2021.10.26 09:18

‘We’ve done Germany, London, and Paris.’ Lithuania’s film industry draws big international productions

LRT.lt2021.10.26 09:18

BBC’s War and Peace, HBO’s Chernobyl, Netflix’s Stranger Things, and now Camelot Films’ Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher. More and more international producers are choosing Lithuania as their shooting location, benefiting as well as challenging the small Baltic nation’s film industry.

The UK-based Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher chose to relocate to Lithuania earlier this year, after the film’s Welsh financing fell through, according to the entertainment magazine Variety.

Read more: From Stranger Things to Prizefighter: what draws filmmakers to Vilnius?

In the words of the Prizefighter’s executive producer Kęstutis Drazdauskas, the biggest challenge while shooting Daniel Graham’s period drama in Lithuania was re-creating 19th century England in today’s Vilnius.

“It was an extensive set construction for us because locations for us are minimal that could play as that period in England and Wales,” Drazdauskas, head of the production company Artbox, told Variety.

“Time was of the essence for the 36-day shoot, but local crews were quick to respond, with set dressing and skillfully deployed props allowing the production to recreate the look and feel of Victorian England,” the entertainment magazine wrote.

In the words of Drazdauskas, this is thanks to a “small but very efficient film industry” in Lithuania. The country is attractive because it offers a 30-percent tax credit, which has a minimum spend of just 43,000 euros.

But next to the financial benefits, foreign producers are also drawn to Lithuania due to its “evocative landscapes - ancient forests, rolling dunes, freshwater lakes, and historical sites” that “can facilitate a wide range of stories”, according to Variety.

The Lithuanian capital Vilnius “is very rich in terms of different bits of architecture, different bits of history”, Jonas Špokas of Baltic Locations told the magazine.

The city has doubled as Stockholm for Netflix’s Young Wallander and St. Petersburg for the Nent Group’s drama series With One Eye Open.

“We’ve also done Germany, London, and Paris,” Špokas added.

Read more: Vilnius stands in for Habsburg Empire in new series about Empress Sisi

Despite the pandemic, last year was the most successful year for the Lithuanian film industry since the introduction of the tax credit in 2014. It is set to continue growing but will first need to address some operational challenges.

“One of the obstacles to grab bigger productions here is the infrastructure,” Drazdauskas said. “We don’t have that many soundstages. Any major production that moves in leaves no room for others.”

According to him, the ongoing talks between industry stakeholders and local government give hope that the capacity will be boosted soon, and Lithuania will be able to service the growing number of interested productions.

Read more: HBO's Chernobyl – facts, fiction and PVC windows

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