MARKET ANALYSIS 2019
SOFIA: Public support for film was finally unlocked in 2019 and the Bulgarian National Film Center resumed its regular activities. This became possible after the harmonisation of the Film Industry Act with the Communication on State Aid for Films and Other Audiovisual Works (2013/C 332/01), the Commission Regulation No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014 and the Commission Regulation No 1407/2013 of 18 December 2013. Most of the nearly 90 agreements signed between the national institution and producers with closed budgets by the end of 2018 started to take effect and a considerable number of films were shot.
In October 2019 Bulgaria’s Parliament ratified the revised Council of Europe Convention on Cinematographic Co-production adopted on 29 June 2016 and opened for signature on 30 January 2017.
In order to further update the Film Industry Act, various working groups were appointed to propose urgent redefinitions of some of its rules of action. A group of experts was also set up to draft the law on a possible implementation of cash tax incentives for producers shooting in Bulgaria. The consultations lasted longer than expected, therefore the possible adoption of the legal changes was postponed for 2020.
After prolonged court proceedings and a guilty verdict, the Director General of the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), Konstantin Kamenarov, was forced to vacate his post. On 5 July 2019 Bulgaria’s Council for Electronic Media elected the former politician and journalist Emil Koshlukov as Director General of the BNT.
On 31 October 2019 the director Milko Lazarov was elected President of the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers. He inherited the post from Ivan Pavlov, who had led Bulgaria’s largest film organisation for 12 years.
The directorial duo Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov won the Crystal Globe for Best Film at the 54th Karlovy Vary IFF with their Bulgarian/Greek coproduction The Father (Abraxas, Graal). The film was also awarded Best Film at the 37th Golden Rose Film Festival and took four other national prizes.
Svetla Tsotsorkova’s second feature Sister (Omega film) grabbed the main prize for Best Film at the 29th FilmFestival Cottbus.
Mina Mileva’s and Vesela Kazakova’s Bulgarian/UK/French feature debut Cat In the Wall (Activist 38, Glasshead, Ici et Là Productions) was selected for the main competition of the 72nd Locarno FF, where it was warmly received by the audience. It also got the Best Debut Award at the Varna Golden Rose FF.
Nadejda Koseva’s debut feature film Irina, produced by Art Fest, was nominated for the European Discovery – Prix FIPRESCI at the 32nd European Film Awards.
Nineteen feature films were produced in 2019, of which nine were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center,, while 10 were privately financed.
Five of the supported films were made with minority financial participation from other countries. Three debut films were produced with public support.
The Bulgarian National Television backed Bad Girl, the directorial debut of famous actor and star Marian Valev. Other films in which the BNT participated as coproducer were Lachezar Avramov’s A Picture with Yuki, produced by Bulgaria’s Chouchkov Brothers in cooperation with Japan’s WA Entertainment, and Mina Mileva’s and Vesela Kazakova’s Cat In the Wall.
A total of 24 short films were made in 2019, of which five were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center, six by the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation, three by the New Bulgarian University, two by the National Culture Fund of Bulgaria, two by the American Foundation for Bulgaria, one by the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Germany and one by the Chung-Ang University in South Korea.
In September and October 2019, in the Black Sea village of Krapets, Dragomir Sholev shot his third feature film Fish Bone, about a camping owner, who finds a dead dolphin on the beach and meets the authorities’ refusal to take on the case. The film is a coproduction between Bulgaria’s Klas film and Romania’s HiFilm Productions, and it was supported by Eurimages.
Scriptwriter/director Ivan Cherkelov completed the shooting of his family drama Don’t Go into Quarrel with the Bathroom Staff in the town of Lovech. The film produced by Nak-Zak Vision combines generational crises and personal memories of his own grandfather.
The director of Holiday Makers (Urban Media) Ivailo Penchev returned to the Black Sea shore for the shooting of his new comedy As For The Last (Urban Media), involving a bunch of popular local actors.
In a rude and austere landscape actor/director/screenwriter Ivaylo Hristov shot his drama Fear (Pro Film), dealing with illegal migration and ensuing moral dilemmas in a small border village, while his younger colleague, actor Valery Yordanov, completed the shooting of his long awaited coming-of-age drama Call Me Shakespeare (Chouchkov Brothers).
Also in the deep countryside Ivan Pavlov shot his Spring Equinox (Art 47), while Stanimir Trifonov chose the Danube town of Russe for the shooting of his emotional period drama Bobby the Blessed (Incoms Project).
Mostly known for his privately financed low budget films, Georgy Kostov worked on his The Rest Is Ashes (Korund X) dedicated to Atanas Burov, a cult Bulgarian banker and philanthropist of the last century.
The number of lower budget films shot in 2019 was also high. Among them were: Dimitar Petkov’s 1979 (ARS Studio), Petrinel Gochev’s A Bulgarian Ship Sinks (Gala Film), Vasil Barkov’s The End of the River (Magic Mount), Konstantin Burov’s Farewell, Johnny (Doli Media). Mostly known as a distributor of European and Bulgarian films, A Plus Films produced Andrey Andonov’s Yatagan, a funny black comedy on the sometimes fake terrorism combating in Eastern Europe.
Petya of My Petya directed by Alexander Kossev (BOF Pictures), Ashes over Sun by Bo Kalinov (Invictus), Dustcatcher by Pavel G. Vesnakov (Moviemento), Waterfall CEO directed by Svetoslav Draganov and produced by Bulgaria’s Cineaste Maudit Production in coproduction with Romania’s Parada Film, as well as Dante's Heaven by Dimitar Radev (PremierStudio) were among the debut films shot in 2019. Over 10 short films and five minority coproductions were also shot in 2019.
The 24th Golden Rhyton Festival, which had been cancelled in 2018, resumed and screened 19 animated and 57 documentary films, representing the most significant part of two-years’ production. The Golden Rhyton for best documentary went to Pawn Sacrifice by scriptwriter/director Assen Vladimirov (ProFilm), while the award for best animated film went to Andrey Tsvetkov’s A Tree of Iron (TF & P). Emil Spahiyski’s An Icarus from Kocherinovo (Contrast Films) became best documentary debut and Dalibor Rajninger’s The Last Day (Compote Collective) was awarded best animated debut. Boya Harizanova received the best documentary director award for her A Feeling of Revulsion (Incoms Project), while Pencho Kunchev was awarded best cartoon designer for Roses in the Night (Nu Boyana Film).
Eleven foreign films were partly or entirely shot in Bulgaria in 2019, among which there were: Patrick Hughes’s action comedy The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (Millennium Media, Campbell Grobman Films), the popular American TV series Absentia: Season 3 and Pandora, Alessio Jim Della Valle’s thriller American Night, Todor Chapkanov’s family drama A Picture Perfect Royal Christmas (Free Dolphin Productions), Tanya Wexler’s action film Jolt (Millennium Films), David Sandberg’s martial arts comedy Kung Fu 2 (B-Reel Film, Laser Unicors, Argent Pictures). As usual, most of them were serviced either by Nu Boyana Film Studios or by the Bulgarian Unified Film Organization (BUFO).
According to the NFC, a total of 279 films were theatrically released in 2019: 115 from the USA, 114 European films, 39 domestic and 11 films from other countries. Total admissions were 4,801,045, of which American films had 3,994,054 admissions, European films had 344,196 admissions and domestic films had 437,181 admissions.
In 2019 Forum Film Bulgaria followed by Alexandra Group remained the country’s leading distribution companies. The companies had seven and two titles, respectively, in the top ten, which this time included only American titles.
Niki Iliev’s privately financed feature film Reunion (Silver Light Pictures, Euro Dialog, Indie Films), which was released by bTV Studios, the distribution branch of the private TV channel bTV, became the most watched domestic film, followed by Yana Titova’s A Dose of Happiness, which bTV Studios not only released but also coproduced together with NoBlink Studio.
The third most watched Bulgarian film is Kamen Donev’s satirical comedy Cozy, which was produced by himself and released by Lenta, the distribution branch of the private TV channel Nova (which also released Martin Makariev’s privately financed Wildlings, produced by Production House, Silver Noise.
APlus Films chose to release Marian Valev’s Bad Girl, which became the 5th most watched Bulgarian film.
EXHIBITION AND BOX OFFICE
The number of officially registered theatres in 2019 was 68, of which 67 are already digitalised. The number of screens was 220, with a great number equipped for 3D screenings.
In 2019 total admissions were 4,801,045 and total box office was 23,895,950 EUR. In 2018 the admissions were 4,900,408 and the total box office was 23,537,851 EUR. As the decrease in admissions was 2.03% and the increase in box office was 1.52%, it is obvious that no radical changes in the market took place.
American films had 3,994,054 admissions and 19,993,965 EUR gross, while European titles had 344,196 admissions and 1,508,456 EUR gross.
With 39 Bulgarian titles (including re-releases and holdovers) the number of films released was slightly higher than in 2018, when their number was 30.
In 2019 domestic films had 437,181 admissions and 1.8 m EUR gross. In 2018 they had 388,066 admissions and 1.6 m EUR gross. Admissions to domestic films increased by 12.66% and the box office increased by 12.50%.
Niki Iliev’s Reunion became Bulgaria’s domestic box office topper with 88,374 admissions and 395,168 EUR gross. Yana Titova’s A Dose of Happiness ranked 2nd with 86,663 admissions and 350, 241 EUR gross, followed by Kamen Donev’s Cozy with 74,995 admissions and 343,684 EUR gross, and Martin Makariev’s Wildlings with 60,486 admissions and 282,978 EUR gross. None of these films was supported by any public fund.
Marian Valev’s Bad Girl is 5th with 40,372 admissions and 172,293 EUR gross.
Stephan Komandarev’s Rounds is 6th with 16,357 admissions and 63,364 EUR gross (released by Purple Rain Film Distribution), followed by Milko Lazarov’s Bulgarian/German/French coproduction Aga (Red Carpet, 42Film, Arizona Films Productions) with 11,875 admissions and 30,698 EUR gross (released by Red Carpet). Stanislav Donchev’s Letters From Antarctica, produced by Dynamic Arts and released by Lenta, ranked 8th with 9,239 admissions and 44,139 EUR gross, followed by Lachezar Avramov’s debut A Picture With Yuki (released by Purple Rain) with 7,896 admissions and 15,065 EUR gross.
Matey Genchev’s Run, produced by GMAX film and released by Dema Film, and Maxim Genchev’s The Runaway Smartphone, produced and released by Amrita Art, ranked 10th and 11th respectively, with 7,148 admissions and 20,980 EUR gross, and 4,532 admissions and 15,693 EUR gross, respectively.
Nikolay Vasilev’s documentary Theo´s Formula, produced by Screening Emotions and released by the Sofia FF, had 4,526 admissions and 10,972 EUR gross, while Nadejda Koseva’s debut feature Irina, produced and released by Art Fest, had 4,356 admissions and 10,758 EUR gross.
GRANTS AND NEW LEGISLATION
In 2019 the legal frame remained as the one adopted by Bulgaria’s Parliament on 6 March 2018, which brought the film state aid schemes in line with the European Commission’s Communication on State Aid for Films and Other Audiovisual Works (2013/C 332/01).
In comparison with 2018, public funding for the film industry was increased by around 750,000 EUR and thus amounted to 7,515,991 EUR / 14.7 m BGN. Eighty-five percent of the sum was allocated to all types of film production, including minority coproductions. The rest of the money was allocated to local theatrical distribution of Bulgarian films, including minority coproductions (5 %), festivals (5 %) and exhibition of films (5 %).
According to Jana Karaivanova, the Executive Director of the Bulgarian National Film Center, although it was decided that the 2020 budget for film will stay unchanged “after the amendment of the Film Industry Act, the government would assure additional money for the national film production and for the cash tax incentives”.
In 2019, especially in its second half, the major concern of the newly elected Director General Emil Koshlukov became the financial state of the Bulgarian National Television. On 12 September 2019, Koshlukov presented an alarming report at the country’s Parliament, stating that the financial deficit of the broadcaster for 2019 was at least 22 m EUR and that the prospects for 2020 show another deficit of 15 m EUR. He warned that if the amounts and the way of financing from the state remains the same in 2020, the national broadcaster could actually go bankrupt.
In order to deal with the situation, Koshlukov cut a number of iconic shows, which upset certain sections of the audience. With the argument that the number of employees working full time is 1,360, he also dismissed several emblematic journalists and bureaucrats. Another aim was to reduce to a minimum the amount of TV productions backed by the BNT but conceived and created by independent producers. The cut of the documentary portraits series of prominent Bulgarian intellectuals, entitled Smart Village, met with several critical reactions.
In April 2019 the Swedish MTG completed the sale of Nova Broadcasting Group (Nova) to the Bulgarian Advance Media Group, owned by the businessmen Kiril Domuschiev and Georgi Domuschiev. The cash value of the deal for the largest commercial media group comprising seven TV channels and several online businesses was announced as 185 m EUR.
BULGARIAN NATIONAL TELEVISION General Director: Emil Koshlukov 29, San Stefano Str. 1504 Sofia, Bulgaria Phone: + 359 2 814 22 14 Phone.: + 359 2 944 49 99 (switchboard) www.bnt.bg
Report by Pavlina Jeleva (2020) Source: the Bulgarian National Film Center
MARKET ANALYSIS 2018
The year 2018 turned out to be extremely complex for the Bulgarian film industrу. Public support for film was blocked and the Bulgarian National Film Center was forbidden to allot financing. The restrictive measure was applied because the country had failed to adjust its film and audiovisual legislation to the European requirements within the official deadline of 12 December 2017.
It became imperative that the state institutions catch up on their delay by amending the Film Industry Act and putting it in line with the Communication on State Aid for Films and Other Audiovisual Works (2013/C 332/01), the Commission Regulation No 651/2014 of 17 June 2014 and the Commission Regulation No 1407/2013 of 18 December 2013.
In October 2018 Sofia hosted the 152nd meeting of the Eurimages Board of Management.
Milko Lazarov’s Ága closed the Official Competition (Out of Competition) of the 68th Berlinale and afterwards received 21 prestigious awards all over the world.
Two Bulgarian production companies got involved as minority coproducers in two prestigious Romanian films. Agitprop coproduced Adina Pintilie’s Golden Bear winner Touch Me Not, while Klas Film was a coproducer of the 53rd Karlovy Vary IFF’s Crystal Globe winner “I Do Not Care If We Go Down In History As Barbarians” by Radu Jude.
Seventeen feature films were produced in 2018, of which 12 were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center and five were privately financed.
Three of the supported films were made with minority financial participation from other countries. The debut films were five in number and they were all supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center.
The Bulgarian National Television backed the production of 8’19”, a six part omnibus film directed by Peter Valchanov, Lubomir Mladenov, Theodor Ushev, Nadejda Koseva, Vladimir Lyutskanov and Kristina Grozeva, and took part as a minor coproducer in Milko Lazarov’s Aga and in Victor Bojinov’s Heights.
A total of 21 short films were made in 2018, of which seven were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center.
In late autumn of 2018 Stefan Komandarev shot the bigger part of his urban nightly sequel Rounds aka Patrol Cars in Sofia. Each episode was filmed in a single hand-held shot, without editing cuts. Rounds is coproduced by Bulgaria’s Argo Film, Serbia’s Film Pro and French outfits Deuxième Ligne Films and EZ films. The film is supported by Eurimages and will be sold by Beta Cinema.
Victor Chouchkov completed shooting on his international drama 18% Gray, based on Zachary Karabashliev’s bestseller. Filming took place in the UK, Belgium and Germany. The film is a coproduction between Bulgaria’s Chouchkov Brothers, Germany’s Ostlicht Filmproduktion, Serbia’s Cinnamon Films, Belgium’s Raised by Wolves and Macedonia’s Sektor Film Skopje.
Acclaimed director Ivan Nichev shot Could You Kill aka Old Men, an alarming drama on sharp contemporary topics like poverty, unemployment, terrorism and illegal immigration. Cinemascop is producing with the support of the Bulgarian National Film Center.
Famous for his successful animated films, director Anri Koulev shot his period drama Once Upon a Time There Was a War, reminding military conflicts in the Balkans from 1885, with British star Ben Cross in the cast. The director is producing through Koulev Film Production in cooperation with the BNT. The Bulgarian NFC is supporting.
Known for her internationally acclaimed Monkeys in Winter (2006, Bulgaria’s Proventus Film House and Germany’s Tatfilm), Milena Andonova completed the shooting on her sophomore film The Shepherd in 2018. The period drama is about St. Ivan Rilski, the patron saint of the Bulgarian people. Proventus Film House is producing in cooperation with the BNT and the Sofia based Nu Boyana Film Studios.
In 2018 Milko Lazarov’s Ága, coproduced by Bulgaria’s Red Carpet, Germany’s 42 film and France’s Arizona Productions, closed the Official Competition (Out of Competition) of the 68th Berlinale and went on to receive 21 prestigious awards all over the world, including best film at the 37th Fajr IFF, the 24th Sarajevo IFF and the 36th Golden Rose NFF.
The 36th Golden Rose NFF also gave its best debut prize to Nadejda Koseva’s Irina, produced by Art Fest. The film, and especially its lead actress Martina Apostolova, impressed international film festivals such as the 36th Warsaw FF, the 28th Cottbus FF, the 16th Tirana IFF (best film) and others.
In 2018 RFF International involved Bulgaria as minority coproducer in Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Tree, next to France’s Memento Films, Germany’s Detailfilm, Macedonia’s Sisters And Brother Mitevski, Sweden’s Film i Väs, The Chimney Pot and Turkey’s Zeynofilm.
Tonislav Hristov’s Finnish/Danish/Bulgarian long documentary The Magic Life of V was selected to compete in the 2019 Sundance FF and the 69th Berlinale’s Generation section, while Petar Krumov’s short film Shame was nominated for the European Film Academy Awards.
The 24th Golden Rhyton Festival for documentary and animated films was to take place in December 2018, but just before its start the event was canceled. According to the official statement of the Bulgarian NFC “the number of films that applied is insufficient and makes it impossible to reach the level of the recent years and to compose strong competition programmes“.
Despite the fact that a significant part of the documentary and animated film production from 2018 could not get enough visibility, several titles received positive recognition. Boris Missirkov’s and Georgi Bogdanov’s Palace For the People (Agitprop) won the Dok Buster Award 2018 for the audience's favourite at Doc Leipzig 2018.
Stefan Ivanov’s A New Life, coproduced by Bulgaria’s Geopoly Film and Canada’s Les Ivanov productions, was well received in Canada, where many Bulgarians had found their second home country. Gospodin Nedelchev’s The Citizen Sis (Dido Film), on the Czech war correspondent Vladimir Sis, and Ralitza Dimitrova’s A Saga For Wasted Opportunities (B Plus Film), on national feelings 100 years after the signing the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, were among the successful documentaries in 2018.
Ten foreign films were partly or entirely shot in Bulgaria in 2018, most of them serviced by Bulgaria’s leading film production studios - Nu Boyana Film Studios, including The Outpost (Ghost House Pictures, Millennium Media) directed by Rod Lurie, and Rambo 5 (Millennium Media) directed by Adrian Grunberg. The first one recreates violent war scenes in Afghanistan, while the second involves Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone in the role of John Rambo for the fifth time.
Launched as the first part of a trilogy, the Indian fantasy Brahmāstra (Dharma Productions) directed by Ayan Mukerji largely used the Nu Boyana sets.
According to the NFC, a total of 289 films were theatrically released in 2018: 111 from the USA, 138 European films, 30 domestic and 10 films from other countries. Total admissions were 4,900,408, of which American films had 3,852,296 admissions, European films 532,802 admissions and domestic films had 388,006 admissions.
In 2018 the country’s leading distribution companies were again Forum Film Bulgaria and Alexandra Group, with around 75 percent of the market. In 2018 they had respectively five and four American titles in the top ten. The privately financed Bulgarian feature film Attraction (Spirit Production House), released by Lenta (the distribution branch of the private TV channel Nova TV), ranked 8th in the top ten.
bTV Studios (the distribution branch of the private TV channel bTV) showed good results with two other independent Bulgarian films: Dimitar Gochev’s Revolution X (Di – Dreams) and Niki Iliev’s All She Wrote (Euro Dialogue Productions).
A+Films successfully reached the audience with Yassen Grigorov’s Lilly The Little Fish (TFA – The Flying Agency) and kept its traditional interest in distributing European and domestic films.
In 2018, the number of officially registered screens was 219, with 178 equipped for 3D screenings.
In 2018 total admissions were 4,900,408 and total box office was 23.5 m EUR. Compared to 5,566,585 admissions and the total box office of 25.9 m EUR in 2017, there is a decrease by 11.97 percent and 9.11 percent, respectively.
American films had 3,852,296 admissions and 19,118,053 gross, while European titles had 532,802 admissions and 2,555,649 EUR gross.
With 30 Bulgarian titles (including re-releases and holdovers) the number of released films stood nearly the same as in 2017.
The admissions for domestic films were 388,006 and the box office was 1.6 m EUR gross in 2018. Compared to 2017, when the admissions were 512,521 and the box office was 2.1 m EUR gross, there is a decrease by 24.29 percent and by 23.80 percent, respectively.
Martin Makariev’s Attraction (Spirit Production House) became Bulgaria’s domestic box office topper with 112,934 admissions and 444,184 EUR gross. Dimitar Gochev’s Revolution X (Di – Dreams) ranked second with 54,575 admissions and 230,470 EUR gross, followed by Niki Iliev’s All She Wrote (Euro Dialogue Productions) with 41,836 admissions and 178,283 EUR gross.
Stephan Komandarev’s Directions (produced by Argo Film and distributed by Purple Rain Film Distribution) ranked 4th with 37,623 admissions and 160,697 EUR gross, followed by Stanislav Todorov – Rogi’s low budget Bubblegum, produced by Dynamic Arts and distributed by Lenta, with 39,195 admissions and 156,835 EUR gross.
Two films focusing on younger audiences - Maria Veselinova’s debut feature Smart Christmas, produced by Juli Maruli Entertaiment and released by Lenta, and Yassen Grigorov’s Lilly The Little Fish (TFA – The Flying Agency), had 37,576 admissions and 153.638 EUR gross, and 35,095 admissions and 138,795 EUR gross respectively. The rest of the domestic films attracted less than 1,000 viewers each.
The procedure of bringing the existing film state aid schemes in line with the European Commission’s Communication on State Aid for Films and Other Audiovisual Works (2013/C 332/01) started on 6 March 2018, when Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted three important amendments to the Film Industry Act. The first one terminated the requirement for Bulgarian citizenship of the authors applying for state support. The second one fixed at 75% the lowest percentage of the allocated funds to be spent in Bulgaria. The third one submitted the definition of a “difficult film”, a film whose only version is in Bulgarian language and its budget is not higher than the average budget of the previous year.
The adjustment process was completed on 5 December 2018, when Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted the definitive amendments to the Film Industry Act. Only after this date did it become possible for the Bulgarian National Film Center to sign agreements with producers having already closed the budgets of their films. According to Jana Karaivanova, Executive Director of the Bulgarian National Film Center, by the very end of the year “the institution signed 90 agreements and unblocked over 2.2 m EUR”.
It was specifically indicated that public financing for film will be implemented through three main schemes in the future. Two of them are for the support of production and distribution. The third one is for the support of festivals and meets the European Commission's requirement for the de minimis state aid.
In October 2018 Sofia hosted the 152nd meeting of the Eurimages Board of Management. A group of experts analysed the facts and figures characterising the gender equality situation in the country’s audiovisual sector.
In 2018 Bulgaria also signed cooperation agreements with Romania, Macedonia and Kosovo.
The Bulgarian National Film Center and Nu Boyana signed a cooperation agreement on joint activities in the development and the stimulation of the production, distribution, display and promotion of Bulgarian films.
In June 2018 HBO acquired broadcast rights for 19 Bulgarian films (16 feature films and three documentaries) produced after 1989. The deal was part of HBO’s newly expanded distribution policy in the HBO Adria region, which gives subscribers from Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina access to the catalogue of the TV channel.
The Bulgarian film package was launched on 1 July 2018 with Victor Bojinov’s box office topper Heights, a the Bulgarian/Macedonian coproduction between Bulfilm and Dream Factory..
Two major TV series financed by the Bulgarian National Television were shot in 2018 and creative filmmakers with original artistic approach were invited to direct. Peter Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva directed The Blue Birds Island, based on Alexander Sekulov’s novel The Island, an adventure series filled with funny summer vacation stories (executive producer Red Carpet), while Pavel G. Vesnakov directed Father’s Day, a series inspired by real stories of divorcing parents who fought to remain an equally important part in their children’s lives (executive producer Agitprop).
BULGARIAN NATIONAL TELEVISION General Director: Konstantin Kamenarov 29, San Stefano Str. 1504 Sofia, Bulgaria Phone: + 359 2 814 22 14 Phone.: + 359 2 944 49 99 (switchboard) www.bnt.bg
Report by Pavlina Jeleva (2019) Source: the Bulgarian National Film Centre
MARKET ANALYSIS 2017
The year 2017 started with the appointment of a caretaker government by the Bulgarian president, General Rumen Radev, designated to act in a limited time. Centre-right GERB party won the parliamentary elections and in May 2017 Boyko Borisov became Prime Minister for the third time since 2009.
On 31 December 2017 European Commission’s monitoring of the aid scheme approved until 31 December 2017 expired. In order to bring the state film aid scheme in line with the European Commission Communication on State Aid for Films and Other Audiovisual Works (2013/C 332/01), Bulgaria’s Council of Ministers adopted a draft of an amended Film Industry Act. As the changes were not officially adopted before the start of 2018, state subsidies for film will be allotted only after the completion of all legal procedures.
In September 2017 Konstantin Kamenarov took over the position of Director General of the Bulgarian National Television from Vyara Ankova, who headed the public broadcaster since 2010.
Two months later actress/producer Jana Karaivanova was appointed as Executive Director of the Bulgarian National Film Center. Kamen Balkanski, who had been running the national institution during the last two years, became Deputy Director.
The year 2017 was also marked by the most spectacular return of the audience's interest in national cinema since 2010. One after another, several new Bulgarian feature films became box office hits throughout the year. The highest grossing title turned out to be Victor Bojinov’s historical drama Heights (coproduced by Bulgaria’s Bulfilm and Macedonia’s Dream Factory). Admissions to domestic films almost tripled in Bulgaria from 176,395 in 2016 to 512,521 in 2017, while domestic films cashed in over 2 m EUR in 2017 compared to 612,000 EUR in 2016.
Total admissions increased by 2.49 percent and total box office by 5.7 percent compared to 2016.
In 2017 Stefan Komandarev’s Directions, coproduced by Bulgaria’s Argo Film, Germany’s Aktis Film Production and Macedonia’s Sector Film, was applauded in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard official competition. Ilian Metev’s feature debut 3/4 (Three Quarters), coproduced by Bulgaria’s Chaconna Films and Germany’s Sutor Kolonko, grabbed the Golden Leopard in the Cineasti Del Presente international competition of the 70th Locarno Film Festival. Ralitza Petrova’s Godless (coproduced by Bulgaria’s Klas Film, Denmark’s’ Snow Globe and France’s Alcatraz Films and Film Factory) was nominated for the European Film Academy’s European Discovery 2017 – Prix FIPRESCI. Tonislav Hristov’s Finnish/German/Bulgarian long documentary The Good Postman won the European Film Academy’s Documentary Award – Prix Arte.
Twenty one feature films were produced in 2017, of which 16 were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center. Five of the supported films were made with minority financial participation from other countries. There were six debut films (five supported and one privately financed) and three low budget films. The Bulgarian National Television coproduced three feature films. Bulgaria also took part as a minor coproducer in six other feature film coproductions and in two short film productions.
A total of 39 short films were made in 2017, of which six were supported by the Bulgarian National Film Center.
Some domestic feature films were shot in the country, but also abroad.
In the spring of 2017 Milko Lazarov completed the shooting of his sophomore film Aga aka Nanook in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic within the Russian Federation. The aesthetically ambitious film is coproduced by Bulgaria’s Red Carpet, Germany’s 42Film and France’s Arizona Films. The Bulgarian National Television and ZDF/Arte are also involved in the production.
Victor Chouchkov began shooting his international project 18% Gray, based on Zachary Karabashliev’s bestseller. Shooting will continue in the UK, Belgium and Germany in 2018. The film is a coproduction between Bulgaria’s Chouchkov Brothers, Germany’s Ostlicht Filmproduktion and Serbia’s Cinnamon Films. The Bulgarian National Television is the national coproducer.
Kostadin Bonev, whose The Sinking of Sozopol (Borough Film) was awarded at numerous international film festivals, wrapped the shooting of his fourth feature film The Wolves Come Out, produced through his company Trivium Films. The cultural club of the town of Yambol became the main location for a story taking place in a small provincial theatre.
Known for her internationally acclaimed 2006 Monkeys in Winter (Proventus Film House Bulgaria and Tatfilm Germany), Milena Andonova partially shot her sophomore film The Shepherd in 2017. The period drama is about St. Ivan Rilski, the patron saint of the Bulgarian people. Proventus Film House is producing in cooperation with the BNT.
Nadejda Koseva, who became famous for her critically acclaimed short film Omlette, completed the two-step shooting of her debut feature The Deal. Focusing on surrogate motherhood, the low budget film is produced by Art Fest.
Martin Makariev’s Attraction, coproduced by Indifilm, Spirit Production and Nova Broadcasting Group, and Niki Iliev’s Knock out or All She Wrote, coproduced by Euro Dialog Productions and Nu Boyana, were the main privately financed films shot in 2017. The first one relies on the attractiveness and choreographic abilities of the actress Yana Marinova, the second on the American actor Gary Dourdan’s participation in a story partially shot in New York.
Youlia Kantcheva’s In the Mirror, Maria Averina’s From Cremona to Cremona, Tzvetan Dragnev’s Village People, Kostadin Bonev’s Uprooting, Adela Peeva’s Long Live Bulgaria, were among the most acclaimed documentaries in 2017. Animation also showed good health with films like Travelling Country by Vessela Dantcheva and Ivan Bogdanov, Restart by Gospodin Nedelchev, 20 Kicks by Dilyan Elenkov, No Way by Ivan Stoyanovich, and others.
Bulgaria’s leading film production studios, Nu Boyana Film Studios serviced or got involved in the production of 18 films. Four of them were American productions and four were non-American films with partial American funding. The company also serviced four European and six Bulgarian coproductions. Neil Marshal’s Hellboy (Millennium Films) starring Milla Jovovich, David Harbour, Ian McShane and Sasha Lane; Ariel Vromen’s The Angel (Netflix) starring Marwan Kenzari and Toby Kebbell, and Eric Bress’s Ghosts of War (Miscellaneous Entertainment) starring Brenton Thwaites, became the new ‘business cards’ of the company.
According to the NFC, a total of 291 films (including re-releases and holdovers) were theatrically released in 2017: 126 from the US, 116 European films, 28 domestic and 21 films from other countries. Total admissions were 5,566, 585, of which American films had 4,585,414 admissions, European films 432,890 admissions and domestic films had 512,521 admissions.
Forum Film Bulgaria and Alexandra Group remained the country’s leading distributors, like in the previous years. In 2017 they had seven and two American titles in the top ten, respectively.
Thanks to an exceptional advertising campaign lasting for more than a year, the distributor A+Films made a huge breakthrough with Victor Bojinov’s historical drama Heights (coproduced by Bulgaria’s Bulfilm and Macedonia’s Dream Factory). In only two months the title broke into the domestic top ten.
Also due to the long term marketing campaign Nova Helps Bulgarian Films, the distribution branch of the private TV channel Nova TV, Lenta, successfully released several Bulgarian titles and actively contributed to the nearly threefold increase of the national share.
By the very end of 2017 the Bulgarian National Center gave a green light to the 23rd edition of the country’s main non-feature film national festival Golden Rhyton, cancelled in 2016. Over 90 documentaries and animated films displayed the crop of two years, of which 63 participated in the documentary and animated films’ competitions. The jury decided to encourage a bigger number of filmmakers by doubling the honors. As a result, more films were awarded, part of them ex-aequo. Among them were Tonislav Hristov’s The Good Postman (coproduced by Finland’s Making Movies OY, Germany’s Еlemag Pictures and Bulgaria’s Soul Food), awarded best documentary, Anri Koulev’s All So Much Hogwash, awarded best animated film, and Catherine Bernstein’s and Assen Vladimirov’s The Bookseller (coproduced by Bulgaria’s Pro Film and France’s Les Films de l’Aqueduc) and Nikolay Todorov’s 72 minutes animated political satire Made in Brachycera (produced by ET Club No Nikolay Todorov), both winning the ex-aequo Special Jury Award.
In 2017, the number of officially registered screens was 216. Practically all screens in the country are digitalised.
Total admissions increased by 2.49 percent and total box office by 5.7 percent. In 2017 total admissions were 5,566,585 and total box office was 25.9 m EUR, compared to 5,431 028 admissions and 24.5 m EUR total gross in 2016.
With 28 Bulgarian films (including re-releases and holdovers) the number of films released significantly increased in comparison with the two previous years, when it was 16 and 17 respectively.
Admissions to domestic films almost tripled from 176,395 in 2016 to 512,521 in 2017, while the domestic films cashed in over 2 m EUR in 2017 compared to 612,000 EUR in 2016.
The encouraging results were due mostly to Victor Bojinov’s Heights, which ranked first with 130,470 admissions and 546,160 EUR gross. Katerina Goranova’s and Asen Blatechky’s spectacular action debut Broken Road (Cinequanone) came second with 98,822 admissions and 406,331 EUR gross, followed by Zornitsa Sophia's Voevoda (MQ Pictures Ltd ) with 87,604 admissions and 345,761 EUR gross. The last two films were distributed by Lenta.
Magdalena Ralcheva’s relatively small and privately financed teenage comedy 12A, produced by 12А Ltd and released by A+Films, surprisingly ranked fourth with 57,593 admissions and 226,736 EUR gross. Ilian Djevelekov’s Omnipresent (Miramar Film), which won the main award at the 35th Golden Rose NFF, came fifth with 45,782 admissions and 195,188 EUR gross.
After Omnipresent, Lenta also released Stanislav Todorov–Rogi’s debut feature Bubblegum (Dynamic Arts), which attracted 44,773 viewers and had 190,760 EUR gross.
Three other privately financed films ranked seventh, eighth and ninth: Georgi Kostov’s Sex Academy – Men, produced and released by Media Production with 10,038 admissions and 38,754 EUR gross; Todor Anastasov’s Damascena, produced and released by Damascena Film Company, with 8,655 admissions and 31,101 EUR gross, and Andrey Andonov’s NoOne (Egregore Films), released by A+Films, with 4,391 admissions and 15,538 EUR gross. The 10th place was taken by Radoslav Spassov’s The Singing Shoes with 4,004 admissions and 13,812 EUR gross.
In 2017, the Bulgarian National Film Center provided the main funding for film production and the Bulgarian National Television contributed with pre-sales to the budget of some national films, already supported by the NFC.
In 2017, the National Palace of Culture, which registered in 2015 at the NFC as a film production company, continued to support selected Bulgarian films by offering for free Hall 1 to Galin Stoev’s debut feature The Infinite Garden. The film opened the 31st edition of the Cinemania Film Panorama.
In accordance with the Film Industry Act adopted in 2003, Bulgaria’s main institution’s annual support is calculated based on the total average budget of seven feature films, 14 long documentaries and 160 minutes of animated films.
Similarly to the two previous years, in 2017 the NFC’s annual state support for film was 7,370,272 EUR, while the amount for production, distribution and exhibition was nearly 7 m EUR.
As no legal changes were made, the two-tier system was kept in 2017: a project can receive the approval of the NFC expert selection committee, but the NFC funding becomes usable only when the producer of the film has 100% of the budget in place.
Based on this rule, in 2017 the NFC approved financial support for 11 feature films, six with budgets over 300,000 EUR, three with budgets below 300,000 EUR, two debut features and seven short films. Eleven projects received development support.
Nine films were approved in the documentary section, two of which were debuts. Seven projects were selected for development support. In the animated films section seven films of up to 24 minutes and two films of up to 60 minutes were approved for support.
The Film Industry Act also requires that up to 20% from the NFC’s annual budget is allotted to Bulgarian minority coproductions. In 2017 seven coproductions were approved for financial support: four feature films, two documentaries and one animated film.
Over 240,000 EUR were allotted for domestic distribution of Bulgarian and European films in 2017, and nearly 200,000 EUR were dedicated to the support of local film festivals and international promotion of Bulgarian cinema.
Bulgarian National Television is still the only TV channel obliged by the law to support independent producers with 10% of its total budget. In 2017 the annual amount did not differ a lot from the usual one, around 3 m EUR.
On the other hand, the activity in the private audiovisual sector increased.
The private TV channel bTV backed the shooting of 170 episodes of Dear Heirs, taking place in an artificially built village. Some of them were directed by Todor Chapkanov and Niki Iliev. The broadcast of the series started on 15 January 2018.
In cooperation with Global Films, the other main private TV channel Nova TV backed the shooting of Policemen from the End of Town, the first Bulgarian police comedy based on the Spanish hit series Los hombres de Paco. Nova TV also backed the detective series The Devil's Throat (in cooperation with Dream Team Films). The first six episodes were entirely shot in the picturesque surroundings of the town of Smolyan.
BULGARIAN NATIONAL TELEVISIONGeneral Director: Konstantin Kamenarov29, San Stefano Str.1504 Sofia, Bulgaria Phone: + 359 2 814 22 14 Phone.: + 359 2 944 49 99 (switchboard)www.bnt.bg
Report by Pavlina Jeleva (2018)Source: the Bulgarian National Film Centre
Population: 6,950,044 (2019) GDP (nominal) per capita in EUR: 8,727 (2019) Total admissions: 4,801,045 (2019) Admissions per capita: 0.69 (2019) Box office in EUR: 23,895,950 (2019) National market share: 7.78 (2019) Feature film production: 19 (2019) Number of screens: 220 (2019) Digital screens: 219 (2019) Average ticket price in Euro: 4.98 (2019) Annual state support for film industry: 7,515,991 EUR (2019)
Source: National Statistical Institute of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian National Film Center
Admissions Top Ten 2019
Check OLFFI for Film Funding opportunities
Actress/producer Jana Karaivanova has been appointed as executive director of the Bulgarian National Film Centre on 27 October 2017. Read more...
FNE speaks to the former head of Bulgarian National Film CenterClick HERE to see full TV Interview
FNE speaks to the (former) head of Bulgarian National Film CenterRead more...
National Film Centre
Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers
Ministry of Culture
Bulgarian National Film Archive
Media Desk Bulgaria
Bulgarian Parliament, Culture Committee
Euro-Bulgarian Cultural Centre