Estonia

Kalev by Ove Musting, photo: AllfilmMARKET ANALYSIS 2020

TALLINN: The year 2020 was an extraordinary year for the Estonian film industry. The coronavirus pandemic had a devastating effect on the industry and cinema attendance all over Europe. However, on the positive side, the local market share of Estonian films rose to a record high, garnering 26.72% of the total number of cinema admissions. The per capita rate of cinema going in Estonia was still relatively healthy at 1.35.

The most watched film was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which was partly filmed in Estonia. For most of the year, Estonia kept its cinemas open, with special security measures and conditions of keeping cinema halls half full.

Additionally, Estonia had a very busy filming summer and was active in boosting online distribution, and in June 2020 a short film website Estonian Shorts came to life.

PRODUCTIONThe Sleeping Beast by Jaak Kilmi, credit: Stellar

Several domestic feature films were shot in Estonia in the summer of 2020:

The sports drama Kalev, directed by Ove Musting and produced by Allfilm, follows the journey of the Soviet Union championship-winning Estonian basketball team Kalev. 

Erik Stoneheart directed by Ilmar Raag and produced by Amrion, was shot in Tallinn, Ida-Viru county, as well as in Luxembourg.

Another children’s film shot in 2020 was Jaak Kilmi’s The Sleeping Beast, produced by Stellar Film in coproduction with Latvia’s Locomotive.

The first part of the medieval crime thriller Melchior the Apothecary started shooting mid-July 2020. The film is based on Indrek Hargla's books, it is directed by Elmo Nüganen and was produced by Taska FilmNafta Films and Apollo Film Productions. This film will contain three films and is the most expensive film project ever produced in Estonia, mostly by private investors.

Estonian Funeral directed by Rene Vilbre and produced by Taska Film, Apollo Film Productions and Filmivabrik, started shooting at the end of June 2020 and will be released already in March 2021.

Ergo Kuld’s The Swamp / Soo, based on a renowned novel by Oskar Luts, started shooting at the end of summer 2020. The film is a joint production between Taska Film, Apollo Film Productions and Kassikuld, and it will also be released in the spring of 2021.

Melchior the Apothecary by Elmo Nüganen, photo: Robert LangKadri Kõusaar’s hostage drama Dead Woman, produced by Meteoriit, was shot in Jordan in the autumn of 2020.

COVID GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

The Estonian Ministry of Culture and Estonian Film Institute distributed 1.3 m EUR to face the challenges caused by the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Of the 1.3 m EUR support, 800,000 EUR went to film production, distribution and cinemas (ministry). The scheme also supported art house cinemas and companies whose production (development, shooting, postproduction) as well as distribution activities had been interrupted due to the emergency situation. The remaining 500,000 EUR went to new film productions and was distributed by the Estonian Film Institute.

Additional measures from the Estonian Film Institute came from the existing budget and included online distribution support, increased budget for the second application round for feature films and animated film screenplays.

DISTRIBUTION

A total of 20 Estonian films premiered in 2020, and additional 14 films previously released continued to be screened in 2020. A total of 366 films were screened in Estonian cinemas in 2020, of which 226 were new films and 140 older films.

The Estonian box-office was topped by Where the Heart Is directed by Ergo Kuld, produced by Taska Film, Kassikuld and Apollo Film Productions, with 151,137 viewers.

The animated film Raggie by Meelis Arulepp and Karsten Kiilerich, produced by A Film Estonia and Danish A. Film Production, gained more than 107,000 admissions.

Margus Paju’s spy thriller Dawn of War produced by Nafta Films and Taska Film, and coproduced by Film Angels Studio (Latvia), IN SCRIPT (Lithuania) and Finland’s Solar Films had 75,270 admissions, while the documentary The Beauty of Being directed by Jaan Tootsen, produced by Taska Film, gained remarkable 57,111 viewers.

The most watched film in 2020 was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet with 160,927 admissions.Raggie by Meelis Arulepp and Karsten Kiilerich

Some other Estonian features to premiere in 2020 were Jaak Kilmi’s children’s film Christmas in the Jungle, shot in Indonesia and produced by Latvian Locomotive Productions in coproduction with Estonian Stellar Film, which had 24 553 admissions.

Janno Jürgen’s debut feature Rain, produced by Alasti Kino, premiered in September 2020, as well as Veiko Õunpuu’s Nordic western The Last Ones, an Estonian/Finnish coproduction between Homeless Bob Productions and Bufo. The Last Ones was also elected as Estonia’s 2020 Oscar bid in the Best International Feature Film category.

Good Bye, Soviet Union by Lauri Randla, produced by Exitfilm and Finnish Bufo, came out at the end of 2020.

Several films saw their release postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are yet to come out in 2021. Among these are Priit Pääsuke’s youth comedy Kids of the Night produced by Alexandra Film, and Peeter Simm’s On the Water produced by Filmivabrik. On the Water is based on Olavi Ruitlane’s book of the same title and premiered in the main competition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. The cinema release is planned for September 2021.

VOD PLATFORMS AND ONLINE DISTRIBUTION

In June 2020, the Estonian Film Institute launched the short film platform Estonian Shorts, which brings together Estonian short films (animated, fiction and documentary films). The platform is now curated by the production and distribution studio AAA. Since the beginning of 2021, Estonian Shorts has been visited over 30,000 times.

A compilation of five Estonian short films, Fresh Blood: Best Intentions  / Värske veri: Parimate kavatsustega was released online in April 2020. The compilation includes: Chintis Lundgren’s Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves, produced by Chintis Lundgreni Animatsioonistuudio, Croatia’s Adriatic Animation and French Miyu Productions, Tanno Mee’s New Christmas In The Jungle by Jaak Kilmi, photo: Andrejs StrokinsBeginnings, produced by Alexandra Film, Oskar Lehemaa’s Bad Hair, produced by Stellar Film, Andres Keil’s Karl & Carla, produced by Pimik, and Virago by Kerli Kirch Schneider, produced Nafta Films.

In September 2020, the Estonian Film and Television Awards Gala (EFTA) took place for the fourth time. As to films only, Tanel Toom’s Oscar-nominated debut drama Truth and Justice, produced by Allfilm, won most of the awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. Another notable winner was the animated feature Old Man – the Movie directed by Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa, and produced by BOP! Animation.

All the winners are listed here.

EXHIBITION AND BOX OFFICE

The Coronavirus pandemic affected the Estonian cinema attendance drastically as the number of cinema goers in 2020 dropped by half compared to 2019.

However, the market share of Estonian films rose to a record high, garnering 26.72% of the total number of admissions, with a box office revenue of 24.73%. Altogether, Estonian films attracted a total of 480,758 cinema viewers and ticket revenue of 2.65 m EUR.

Total admissions dropped from 3.68 m in 2019 to 1.8 m in 2020, and total gross decreased from 21.8 m EUR to 10.7 m EUR. The average ticket price in 2020 was 5.96 EUR.

GRANTS AND NEW LEGISLATION

The Estonian Film Institute gave out 3,140,900 EUR in grants to five Estonian productions and 10 minority coproductions in 2020.

The production grants went to the following feature films: The Invisible Fight by Rainer Sarnet, produced by Homeless Bob Productions; Melchior the Apothecary by Elmo Nüganen, produced by Taska FilmNafta Films and Apollo Film Productions; Cerberus by Tanel Toom, produced by Allfilm; Konteiner by Arun Tamm, produced by Allfilm; and The Sleeping Beast by Jaak Kilmi, Rain by Janno Jürgensproduced by Stellar Film.

The minority coproduction grants went to the following feature films: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy’s The Conference, produced by Russia’s Vega Film & Ark Pictures in coproduction with Estonia's Nafta Films, UK’s Reason8 Films and Italy’s Revolver Films production, which later premiered at the Venice IFF;  Stanislavs Tokalovs’ Lovable, produced by Latvia’s Tasse Films in coproduction with Estonia's Stellar Film; Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir’s Reply to a Letter from Helga, produced by Zik Zak Filmworks in coproduction with Island's Vintage Pictures and Estonia’s Allfilm; Dean Radovanović’s Instru Mental, produced by Serbia’s Zero Point in coproduction with Estonia’s Münchhausen Productions; Captain Volkonogov Escaped by N. Merkolova, A. Tshupov, produced by Russia’s Look-Film, Place of Power, in coproduction with French Kinovista and Estonian Homeless Bob Productions; Francis Lau’s Borderland, produced by Singapore’s Silver Media Group, Philippines’ Ursa Studios and Estonia’s Tallifornia; and Alice Throughton’s The Tutor, produced by British Golden Arrow Pictures in coproduction with Estonian Nafta Films.

The Film Estonia cash rebate programme supported seven projects with the amount of 1.6  m EUR in 2020.
Among the supported projects were:
the Finnish feature film Renovation by Taneli Mustonen, serviced by Estonia’s Baron Noir, which received 25,998 EUR;
the US/Estonian interactive feature Anatomy of a Decision by Johannes Veski, serviced by Estonia’s Nafta Films, which received 366,034 EUR;
the Finnish TV-series Bad Apples by Marja Pyykkö, coproduced by Estonia's Stellar Film, which received 379,348 EUR;
the Finnish TV-series My Husband’s Wife by Inari Niemi, serviced by Estonia’s Münchhausen Productions, which received 260,130 EUR;
the Finnish TV-series All the Sins 2 by Mika Ronkainen, serviced by Taska Films, which received 61,820 EUR;
the Finnish feature film Memory of Water by Saara Saarela, serviced by Allfilm, which received 255,000 EUR;
and the US/UK/Estonian interactive feature film House Hack by Stephanie Zari, serviced by Estonia’s Nafta Films, which received 366,034 EUR.

TV

Pääru Oja in The Last Ones by Veiko ÕunpuuThere are three main TV broadcasters in Estonia: the Estonian Public Broadcasting, which operates ETVETV2, and the Russian-language ETV+. The two leading commercial broadcasters are Kanal2 and Viasat-owned TV3. All channels also support EFTA awards.

One of the high-end TV-series produced in 2020 was the six-episode action/drama In the Line of Fire directed by Ergo Kuld. The series follows an Afghan War veteran (Marko Matvere) who is deeply disappointed in life and starts to detonate bombs in Tallinn, trying to “create a better world”. The cat and mouse game begins between him and a controversial top investigator of the Internal Security Service. The first episode of the series premiered at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Other high-end series to wrap shooting in 2020 was In Light and Shadow, a six-episode drama about Diana (Mirtel Pohla), who travels to a remote village to support her dying aunt. This series is again directed by Ergo Kuld and written by the renown Estonian screenwriter Martin Algus.

Both series are produced by Elisa.

CONTACTS:

ESTONIAN FILM INSTITUTE
Uus 3, Tallinn 10111
Phone: +372 627 60 60
Fax: +372 627 60 61
www.filmi.ee
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CULTURAL ENDOWMENT OF ESTONIA
Suur-Karja 23, Tallinn 10148
Phone: +372 699 9150
www.kulka.ee
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ESTONIAN ANIMATION UNION
Roo 9, Tallinn 10611
www.animaliit.ee
Contact: Mari Kivi
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ESTONIAN DOCUMENTARY GUILD
Vilmsi 53g, 10147 Tallinn
www.dokfilm.ee
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ESTONIAN FILMMAKERS UNION
Truth and Justice by Tanel ToomUus 3, Tallinn 10111
Phone: +372 646 4068
www.kinoliit.ee
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Contact: Kadri Vaas

ESTONIAN NATIONAL PRODUCERS UNION
Uus 3, Tallinn 10111
Phone: +372 5825 8962
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Contact: Aet Laigu

ESTONIAN FILM INDUSTRY CLUSTER
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Contact: Marju Lepp

ESTONIAN SOCIETY OF CINEMATOGRAPHERS ESC
www.esc.edicypages.com/et

ESTONIAN FILM DIRECTORS GUILD
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Contact: Moonika Siimets and Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo

ESTONIAN SCRIPT-WRITERS GUILD
Eesti Stsenaristide Gild:
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Contact: Lauri Lippmaa

THE ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL ACTORS OF ESTONIA
Uus 5, Tallinn 10111
Phone: +372 646 4517
Fax: +372 646 4516
www.enliit.ee
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THE ESTONIAN ASSOCIATION OF FILM JOURNALISTS
Narva mnt 11e, Tallinn 10151
Phone: +372 669 8210
www.filmikriitik.ee
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Contact: Andrei Liimets

THE UNION OF ESTONIAN FILM CLUBS
Vikerlase 13-62, Tallinn 13616
Phone: +372 632 4662; +372 55 46042
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Contact: Raivo Olmet

ESTONIAN FILM MUSEUM
Pirita road 56, 10127 Tallinn
Phone: +372 6 968 600; +372 5620 8875
http://www.ajaloomuuseum.ee/en/filmmuseum
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Contact: Karlo Funk

ESTONIAN FILM DATABASE
Koidu 17-1, 10137 Tallinn
Phone: +372 6015982
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www.efis.ee/en 

ESTONIAN FILM ARCHIVES
Ristiku 84, Tallinn 10318
Phone: +372 693 8613
www.filmi.arhiiv.ee/index.php?lang=eng
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Report by Aurelia Aasa (2021)
Sources: the Estonian Film Institute, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia