Country Focus: Lithuania
- While suffering from a lack of direction over the past few years, the establishment of a new film centre proves that Lithuania is ready to make its mark
As with its Baltic cousins in Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania has spent the past couple of years attempting to increase its visibility amongst the international film community in terms of both its national output and its attractiveness to foreign film crews looking to shoot in the area. However, with no coherent national film body to help it achieve its ambition, Lithuania has always found itself lagging behind.
With the establishment of the Lithuanian Film Centre in May 2012 the country now finds itself in a better position to support its domestic industry while attracting the all-important foreign investment. Taking over the administration of films funds from the Ministry of Culture and Lithuanian Cultural Foundation, the LFC found itself with a €2,751,391 budget, more than €650,000 EUR higher than the previous year and the highest budget since 2009.
The results have been immediately noticeable, with the LFC having a presence at major festivals such as Cannes and Berlin helping to raise the profile of the country immeasurably while – domestically - the Centre hopes to makes strides in both film education and the collection of film statistics which have been sorely lacking in Lithuania over the past few years.
Crucially, the LFC have been working hard to facilitate more co-productions in the area with an aim to showing that Lithuania is a small but reliable partner. Current projects in the pipeline include the country’s very first co-production with Latvia entitled The Gambler (Studio Uljana Kim and Locomotive Productions) and a co-production with Finland with the working title of Santa (which will be screened at Le Marché du Film). Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated project is Emilis Vėlyvis’ Redirected, a UK co—production that stars Vinnie Jones. Taking its cues from the likes of Guy Ritchie, this guns and gangsters affair is certainly poised to be a popular mainstream hit.
Indeed genre fare has proved popular for Lithuania, with Kristina Buožytė’s erotic sci-fi thriller Vanishing Waves (AKA Aurora) proving to be 2012’s runaway success. Premiering in the East of the West Competition at the 2012 Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the film went on to screen at numerous festivals and win the Golden Melies – one of Europe’s most prestigious genre awards - at the 2012 Stiges Film Festival. It has also gone on to be the first Lithuanian film to get distribution in North America.
It has also proved popular domestically, with other successes including 2012’s Fireheart: The Legend of Tadas Blinda – which became the country’s biggest ever box office movie – while the comedy Valentinas Alone managed to earn more on its opening weekend than Fireheart. As Valentinas Alone was privately funded, the LFC hopes that - even with its increase in available funding – that more producers will see the benefits of private funding.
Most importantly Lithuania is attempting to consolidate its status as a desirable place to film. With changes in law related to the passing of a tax incentive legislation, it is hoped that those who have already been tempted by filming in the Baltic States will choose Lithuania. Efforts have already been made by the likes of the Vilnius Film Office and Kaunas Film Office who have already successfully worked to promote film production and attract foreign investment, with the likes of Rick McCallum – the producer behind the Star Wars prequels – scouting locations in the area.
With three major film festivals (Vilnius International Film Festival, Scanorama and Kaunas Film Festival) attracting both healthy audiences and industry presence, a more consolidated shorts scene (the establishment of the Lithuanian Short Film Agency saw the country’s first presence in the Clermont-Ferrand market) and its traditional reputation for documentary, experimental and animation films alongside its new initiatives, the new direction of the Lithuanian film industry means that it is now in a position to make its biggest ever impact on film business both at home and abroad.
Lithuania: Fact File
Total population 3 million
Currency: LTL (Lits)
Number of screens: 95
Average ticket price: 3,87 EUR
Number of admissions : 3 020 332
Admissions per capita: 1,01
Market share of domestic films: 2,54 %
Ieva Norvilienė (Tremora)
Vanishing Waves (2012)
Anarchy in Žirmūnai (2010)
Low Lights (2009)
The Collectress (2008)
Žilvinas Naujokas (Litl Baz Pictures)
Valentinas Alone (2013)
Fireheart: The legend of Tadas Blinda (2011)
Uljana Kim (Studio Uljana Kim)
Lisa, Go Home! (2012)
The Fortress of Sleeping Butterflies (2012)
Kęstutis Drazdauskas (ArtBox)
Teresa Zibolienė (Ketvirta versija)
The Century of Czeslaw Milosz (2012)
Top 5 Lithuanian Films 2012
Miegančių drugelių tvirtovė (The Fortress of Sleeping Butterflies) - 56,412 admissions
Kita svajonių komanda (The Other Dream Team) – 41,576 admissions
Mes už ... Lietuvą! (Game of the Nation) – 13,452 admissions
Tadas Blinda. Pradžia (Tadas Blinda. The Legend Is Born)* – 9,878 admissons
*NB released in 2011
Pokalbiai rimtomis temomis (Conversations on Serious Topics) – 1,879
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