Anneli Ahven • Producer Exitfilm, Estonia
by Annika Pham
Anneli Ahven is the producer of the current local hit in Estonia: Men At Arms, the directorial debut of Kaaren Kaer. Her Tallin-based company Exitfilm co-run with producer/director Peeter Urbla, handles the domestic releases of their in-house productions, and is an active co-production partner with other European countries. Films co-produced by Exitfilm include the Swedish film Lilja 4-Ever [+see also:
film profile] by Lukas Moodysson, the Danish film Unforgettable by Anders Rønnow Karlund and the French film Rothschild’s Violin by Edgardo Cozarinsky.
Cineuropa: Could you first tell a few words about your company Exitfilm, the types of films you produce and distribute in Estonia?
Anneli Ahven: Exitfilm is an Estonia-based production company founded in 1992. We have produced scores of feature length, short films and documentaries. Our partners include Zentropa (Denmark), Memfis Filmproduktion (Sweden), Die Basis and Lichtblick (Germany), Sylva Mysterium (Finland), and Gorcy Studios (Russia). Exitfilm is working closely with local funds, film communities and especially with young talents.
The budgets of average Estonian films are approx. 600.000 - 1.200.000 €. Exitfilm is open to different kind of production methods and production capacity, the main aspect being professionalism. There are ambitious psychological films on our list, but also a light feel-good-movie and a historical comedy.
In Estonia every year, three or four Estonian films are being released and in 2005 two of them are Exitfilm productions: Shop of Dreams directed by the founder of Exitfilm Peeter Urbla was co-produced with Finland’s Silvia Mysterium Oy and released in Estonia last April. Men At Armsby Kaaren Kaer was released domestically on September 9.
How did you get involved in Men At Arms and what attracted you in the film?
The script of Men At Arms was sent to me by a group of Estonian students called Õ-Fraktsioon - with no cinematographic experience or education, and the director Kaaren Kaer is part of that group. I found the script very fascinating, funny and crazy in the good way, so I said why not. There is an idea and very devoted people behind it, so why not give it a try. It started as not even a low-budget project, a NO-budget film! The development was very intense and since the story and the way the filmmakers wanted to tell the story convinced many people (starting with actors and ending up with professional crew members), the film was finally completed and the production costs we spend were 100.000 €.
What type of release was put together for the film and what are the admission /box office figures so far?
We released the film on September 9 with four prints: two 35mm prints for two major cities Tallinn and Tartu, and two prints for small cinemas in the countryside. Our credo is: everybody should have the possibility to see the film, even the people in places without 35mm projectors. The film tells a version of Estonian history in the 13th century, so it is a film for Estonian people.
The admissions of the first 10 days are 5.920 people, which is a very good result for a country with a population of 1,4 million and where the top Hollywood films make around 70.000 admissions, and Estonian Films between 12.000 -30.000 admissions.
Who is charge of international sales on the film?
There are no sales agents in Estonia or the Baltic countries so we have to work very hard to get a sales agent on board at all. Since the budget of the film has been very modest, the search for a sales agent is just starting.
Are you currently working on other feature film projects?
I am working on the story Where Souls Go written by Estonian best-selling novelist Aidi Vallik based on the heroine of her books, 16-years-old Ann. This as a mystical but romantic story about a popular girl whose life at home is starting to fall apart. It looks like her new baby brother might die. Her mother won't talk to her. Her father starts drinking. Ann has no option but to start looking for her own answers to what is going on. First she tries the local church, then some flamboyant fortune tellers, and then she ends up with members of a Gothic sect who promise they can change the future. Although her baby brother dies anyway, Ann finally has a new friend, Maya, who helps her cope with her problems.