VILNIUS 2023 Meeting Point Vilnius
Jūratė Pazikaite • Direttrice, Vilnius Film Office
"Il 95% dell'industria cinematografica lituana ha sede a Vilnius, quindi le principali strutture di produzione e post-produzione, i festival cinematografici, i distributori e gli studi sono tutti qui"
- In vista del gala di chiusura del Vilnius Film Festival, abbiamo discusso dell'impatto economico e degli obiettivi dell'organismo che Pazikaite dirige sin dalla sua fondazione nel 2011
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A few hours ahead of the closing ceremony of this year’s Vilnius International Film Festival (16-26 March), Cineuropa sat down with Jūratė Pazikaite, director of the Vilnius Film Office. During our conversation, we spoke about the support activities that the body provides to local and international productions, its economic impact and the areas that need work in order to strengthen the role of the Lithuanian capital as an attractive place for shoots.
Cineuropa: Could you introduce the main activities of the Vilnius Film Office?
Jūratė Pazikaite: The Vilnius Film Office was established at the end of 2011 with the aim of promoting Vilnius as a location for international productions and, of course, to help both local and international filmmakers ensure their shoots could run smoothly here. [...] I work with local filmmakers and help them with shooting permits, and with the citizenry, keeping them informed about what is happening in town in terms of shoots and industry developments. As for foreign productions, we attend the international film market to promote the city and the country, [in order] to attract foreign shoots. [...] There is a [recent] economic analysis that shows that 90-95% of the Lithuanian film industry is based in Vilnius, so the main production companies, post-production outfits, film festivals, distributors and studios are all here.
Is this trend part of a bigger strategy aiming to make Vilnius the only big production hub in Lithuania? I’m asking this because other small countries – Ireland, for example – are trying to decentralise some of their shoots and move them outside of the capital.
You know, even though Vilnius is a very diverse location, if filmmakers need to shoot scenes by the sea, they go to Klaipeda, or if they need some interwar locations, they go to Kaunas. So they’re shooting in other cities as well, including the smaller ones. However, because the industry is mostly based here, it’s natural that Vilnius would be the centre. If more production companies were to open in other cities, we could decentralise. But now everything is concentrated in Vilnius just because people [working in the industry] and the main film market are here.
Could you mention some of the most recent high-end productions you have been hosting and supporting?
Let’s name a few: many Netflix projects [have come here], like Stranger Things, Paradise and Young Wallander, as well as HBO’s Chernobyl and Catherine the Great, plus Hilma [Lasse Hallström’s biopic about Swedish painter Hilma af Klint, produced by Viaplay].
You highlighted the diversity of locations that Vilnius can offer. Could you elaborate on this?
Vilnius is celebrating its 700th anniversary this year, so you can imagine that we have many architectural styles here. We can cover the 18th and 19th centuries, old cobbled streets, our Old Town is in the Unesco World Heritage list... And because of the 50 years of occupation, we also have Soviet-era buildings, which is another type of location that filmmakers can use for Cold War and post-war settings.
What are the main challenges you’re facing in the struggle to make Vilnius even more attractive for international shoots?
The main challenge we’re facing is related to infrastructure. And we have film studios and pavilions, but we need bigger ones. If we’re aiming to attract more high-end productions like Chernobyl, we need to work on that [aspect] as well. We need studios that work as cultural and creative industry hubs.
What about manpower? Is it enough to satisfy the demand stemming from foreign shoots?
That’s another challenge that all of Europe and the whole world is facing at the moment. We’re also working on attracting new people to the market because we have professionals for each department, but we only have a few of them.
Could this shortage be made up for by strengthening the local education system?
This is not my remit, but the Baltic Film & Creative Tech Cluster is working a great deal on this matter. The cluster has already compiled a study on how to strengthen education because, as you know, we don’t have a film school here. Many Lithuanians go to study abroad. Of course, we have the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, which trains directors, producers and cinematographers, but what about other departments like location scouting? Where would you go to study? Usually, people enter this business by working as production assistants or other entry-level positions, and they learn by doing.
You mentioned a study analysing the economic impact of your activities. Could you share any key figures?
We compiled this study, which covers five years from 2017-2021, and includes local and international productions. Over that period, we contributed to creating a total of 19,000 long-term and short-term jobs in the city, and employees were paid €51.7 million in salaries. The production costs of the film projects were €202.2 million, and the share of income tax from the film productions credited to the budget of the City of Vilnius was €5.1 million.
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