Animator David Sahakyants earlier this year complained that the state had stopped funding the animated film “Olympionic” created by Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio.
In an interview with Channel 5, David Sahakyants particularly noted: “50 million a year was allocated. This year we even lowered the bar and applied for at least 30 million drams so we could finish the film, however we have received no answer to that either.”
The Fact Investigation Platform decided find out on what grounds the state provided funding for the Olympionic (the film is also referred to as “the Olympic”) on the first place and why the funding was suspended, as well as to find out more about the cooperation between Sahakyants Studio and the state.
David Sahakyants started speaking about the shooting of the feature film “Olympic” back in 2014. The animated feature film will tell about King Varasdat of Arshakunis who was a winner of the Olympics.
“We decided to address this issue, since this fact is very important, as well as reminding the Armenian nation once again of our King’s success outside Armenia.” stated David Sahakyants in 2015. David Sahakyants mentioned that the film would be released and would be on the big screen by the end of 2018. The film is made with state funding.
The support of the Ministry of Culture to the “Olympionic”
The Ministry of Culture started funding the animated film “Olympionic” in 2014 under a government decision. It is noteworthy that during the period 2014-2018 only for the creation of the animated film “Olympionic” Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO received 234,205,000 AMD.
For comparison, in the same period the amount of subsidy for the production of animated films by the National Cinema Center made 291,385,800 AMD.
According to Hetq’s publication, the studio also received 20 million drams each year from the Luys Foundation in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The allocation of state funds for films is made through the National Cinema Center of Armenia, but this was not the case with the Olympionic.
In response to Fip.am’s inquiry the National Cinema Center of Armenia noted that the production of the film “Olympionic” was implemented out of the competitions of the Cinema Center.
“Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO received funding for the film Olympic from the state budget, ei from the funds allocated for the production of cartoons under a Donation Agreement with the Ministry of Culture. Therefore, the film maker saw no need to participate in the contests held by the Cinema Center,” reads the response to the inquiry.
Cinema Center also informs that Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO submitted an application for competition only on March 4, 2019 which was a full-length animated project titled “Olympic”. It was not put out for competition because, according to the regulation, projects that have started the production phase cannot participate in the production phase of the competition. The project Olympic had been in production for four years since 2015 under a contract with the Ministry of Culture for four consecutive years.
Hayk Sahakyants, co-founder and CEO of Sahakyants Studio, told Fip.am that there were no competitions for feature-length cartoons in the past. It is for this reason that they have never submitted applications, and there have been no other applications besides them.
“Not all filmmakers, studios, or companies are initiating such a project. We do our work, as in the case of Anahit or the Olympic, only due to our own enthusiasm. There was a change of rules and regulations, and since the film was already in production, we couldn’t participate in the competition, for the simple reason that we were out of competition. We were expecting that such a thing could actually happen, and it couldn’t be otherwise if there was an approved regulation,” he said.
The Cinema Center, however, claims that there have been full-length cartoon contests. For example, Gayane Martirosyan’s “Vishapagorg” (Dragon Carpet) and Arman Manaryan’s “Sasna Tsrer” feature-length animated films are funded by the Cinema Center.
According to Sahakyants, the film about Varazdat should have been presented to the public by the end of 2019. “We still had to work on the film throughout the whole 2019 to make it to the end. Generally, by international standards, international animated film production takes years. We had taken a medium scale of a period, during which it would have been possible to do this project, given the experience of the cartoon “Anahit”, which took 5 years to create. However, in the 5th year we have not received any actual funding yet,” said Hayk Sahakyants.
Other financing: the movie “Anahit”
It is noteworthy that Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO has received financial support for other films since its creation. Thus, according to data provided by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, the studio received 222,325,000 AMD from the Ministry of Culture for the animated film Anahit in 2010-2014.
In addition, according to the research carried out by Hetq, this cartoon received 20 million drams each year from the Luys Foundation in 2013 and 2014.
The National Cinema Center told Fip.am that David Sahakyants inquired the Cinema Center in 2013 to receive all the film material produced by the Cinema Center in those years and all the rights to the material. “The aforementioned film material was donated by the Cinema Center (Director G. Gevorgyan) to the Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio free of charge under a donation contract signed on January 15, 2014,” the Cinema Center reported.
Moreover, the same studio received state funding in 2014 for the animated film “Round Gods” – 26,675,000 AMD.
At the moment only the visual part of the short animated film based on the Vrtanes Papazyan’s fairy tale is complete. According to Hayk Sahakyants, all the commitments made with the Ministry of Culture regarding this cartoon are fulfilled and the report is submitted:
“The film was not released for a simple reason: the Ministry of Culture didn’t finance the sound design part of the film at that time that is the music segment. Consequently, only the visual part of the film was completed. Only the audio part is left to be completed.”
Other types of support
State funding to the Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio organization was not limited to only film funding. According to Government Decree N 637-A dated June 26, 2014, the studio was provided with space free of charge.
“Take back the area of 620.3 sq.m., market value of 115,292,000 drams, from the state non-profit organization “Yerevan secondary school N 40 named after Professor Arshavir Shavarshyan” located on the first floor of the building at 30 Vardanants str., Kentron administrative district of Yerevan, attached to the Staff of the Government Administration Department of the State Property Management Department, and give it to the Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO for the period of 25 years with the right to use it for free”- reads the decree.
In the same year, by another government decision, the studio was granted 123,600,000 drams for the opening of a center, which was intended to have a children’s painting school, a cinema, an animation school, the studio itself, as well as a museum of animation.
Thus, during 2010-2018, Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio NGO received 609,805,000 AMD as well as an area with 115,292,000 AMD market value in downtown Yerevan without competition and without compensation.
Who are the Sahakyants?
According to the official website of the Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio (which, by the way, operates only in English and in Russian), the studio team was created in 1972 when animated film director, screenwriter, and animator Robert Sahakyants was making his first steps in the field. He has authored such popular animated films as “The Fox’s Book”, “Who says such a lie …”, “Talking Fish” and more.
Following his death, in 2010, Sahakyants’ children David, Hayk and Naira Sahakyants officially registered the Robert Sahakyants Animation Studio as a non-profit organization.
The most politically active member of the family is David Sahakyants, who has supported Serzh Sargsyan for many years.
In particular, in 2014 he stated that his principle was to defend the incumbent president, who was then Serzh Sargsyan. “I have never supported the RPA, I have supported the incumbent president because it is my principle to support the incumbent. …, “he said in an interview with Aravot.
Naira Sahakyants is married to Ambassador Alexan Harutyunyan, who was the Deputy Chief of Staff of Serzh Sargsyan.
Hayk Sahakyants is the director of the animated short 3D movie Quantum Jump.