03-11-2011

Lithuania Awaits New Film Law

By Cathy Meils

JIHLAVA: Lithuanian filmmakers are hopeful that a new film law will finally establish a national film center and provide guaranteed financial support for the domestic film industry. Parliamentary discussions begin in November, with passage of the law possible by the end of 2011.

FNE spoke with producer/director Rasa Miskinyte, chairwoman of the Independent Producers Association of Lithuania (IPA) at the recent Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, where Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia had a larger than usual presence. Miskinyte is part of a new IPA board that took the reins of the association in January. Within a month, the Lithuanians already had their first national stand at the Berlin market.

"We want to establish our identity - but on the other hand, we are absolutely aware that this regional sensibility is very good. We will still keep our Baltic identity," Miskinyte said. At the same time, she added, "We're facing something very new, very fresh in Lithuania. Directors are emerging from nowhere. When everything is going down, we're going up." One example: the selection of Barzakh, a Finnish-Lithuanian coproduction directed by Lithuanian Mantas Kvedaravicius in the Berlinale Panorama section, which took the Lithuanian film community by surprise.

The IPA is actively working to bring the Lithuanian film industry the national support it needs. The new film law planned to go into effect in May 2012 would allot 60% of the VAT on cinema tickets for Lithuanian film funding. Based on 2010 box office, the tax would provide 1 million euros in funds. The IPA has been pushing it as a an independent source of funding, something that is essential to the local industry when no government funding is available, as happened in 2010 when Lithuania did not even have a call for application for grants. In 2011, the government approved 1.2 million euros for film funding, and filmmakers expect that the amount will be at least equal, and may even double. If all expectations are met, the Lithuanian film industry could see a tripling of available funds.

The end effect would make Lithuania a contributing partner in international coproductions. "We can't make films without coproductions," Miskinyte says. "It's very rare."

Next up for the IPA is a push to establish tax incentives for the Lithuanian film services industry. The business community appears to be coming on board, with support from the Chamber of Commerce in presentations to the Ministries of Finance and Economy.

"Latvia is draining projects from Lithuania," Miskinyte says. "We want the same rules in order to compete on the market. Now Lithuanians are leaving to work in Latvia." One model propelling Lithuania filmmakers is the Riga Film Fund, with a 15% tax incentive. Miskinyte, whose own international experience is proving a valuable asset for the IPA, sums up the new attitude: "An active association will benefit the entire community."

Contact Information:

Independent Producers Association of Lithuania

Kraziu st. 21

LT-01108 Vilnius, Lithuania

Tel. +370 682 96 128

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