Although the pandemic has slowed down film production, Vilnius has been the filming location for 13 international productions this year, according to Go Vilnius, the city's development agency.
The most recent project filmed in the Lithuanian capital is Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher, a Welsh production about the 19-century boxer and the youngest world champion. The production team faced funding shortages back in Wales, so producer Matthew E. Chausse decided to relocate to Vilnius. It’s the second cinematic project in Lithuania for Chausse, who filmed the sci-fi film Skylines in Vilnius in 2019.
“We are excited to be filming Prizefighter in Vilnius. This is my second film project in Lithuania, the crew and hospitality are world-class,” said Chausse. “We are delighted to share this amazing project filmed in Vilnius.”
The shooting in Vilnius lasted 15 days in August. A crew of about 100 people worked on the project, 80 of them local professionals.
According to Kęstutis Drazdauskas, the executive producer of the film and founder of the production house Artbox, local production crews are fully experienced to tackle any challenges that may come their way when working on international projects.
“Sometimes the challenges are management-related, other times creative. When shooting Prizefighter, we had to recreate 19-century England, complete with specific architecture and ambiance. It seemed truly difficult at first, but our team tackled the task admiringly and astonished highly experienced partners by demonstrating ingenuity and a high level of professionalism,” said Drazdauskas.
Aside from world-class cinematic professionals, the Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive is one of the attractions for foreign production companies. It allows feature films, TV series, documentaries to have 30 percent of filming costs reimbursed, if they fulfill several criteria: at least 80 percent of production costs must be incurred in Lithuania, with the minimum spending of 43,000 euros.
“Vilnius is fully prepared to accommodate the needs of foreign film crews, enable access to high-level professionals and a range of shooting locations, and facilitate the acquisition of filming permits,” commented Jūratė Pazikaitė, head of Vilnius Film Office. “Production teams come from the US and many of the European countries: Sweden, Norway, Finland, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, to name a few. This year, Vilnius and the rest of Lithuania were especially favoured by Scandinavian countries.”
In recent years, Vilnius made global headlines as the filming location of several high-profile projects: Netflix’s Stranger Things used the century-old Lukiškės Prison as a set for Season 4, while HBO shot some scenes of the miniseries Chernobyl in the district of Fabijoniškės.
Moreover, the Lithuanian feature film Pilgrims has just won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at the 78th Venice Film Festival.