LMGI members explore the Baltic States

Markus_BenschEJ Richards Markus BenschMarkus BenschJonas SpokasMarkus BenschMarkus BenschMarkus BenschJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJonas SpokasJohn RakichEJ RichardsEJ RichardsEJ RichardsEJ RichardsEJ RichardsMarkus BenschMarkus Bensch

This past August, LMGI members Klaus Darrelmann, Markus Bench, Emma Jane Richards and President John Rakich toured Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. They were joined by former LMGI President Lori Balton and SLM, Becky Brake.  Balton and LMGI member Jonas Spokas, head of the production service company Baltic Locations had discussed the trip for years and 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.

Said, 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 twelve 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,” added Spokas. “It has been an intense but very productive ten 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.”

Balton and LM Becky Brake organized seminars for film industry professionals in the regions visited joining Rakich, Bensch, Darrelmann, Spokas and Richards on panels to share their take on creative location scouting, management and best practices for attracting and sustaining local filming.

“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- WWI Germany, other like communist era Russia, some areas could stand in for France others for Scandinavia. For filmmakers, this is a treasure trove.”

-LM Marcus Bensch

In Estonia, the LMGI partnered with a one day conference organized by the Tartu Filmfund. Rakich provided taped opening remarks and Richards participated on several panels including an on-the-go workshop on film permits and as the featured speaker for a panel on “A Case Study on Bringing Marvel to a Small Town”. Piir moderated a panel that included Richards, Estonian Film Commissioner Pazikaite and LM Nele Paves on what makes a country attractive as a shooting destination.

Shared Balton in her September 25th essay for The Location Guide, “From Czarist to art deco, to classical, to socialist modernism to art nouveau, to modern to sweeping landscapes and UNESCO designated old town streets; prisons, mansions, opera and concert halls, castles, forgotten factories and shipyards, state of the art repositories of knowledge and culture—the depth and breadth of the locations was astounding. The organization that went in to compacting so many visuals into such a limited time speaks volumes of the capability of the region’s production support.

“Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, is known for the baroque architecture of its medieval Old Town. Sections of Kaunas, the historic capital of Lithuania, seem to be fixed in time.

The city had its most productive spurt in the 30s, heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement and Art Deco. In Riga, Latvia’s capital, Art Nouveau multi-level apartment buildings comprise roughly a third of the city centre. Riga has the highest concentration of Art Nouveau in the world!”

Enthused Bench, “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 communicate with each other.

“During our trip we went to huge socialist housing estates that were used for HBOs Chernobyl, we went to locations from Tenet and everything in between. Vilnius’ closed Lukiskes Prison, which hosted Stranger Things, offers a wide variety of looks in one fascinating location, even as it is being revamped as an art and music centre.

“What stood out for me 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 waterpower facility, a harp concert in a brand new concert hall that just opened for us to have dinner … They really outdid themselves!”