The Baltic state is set to become the latest European country to join the circle of production hubs offering tax rebates to film producers.
Speaking at the Meeting Point Vilnius’ Industry Day, Ramunas Skikas, managing director of the privatised Lithuanian Film Studios, explained that a seven-year odyssey for a tax incentive had finally found support among members of his nation’s parliament and government.
The hope is that a vote in Lithuania’s national parliament on May 8 will be passed, thus introducing an incentive which would allow a producer to receive a 20% rebate on the Lithuanian spend. In addition, any company or private investor would be open to invest in film production and reduce their payable taxes accordingly.
“That will be a day of celebration here if this is passed,” Skikas said, adding that there would not be a ceiling to the incentive and that at least 150,000 Litas would have to be spent by the production locally in Lithuania as one of the qualifying criteria.
Foreign producers would be able to access the incentive via a Lithuanian co-producing partner or by hiring a local service company to apply on their behalf.
Skikas explained that the objectives of the new initiative – which is open to both film and television projects – were to increase film production in Lithuania and for the incentive to have a “positive impact” on the state’s budget. The advantages of the scheme are that it does not interfere with the annual state production financing or need to be approved annually by the state.
He suggested the scheme could generate two to three times more international productions over the next three years and boost the level of local production output.
Skikas noted that Lithuania was already competitively attractive with experienced crews even before the tax incentive: “If they [foreign producers] are looking at the numbers, they should be wanting to come here already,” he said.
This is just the latest new development in the Lithuanian film landscape after the Vilnius Film Office (VFO) was established at the end of last November. This happened after a delegation of the film industry showed the City Mayor Arturas Zuokas the impact of visiting international productions on the local economy. The success of the Riga Film Fund in neighbouring Latvia then gave the politicians in Vilnius an additional push to take a step to promote the capital as a film friendly city.
VFO’s managing director Jurate Pazikaite explained that Vilnius’ Film Office had become the first member from the Baltic states of AFCI and the European Film Commissioners Network (EUFCN). She added that talks were now underway for a Vilnius Film Fund which may be up and running by the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Film Centre (LFC) is set to launch this May after the new Film Act was approved in January.
However, one Lithuanian producer told Screendaily that, despite these changes, the state funding for film currently allows only one local feature film a year to be supported.
In a closing roundtable, Edith Sepp of the Estonian Ministry of Culture reported that a new regional fund modelled on the Riga Film Fund co-financing programme is to be established in Tallinn and will receive its international launch at Cannes in May.
Sepp revealed that two private investors in Estonia were reportedly planning to invest in the construction of sound stages outside Tallinn by the end of 2013.