen. Geoffrey Rush got involved in the project very quickly, and Colin Firth came along much later. The cast was right, and the Direction of Tom Hooper did a lot to help as well.

Also it was a film of the moment. At the time of making it, we didn’t realize that His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales would soon announce his engagement to Miss Catherine Middleton. It was adding interest to our movie in the UK and outside of it. What was also interesting is that when we were looking at King’s Speech in various forms of development from the beginning up to its completion, we already knew that we had something.

Though we didn’t know, we had something that big. I was very much telling to the Director, Tom Hooper, and to one of the Producers, Iain Canning, that we were making a winning film from early on. The local previews showed that our film was pulling on the right heart strings of the audience. It was very satisfying and pleasing for all of us with how everything went further.

The undertaking of the marketing campaign by Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company for The King’s Speech was extremely clever especially in the US. The launch spot was a proper choice. Just after the summer of 2010 the film had its debut at the Telluride Film Festival (Colorado, US), then it won the People’s Choice Award at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival (Canada). After the release, we just started to watch the Box Office revenues rising higher and higher.

- What interests foreign companies, producers and celebrities coming more and more often to present their new movies here in the Russian market?

- Russia is an amazing market opportunity. It is potentially as big a market as the US one. It has many similarities with the UK and the US markets, since it is such a massive film-loving country. So we all want to be involved in opportunities on such markets.

Everyday I can see more and more Hollywood co-productions with people from Russia and CIS coming along, for example, here I know about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) movie with the direction and co-production by Timur Bekmambetov, which we all would like to go and see. That is good news for you too, I guess!

- In your opinion, what are the current tendencies in the modern Film Industry?

- That is interesting, but The King’s Speech has actually opened some new opportunities for Dramas like it happened with Black Swan (2010) and The Fighter (2010). Independently-made films can become truly successful, though I know that Black Swan was co-financed by Fox Searchlight Pictures, but in its heart it is to stay a totally independent movie.

Film Finance Forum 2011Still such films are dominated by the world studios initially, and they can show some good results in the Box Office. Black Swan, for example, became a huge success in the Box Office. The Fighter didn’t gather so much revenues, but overall still performed very well.

The demand for The Drama-based films has been increasing. That is one of the reasons for us being very much behind Dramas nowadays. I have just made another one. It is a low-budget British movie called Best Laid Plans (2011). It was loosely inspired on the characters of the John Steinbeck’s novel – «Of Mice and Men» (1937). The result is very pleasing for us.

Drama is a very interesting genre for film producers. You just can’t beat the great story, which is engaging, funny and emotional as well as something else. So this is our main focus currently.

- Video Games Industry and Film Industry have been developing closer ties throughout the years…

- Yeah!

- What do you see in future for their relationship?

- It is a great thing, isn’t it? It creates new opportunities for feature films. Though for me it is currently a test subject, because even if a video game transforms well into a movie, a film does not necessarily transforms well into a video game. I think, it is important to develop them together. To make such a game successful it is vital to involve its developers in the creative process as soon as an early script of the tied-in movie appears.

Some of the games just do not get enough time to be developed properly, and their gameplay becomes dull rather soon. The games developed over a longer period of time tend to perform better. It is important to make a fruitful collaboration between a film’s production team and its official video game’s development studio to maximize the potential positive effect.

- Name 3 things you associate with Russia.

- You know, Red Square is the first thing coming to my mind. The next one would probably be Vodka, and for being an Italian I’d like to add beautiful Russian women to this list.

- Thank you, Mark!

- You are welcome!

P.S. Film Finance Forum Moscow was presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety.

Autographed by Mark Foligno (MoliFilms)

Mark Foligno's Autograph (MoliFilms)

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