Small studio packs a big bottom-line punch
The German shingles behind the remake of the country’s classic 1959 war film “The Bridge” (Die Brucke) turned to their eastern neighbors Latvia and Lithuania for locations and production services.Lionheart Entertainment and Herold Prods.’ remake of Bernhard Wicki’s antiwar movie used locations in Kuldiga, Latvia, and studio services at Vilnius-based Lithuanian Film Studios. That the producers used Baltic locations and services — where 40 years of Communist isolation has preserved war-era landscapes long since gone in most of Germany — is a sign of one of the crucial advantages small Eastern European studios can offer. Managing director Ramunas Skikas says that since the studios, founded in 1948, were privatized four years ago, more than 50 features and TV movies have been shot there by international production companies. With a $30 million building project for new studios on the outskirts of Vilnius under way — the first two of seven new soundstages are due to open in December — Skikas is confident that Lithuanian, which has four soundstages of between 7,000 square feet and 26,000 square feet, has a competitive edge. “Cost and quality are our advantages, plus great locations that can double for many other European countries and lightly populated regions where historic films can be shot with ease,” he says. Vilnius is a small, accessible town where cast and crew can stay in the historic Old Town and still be at the studios within 15 minutes, he adds. Lithuania’s studios are not the only newer, high-quality studios in the region; others include Serbia’s PFI Studios near Belgrade, Hungary’s Stern Film Studio and the massive Korda Film Studios.