Ukraine has always been and remains a fount of talents. Our artists are recognized not only in the country but also abroad. However, the sector of Ukrainian culture is still at the beginning of its path.
In the world of material values even the high art requires considerable expenses. And if show business can easily afford it, the state cultural centers are not pampered with financing. However, certain improvements have already been made in the sector of cinema.

In an interview with former culture minister and now the director general of the National art palace "Ukraine" Mykhailo Kulyniak, ForUm has learned about the development of Ukrainian culture in general, as well as what legislative changes this sector requires.

- Mykhailo Adriyovych, Ukrainian culture is said to lag behind in development. How would you estimate the situation? Which sectors are more developed and which require reanimation?

- I believe help must be given to serious academic art. Pop music is more commercialized culture, while academic culture does not have such financial resource. However, despite of lack of financing, in 2013 the Verevka music group, for example, held two concerts, one of which was in December.  
At the same time, if we compare Ukrainian performers and Russian stars, the gap is significant. The fact is that for an Ukrainian artist to be recognized he must go somewhere and become famous. And only then we recall that he is from Ukraine. This is our mentality, though I hope we will abandon such approach soon.

- And why is Ukrainian movie theatre so weak, even comparing to the Russian cinema?

- Russian cinema started developing not three years ago, as the Ukrainian did. Unfortunately, before 2010, the state budget allocated ridiculous amount of financing: 2-5 million hryvnias, thus nobody wanted to deal with us.

What is cinema? It is own production and co-production. Both these sectors have been dead for quite a while in Ukraine. Thanks God that after the request sent to the current President the things have changed: firstly, the State cinema agency was established, and, secondly, the financing increased by tenfold - from 5 to 150 million hryvnias.

Moreover, we have the system of open pitching, when not officials, but investors decide what movie to finance. "Firecrosser" was finally issued, though its production started back in 2007. Now everyone speaks about "Ivan Syla" and "Parajanov", which means the interest to co-production grows. Thus, we cannot say that Ukrainian cinema does not develop. We just need more time, because such short period of activity as three years cannot secure you a place in "Oscar" nominations.

At the same time, we have good short-length films, which regularly win awards, and the most important thing is that cinemas start taking our movies for release. Let's say, we are still at the beginning of our path.

Then there is another thing. Money. To set off a chain reaction, we need one or two producing companies to release two or three movies, to earn money and to invest back in the business. And the time issue is crucial here. Three years are not enough, but Ukrainian cinema has all chances to reach high altitude within the time.

- Last year in November there was a scandal with Ukrainian band "Ocean Elsy", which was fined in Russia for violation of the labor legislation. Moreover, some rumors said the situation was caused by political tension in Ukrainian-Russian relations. How would you comment on this?

- Well, I would not involve politics in this issue. The fact is that every state has its legislation, and organizers of that concert should have provided proper observance of Russian legislation regarding work permits. Ukrainian artist Taisa Povaliy, for example, obtained this permit without any difficulties, thus we cannot blame the mistake of the organizers on political tensions. It is a lesson for both Ukrainian performers and their organizers to learn.

- What is the touring scheme of foreign artists in Ukraine? Is it regulated by any documents?

- After the request of organizers to rent the concert hall for an artist, the National art palace "Ukraine" signs a contract, stipulating obligations of the parties. Organizers are responsible for all legal issues, while the Palace takes on responsibility for service quality: the hall, sound, lights, infrastructure.

- Does the subject ministry control somehow this activity?

- Not at all. Permits for performance are issued by local governments.

- Work permits used to be obligatory for touring artists, but in 2010 the Culture Ministry canceled this norm. However, after the scandal with "Ocean Elsy", the Ministry declared it might reconsider the practice of work permits. How would estimate such initiative?

- This issue must be decided by experts, including the Migration Service, Culture Ministry, artists, producers and organizers of concerts. Then there is such notion as equal share. In other words, if one country introduces a norm, similar norm can be introduced in another country.

After this scandal some journalists called me and asked to invent something to have revenge upon the Russian side. But in my opinion, revenge is not the point. The decision must be made basing on the expert opinion and equal share principle.

- What effect should be expected in case of introduction of work permits for touring artists?

- As of  today, the Ukrainian side requires permits for holding concerts, where organizers stipulate who performs and with what program. We have visa free regime with Russia, but it does not cancel work permits, however. Thus, if we introduce similar practice in our country, it will enable to monitor the concert activity and will attract attention of the state to it.

- Last year the Culture Ministry tried to consider the introduction of new rules for touring artists, but according to mass media reports, the initiative was blocked by certain lobbies. Among the reasons there were complaints that new rules might increase the budget of tours and, consequently, ticket prices. What would you say about this?

- The only thing organizers worry about is that more people will learn about their gross profits. Any other explanations are groundless. I will give you an example. Before the development of the new draft bill, the tour tax for all performers made 3%. According to the new document, the tax for Ukrainian artists was supposed to be 1%, while for foreign performers - the same old 3%. So, if we take an average hall with a capacity of 1000 people and a ticket price of 200 hryvnias, the gross profit will make 200 thousand hryvnias. With 1% tax Ukrainian artists would have paid two thousand hryvnias, and I doubt this sum can cause significant price rise. This simple math proves that the new draft bill does not hit artists in the pocket.

Moreover, the draft bill provides for establishment of a special commission, which will finance accommodation and travel tickets for Ukrainians artists in case the latter are invited abroad for a performance. It is not such a bad thing, don't you think, considering that Ukrainian theatre groups do not earn enough to finance touring expenses by themselves. Just for information, average costs of a tour within Ukraine make about 50 thousand hryvnias. Thus, taking into account the number of tours being held in Ukraine, the draft bill may provide 50-60 million hryvnias of state financing, and as result, the touring sector may strengthen its positions. I think the Ministry will return to the subject soon, and the draft bill will be finally adopted.

- Under what conditions does the National art palace "Ukraine" work with Ukrainian performers?

- We act as co-organizers of their concerts. Usually, the organizer must pay for all services in advance, but the majority of Ukrainian performers cannot afford it. Thus, together we prepare the concert, estimate expenses, sell tickets. At the end of the concert the performer takes his earned income and we return our input.

- How much does it cost to rent the main concert hall of the country?

- The basic cost of the hall is 190 thousand hryvnias.

- How difficult is it to invite foreign performers in Ukraine?

- First of all we must finalize the schedule. World stars are very busy, and their concerts are planned out for a year ahead. When we have the preliminary agreement on the date, we start negotiations on terms: technical provision, honorarium, gig riders. Sometimes it happens we simply cannot afford this or that star economically.

However, Ukraine is visited by performers of various levels, and we do not have problems with guest performances. The problems we have concern the organization process.

- Are foreign starts of a global scale more picky than Ukrainian?

- I would not say that. They closely observe the contract and behave rather modestly.

- In September, a number of countries opted out of participating in "Eurovision 2014", motivating the refusal by economic reasons. Do you think Ukraine should continue participating in the contest?

- Well, it is not a heavy burden for the budget, as the major expenses, including advertising, costumes and music videos, are financed by a sponsor, the performer must find himself. Considering the talents of our artists, I think this contest is a good opportunity to make a name.

Tetyana Matsur


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