Lithuania woos foreign filmmakers

It plans tax incentives and film commissions

Aiming to put itself back on the international moviemaking map, Lithuania plans to introduce a tax incentive within a year to attract productions to the tiny Baltic state.

Four years of intensive lobbying by the Independent Producers Assn., the NPA, has won the backing of Vilnius’ mayor, Arturas Zuokas, for the launch of a Vilnius Film Commission in the capital early next year. A city council vote is due in February on setting up a Vilnius film fund.

Hopes are now high that parliament will follow suit and back NPA’s plea for a 20% tax rebate program modelled on the successful Hungarian system as early as 2013.

NPA co-founder Lineta Miseikyte said the country’s competitive advantages had slipped in recent years as costs rose after it joined the EU, even though it did not adopt the Euro and has retained its local currency, the Litas.

Miseikyte, head of Baltic Film Services, who cut her teeth in the 1990s working on international productions that took advantage of low costs and great locations to shoot in Lithuania, said competitive pressures in Europe mean that countries have to offer incentives to stay in the game.

“The Vilnius film commission is a breakthrough for us. In the past producers and directors advanced their own interests and criticized politicians. It was every man for himself. By speaking with one voice we have achieved what had seemed impossible,” Miseikyte told Variety.

The planned Vilnius agency, unveiled to industryites in Tallinn, Estonia, on Wednesday, the last day of the 15th Black Nights Festival, is not the only new municipal film commission. Last year Latvia’s capital, Riga, established a film fund with a cash rebate program worth 15% for projects that shoot in Riga and 10% for those shooting outside the city that use Riga businesses and services.

Riga Film Fund project manager Dace Lesinksa said 486,000 Lats ($908,000) had been approved for projects this year, including an episode of the BBC’s Swedish crime investigator series “Wallander” set amid the city’s docks. Berlin-based Russian film director Sergei Loznitsa has also accessed the fund for his wartime drama “In the Fog,” currently filming in Latvia.

“We are looking at streamlining the tender system as currently only projects that are actually shooting or planning to shoot when we issue a tender for submissions can apply,” Lesinksa said.