Country Focus: Estonia
Baltic states resilient to economic downturn (2)
by Annika Pham
14/12/2009 - While Baltic producers are exploiting their European connections to the fullest, public organisations in Estonia and Latvia are trying to keep their small film industries afloat. In Estonia, the main national film body, the Estonian Film Foundation (EFF), is adjusting to budget cuts (from €3.8m in 2009 to €3.3m in 2010) by supporting the same number of films per year (five) but with smaller grants.
“There will inevitably be less production value per film but it was vital for us to keep the same quantity of films to maintain stability in our industry,” said Karlo Funk, head of Production at the EFF. Funk also unveiled that his Fund will set up the new scheme First Film Scheme to help up-and-coming filmmakers make their directorial debuts with €100,000 budget films.
The National Film Centre of Latvia (NFC) will see its budget almost halved in 2010 (from €4m to 2.2m). According to managing director Ilze Gailite-Holmberga, the current number of films supported (three-four features, 15 documentaries and 15 shorts per year) will be cut and co-productions will be prioritized.
Next year should still bring some good news, however. The Riga City Council (see news) has decided to set up the first regional film centre in the Baltic countries, the Riga Film Fund, which would co-finance foreign films and offer 10-15% tax rebates to foreign shoots in the region. According to the head of the NFC, ten foreign films are already lined up to shoot in Riga.
The seven year-old Film Angels Studio, just outside the Latvian capital, has all the facilities, six different sound stages and competitive costs to welcome foreign productions, especially historical films. In the works for 2010 is the company’s first major feature international co-production: Last Boat to Gotland (also in news of above), a €2m historical drama to be directed by Janis Kalejs (Vogelfrei).
In Lithuania – whose film industry is the least developed of the three Baltic states – the plan to create a new film institute has now been shelved indefinitely. According to producer Rasa Miskinyte of Era Film, who was at Baltic Event pitching a new feature project by world renowned Sharunas Bartas (Seven Invisible Men) – local producers are planning to set up their own national film organisation under the aegis of the Lithuanian Producers Association. The industry is still hopeful for 2010, waiting to see if new 20% tax incentives will be adopted by parliament.