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World of Locations: Lithuania

Sitting at the centre of Europe, vibrant Lithuania is making a name for itself as a cost-effective shooting location.

More than 100 foreign productions have been shot in Lithuania since Fred Weintraub discovered the territory’s locations for his The New Adventures Of Robin Hood series, which was broadcast in the US by TNT in the late 1990s. Lithuania has since played host to international productions including the BBC and The Weinstein Company’s TV series War And Peace, Lux Vide’s Anna Karenina and Lincoln Square Productions/ABC’s eight-part drama The Assets. Japan-Canada co-production The Trial, a historical re-enactment documentary about a military tribunal for Second World War war criminals was shot in Vilnius this year, with the capital of Lithuania doubling for 1940s Tokyo. Further international productions to shoot in the territory include Tornasol Films’ The Wait (La Espera) by Daniela Fejerman, and Andre Cruz Shiraiwa’s feature debut Another Frontier. Finnish director Mikko Kuparinen’s English-language debut 2 Nights Till Morning and Antti J Jokinen’s Second World War romance The Midwife were also filmed there.

The Lowdown

Financial incentives

A new tax incentive came into effect in January 2014 and offers a rebate of up to 20% on local qualifying spend for feature films, TV films, documentaries or animated films. At least 80% of Lithuanian production costs have to be spent in Lithuania, with a minimum local film spend of $50,000 (€43,500). Further information www.lkc.lt

Infrastructure

With the state-run Lithuanian Film Studios no more, a new film studio was founded in Kaunas in 2011 and the Vilnius Film Cluster audiovisual lab boasts state-of-the-art facilities, including the Baltic region’s largest green screen. In addition, Baltic Film Services has used former factory premises in Vilnius to construct sets for such productions as ABC’s The Assets and the BBC and The Weinstein Company’s War And Peace. Usually, up to three international productions can be handled in the territory at any one time. But when a project on the scale of War And Peace is in town — employing around 300 local crew members — there are only resources left to cater for smaller productions. Local crew are proficient in English and many speak Russian, which proved to be a real asset during the St Petersburg shoot of War And Peace.

Locations

Lithuania can do everything except mountains and is similar to northern Canada in terrain, with lots of lakes and forests. It also has the biggest sand dunes in Europe. Vilnius stood in for Jerusalem in the BBC’s The Eichmann Show and has doubled for locations as diverse as Nepal, Mexico, Rome, Berlin and Washington DC for CIA drama The Assets.

Where to stay

Vilnius offers five-star hotels including the Kempinski, Radisson, SAS and Novotel, smaller boutique hotels such as the Narutis and Mabre Residence in the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. Apartments in the capital’s historical centre can be rented for longer stays.

The Vilnius vibe

Living in the Old Town means everything is within easy walking distance, including restaurants and bars, the club scene and the Lithuanian national opera and ballet. Just 20 minutes from Vilnius, one can be in the middle of nature or visiting a medieval castle. And St Petersburg is not too far away for those on a longer shoot who are looking for a city break.

Size matters

Lithuania lies at the geographical centre of Europe, within easy reach of points east to Russia as well as to the rest of western Europe. Vilnius city centre is only 10 minutes away from its international airport. The town of Kaunas, 100km west of Vilnius, is served by its own international airport.

Jukka Helle, producer, The Midwife

“We researched all the possibilities that were close enough to move the production from Finland. Lithuania was our choice thanks to the combination of locations, cost level, availability of film crew and the recently initiated tax incentive system.”

Would they return? Yes. What could be improved?

Production services lack some facilities but Lithuania is so well connected to neighbouring countries that crews are able to source what they do not have.

First people to call

Jurate Pazikaite, Vilnius Film Office film@vilnius.lt

Darius Baltusis, Kaunas Film Office d.baltusis@gmail.com