This past August, LMGI members Klaus Darrelmann, Markus Bensch, Emma Jane Richards and John Rakich toured Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. LMGI member Jonas Spokas, head of the production service company Baltic Locations, organized the trip with the Director of the Vilnius Film Office, Jurate Pazikaite. Kristofer Piir/LMGI also joined the group as an informal host for the Estonia portion of the trip.
Says Pazikaite, “We have been developing the idea of inviting world-renowned professionals who have worked on the biggest cinema projects of the last decade to the Baltic countries for some time. Organizing a tour through 12 cities allowed us to show the wide range of locations in the Baltic states with cinematic locations that reflect many eras, and also offer corporate tax relief. The professionalism of those working in the field of cinema here are increasingly being recognized and appreciated abroad.”
“The Baltics have a lot to offer, and I think we’ve seen this during the trip,” adds Spokas. “It has been an intense but very productive 10 days. As an LM mostly working in Vilnius, Lithuania, I was also very interested to see Latvia and Estonia. I think the three countries are different and together, they form a very good package of locations which are close to each other. I also think we have managed to assemble a great group of people and it made the trip super fun.”
In addition to touring, the attendees organized a series of seminars in each country for local film industry professionals to share their take on location management and how to make their regions more attractive to service productions.
Historically, all the Baltic states were invaded by various powers, which led to a wild mix of styles and architectures. Some areas look like pre-WWWI Germany, others like communist-era Russia, some areas could stand in for France, others for Scandinavia. For filmmakers, this is a treasure trove.”
-LM Marcus Bensch
“You can’t possibly explore three countries in a week or so, but we tried, we tried hard,” says Markus Bensch.
“I’m still trying to digest all the information,” John Rakich, president of the International Guild of Location Managers, told us about his impressions. “I think that this region has a huge potential both in its choices of looks but in the systems and institutions in place. This complex multi-national fam tour being put together is a prime example of it.”
“Everybody outside the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, assumes they are the same, with the same culture, the same language, the same people—but they are not. They are so different, in fact, that people speak totally different languages and have to retreat to English or Russian to communicate with each other,” says Markus Bensch
“Historically all Baltic states were invaded by various powers, which led to a wild mix of styles and architectures. Some areas look like pre-WWI Germany, other like communist era Russia, some areas could stand in for France others for Scandinavia. For filmmakers this is a treasure trove. During our trip we went to huge socialist housing estates that were used for HBOs Chernobyl, we went to locations from Stranger Things, Tenet,and everything in between”
What stood out for me,” concludes Bensch, “apart from the variety of amazing locations, was the hospitality and the good sense of humor we found, not to mention the amazing food we had wherever we went—a taco place in a field in Latvia, fine dining in a pop-up restaurant in a disused water power facility, a harp concert in a brand-new concert hall that just opened for us to have dinner… They really outdid themselves!”
A huge thank you to the Vilnius Film Office, Baltic Locations as well as the Lithuanian Film Centre, Go Vilnius, Kaunas In, Kaunas Film Office, Investment and Development Agency of Latvia Estonia’s Viru Film Fund, the Tartu Film Fund and the Latvian Filming Objects Managers Association, for your hospitality and generosity.