Russia Film & Photography Production Services & Camera Crews
Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in Russia? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.
Filming in Russia
For an introduction to shooting in Russia see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.
Russia Film Locations
Russia is rich in history and massive in scale. Spanning 10 time zones, it is by far the world’s largest country. Russia offers a wealth of locations ranging from unique imperial splendour to vast frozen wilderness, from Soviet Era apartment blocks to shiny modern architecture.
Industrial locations range from oil and gas facilities to vast factory complexes. Russia’s main agricultural locations including wheat, barley and rye fields are located in the warmer, southern regions of the country.
Russia has hosted films such as The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead (2018), the BBC’s War and Peace (2016), Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and GoldenEye (1995).
Russian film locations can be divided into the following federal districts:
Located in Central Western Russia, this region includes Moscow which is both the capital and main production centre. Moscow is home to over 400 museums, 200 theatres, and 50 stadiums. Locations of interest include Red Square (with views of Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin, Lenin Mausoleum, State Historical Museum and GUM), Novodevichy Convent, Kuskovo Summer Palace, Lubyanka ex KGB headquarters, Bolshoi Theatre, Hotel Ukraina, Moscow City modern towers, Monument to the Conquerors of Space, Bunker-42, State Darwin Museum, royal estate of Kolomenskoye, Soviet era metro stations, Red Gates Stalinist skyscraper, Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, Moscow State University, and the House of Atomists. Butyrka Prison is an infamous prison. Zaryadye Park has a floating bridge, concert hall, and amphitheatre. Luzhniki Stadium seats over 80,000 people. Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry is a Soviet-era complex where Sputnik (2020) was filmed.
Outside of Moscow you can find Star City cosmonaut training centre, Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics, abandoned Soviet-era futuristic Tesla lightning factory, Izmailovo Kremlin, Abandoned Marx Generator, Muromtzevo Castle, Kalyazin Bell Tower. The Trans-Siberian Railroad starts in Moscow and ends in the eastern city of Vladivostok. The journey covers The 9,258km (6,152 miles) and takes seven days. Kursk is the scene of the largest WW2 tank battle. Of note also are the ancient towns of Suzdal and Vladimir.
Smolensk is known for the Assumption Cathedral, The Fortress Wall, and nearby Katyn Memorial Complex.
North West Russia
St Petersburg is the old imperial capital. Locations of interest include the Winter Palace and State Hermitage Museum, Peterhof Palace, Catherine Palace and Amber Room, Church of the Savior on Blood, Mariinsky Theatre, Kunstkamera, Peter and Paul Fortress, Mikhailovskiy Castle, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Kazan Cathedral, Rasputin Museum at Yusupov Palace, Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology, Fort Zverev ruins, Fort Alexander, as well as St Petersburg’s many canals and waterways.
The city of Kaliningrad is known for film locations including Amber Museum, Königsberg Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, King’s Gate, Museum of the World Ocean, Brandenburg Gate, Rybnaya Derevnya, and Fort Friedrichsburg. The Dancing Forest is a pine forest on the Curonian Spit in Kaliningrad Oblast.
The region is also home to Solovki former monastery and gulag, Spaso-Kamenny Monastery, the Manpupuner Rock Formations, Church of Andrew the Apostle, Kizhi Island (see Church of the Transfiguration of Our Savior) was filmed for Anna Karenina (2012), Murmansk, Veliky Novgorod Kremlin, and the Arctic Circle. Novaya Zemlya is a far north archipelago where the Soviets tested Tsar Bomba (the largest nuclear bomb in history). Vorkuta is an abandoned coal-mining town.
Pyatak is an island prison in Vologda. It is known for its harsh conditions and isolation.
The Caucus region is located in southwest Russia. The area includes several semi-autonomous regions including such as Chechnya, Dagestan, and Tatarstan. Locations of note include the Caspian Sea, City of the Dead in Dargavs North Ossetia, and Mount Elbrus which is one of the Seven Summits. Sochi hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Sochi National Park is also home to the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. Stalin’s Dacha summer residence is located near Sochi. The Crimean Peninsula (beaches that double for the South of France, unique palaces, Koyashskoye salt lake, and the abandoned underground nuclear submarine base of Balaklava). Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) was the scene of the famous battle that changed the course of WW2. Lake Sasyk-Sivash is a beautiful pink salt lake in the Crimea.
Russian Far East
The Russian Far East is the largest region. Vladivostok and Khabarovsk are the major cities. Locations of note include the Kamchatka Peninsula, Kutkhiny Baty, Aniva Rock Lighthouse in Sakhalin Island, Diomede Islands, Kondyor Massif, and Lena Stone Pillars. Yakutsk is the coldest city in the world. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is Russia’s only autonomous area. It is one of two official Jewish territories in the world, the other being Israel.
Known for its extremely cold winters. Lake Baikal is considered to be the deepest lake in the world. Locations of note include the Siberian ghost town of Kadykchan, Tunguska Event Epicenter, Chara Sands, Sayan Mountains, Irkutsk, Mirny Diamond Mine, Altai Mountains, Mushroom Stones of the Altai. Oymyakon is the coldest inhabited place on earth. They city of Norilsk offers bleak industrial film locations. Novosibirsk Maldives is the nickname for a turquoise blue lake located outside the city of Novosibirsk. A popular location for Instagram influencers, the lake’s colour comes from the local power station dumping ash filled with harmful metal oxides. Akademgorodok is the educational and scientific centre of Siberia.
Ural Mountains. Magnitogorsk. Yekaterinburg where the Romanov family were killed. Yekaterinburg is home to an interesting gangster cemetery.
Kazan Kremlin, Kazan Temple of All Religions, Qolşärif Mosque, Suyumbike Tower, Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, Perm-36 labour camp museum, Kungur Ice Cave, Belaya Gora Monastery, Raifa Monastery, and the island town of Sviyazhsk.
Russia Film Location Permits
You generally don’t need permits for b-roll in and around major cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg unless you are going into parks, palaces, museums, and other government buildings. For larger projects that require shutting down busy city streets or filming in popular public areas, particularly in the business centres of Moscow and St Petersburg, permits are more expensive and require more lead time. Permission to film more sensitive locations (eg: Restive areas, North Korean border) or subject matters (issues the government is sensitive about) may require additional levels of permitting. Where there isn’t a streamlined permitting process, it’s always a good idea to allow for extra in the budget in case its needed for miscellaneous location costs. Please contact us for location specific information.
When To Shoot?
Given the size of Russia, the climate varies considerably depending on the region and time of year. Much of Russia only has two seasons, a hot summer (peaking in July) and a harsh, very cold winter (with lows in January). Siberian wildfire smoke brings a period of smokey skies in affected areas during the summer months. For monthly weather statistics please see here.
The Russian Orthodox Christmas is celebrated in January.
Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in Russia.
Unique Local Stories
Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters.
If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas.
If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.
Costs & Tax Incentives
Costs. Filming in Russia is quite expensive even when compared to more established service centres in Europe and North America. Moscow, much like New York, is a major business centre and as a result the factors of production are very expensive. Filming outside of Moscow or St Petersburg can add significant travel costs. Our locally based fixers and service producers will negotiate deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget. In most cases, it is not advised to film in Russia unless the project absolutely requires it. The Bulgarian capital Sofia is often used to reproduce Moscow suburbs looks at a fraction of the cost.
Tax Incentives. At present there are no tax incentives for foreign commercials or feature films shooting in Russia.
Film Crew & Talent
Crews. Russia has a small but good pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Local crews are non-union. Russia has a good depth of experienced key crew. Some crews speak fluent English.
Contact us if you are looking for a Moscow or St Petersburg based director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew in Russia.
Talent is non-union and buyouts are negotiable. Russia is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples with over 100 local languages spoken. Talent looks offered consist mainly of people from former Soviet states with the largest groups being the ethnic Russians, Tartars, Ukrainians and Bashkirs. Most other talent looks need to be cast abroad.
Russia Film Equipment
Equipment. Russia has a range of standard and specialized camera, grip and lighting equipment available locally. For productions looking to bring in film equipment Russia is an ATA carnet country.
Communications. Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing. For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set.
Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production
Art department and set construction is of a high standard.
Studios and Backlots. Russia has several studio facilities including Gorky Film Studios which were founded in 1915.
Post Production. Russia has all the standard facilities.
Visas & Work Permits
The most common visa entry options for crews coming to film in Russia are a Media Visa, Cultural Visa, or Business Visa.
Media Visas are most often applied for by journalists. Visiting crew submit their application and passport scans to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian fixer / service producer then deals with the Russian Foreign Ministry on your behalf. Once Telex numbers processed the Media Visa is stamped in crew passports. Process takes about 2 weeks. Visas are usually valid for around 1 month, which makes them good for short form projects.
Cultural visas are valid for around a year so a better option for long-form shoots or shoots involving multiple entries. Visiting crew submit their application and passport scans. Usually takes 2-3 weeks to process. Russian Immigration services issue physical invitations which the Russian fixer / service producer sends to the Moscow embassy for visiting crew to collect. The embassy takes about 3-5 days to process once they receive the invites.
Visiting on business visas is a better option for crews that don’t have the lead time and are only planning to shoot small-footprint shoots in mostly private locations. Not a good idea if you are planning a larger footprint shoot or are filming in sensitive locations.
Arriving as a tourist is the riskiest option. Western passport holders who apply to enter as tourists require a Russian-based sponsor. Regular processing times run about 10 business days, but expedited options are available at extra cost. Entering as a tourist is only really an option if you are only shooting a non-sensitive, small-footprint shoot in private locations and are renting gear locally. Generally it’s safer to get at least a business visa.
Each project requires its own approach. Contact us for our local team to advise on the approach that best suits the specifics of your shoot.
Transport & Accommodation
Transportation Infrastructure. Main roads are up to international standard. Rural roads are slower going with many becoming impassable during heavy winter snowfalls. Moscow experiences very congested traffic. If you’re looking to film outside of Moscow or St Petersburg the distances are vast and best reached by air. There are over 100 regional airlines in Russia. Travelling Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway is a popular way of filming the country. Many international airlines service flights to Russia.
Accommodation. Contact us for recommended film friendly hotels in Moscow and St Petersburg. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments. Hotels of note include:
For productions looking to film in remote locations our Russian fixer / producer also organises stays with local communities.
Safety. See here for up to date travel advice.
Down Time. Bolshoi ballet. Vodka. Solyanka. Russian baths.
Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in Russia, please see below:
Hire Russia Production Support & Shooting Crew
If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in Russia, please contact us.
If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in Russia, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.
We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.