Lithuania, situated in northern Europe along the south-east shore of the Baltic sea, is starting to steal the limelight from its more established Eastern European neighbours. Netflix has shown particular interest, filming season four of Stranger Things around Vilnius, including at the former Lukiskes prison. The streaming giant also returned to the Lithuanian capital earlier this year for season two of its original series Young Wallander.
“It’s such a pleasure to be back. Everyone here works so hard to ensure everything runs smoothly,” says Marshall Leviten, line producer of Young Wallander. “The locations work well, the crews are so professional, and the hospitality both at work and everywhere else is fantastic. I must give a special mention to the staff at the Pacai hotel. It is a home from home.”
Projects from Finland, Norway, Sweden, the UK and France have visited since last August, including Netflix’s six-part Swedish crime drama Clark, directed by Jonas Akerlund and starring Bill Skarsgard, as well as the Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) series Max Anger, co-produced by UK outfit Twelve Town. It follows a former special-ops soldier tracking down a missing colleague in Saint Petersburg.
“We had our challenges shooting in Lithuania,” admits Alexander Tanno, head of NENT division Nice Drama and executive producer of Max Anger. “But it worked well as a stand-in for Saint Petersburg in 1996, which is when our show takes place. Moreover, the size of Vilnius worked in our favour because it was easy to get around and we weren’t stuck in traffic or had to spend loads of time getting around. Moreover, the tax credit system [worth up to 30%] has worked well for us [with the project receiving $1.7m (€1.4m)].”
A total of 21 international productions (including co-productions) accessed the incentive in 2020, receiving $9.8m (€8m) in funding, despite disruptions caused by the pandemic. In total, production expenses in Lithuania were $46.3m (€38m), making it the most profitable year for the tax scheme since its launch in 2014.
First person to contact
Jurate Pazikaite, director, Vilnius Film Office email@example.com
Vilnius Film Cluster is the main production facility with a base for nearly two-dozen audiovisual companies. It has a soundstage of 1,100 square metres and a 350 square metre greenscreen. Kino Studija (colloquially referred to as Martynas Studio) is situated just outside Vilnius. It was used for HBO’s Chernobyl and is a viable studio space. “We turned it into a backlot, converting the interior into sets with connected power, cleared parking areas, and turned factory offices into production and art departments and accounting offices,” explains Robert How, the series’ UK line producer.
Lithuania’s crew base is growing in size and experience. “I have worked with crews of many different nationalities over the years,” says Marshall Leviten, line producer of Young Wallander, “but the Lithuanian crew most closely resembles the work ethic I am used to in the UK.
There is a good level of basic equipment available, with further hardware easily sourced from surrounding countries. Lithuania’s art and set construction departments are of a high standard and cost-effective.
Vilnius Film Office has worked closely with filmmakers, helping to organise shoots in public spaces and public institutions and issuing permits quickly. The capital city is the key focal point for many of the productions that come to Lithuania. Its multifaceted history offers gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical architecture, alongside a highly skilled film-industry workforce.
Elsewhere, the country has an appealing variety of landscapes, from national parks with vast oak and pine forests, to fresh and salt waters and sand dunes. The western Neringa municipality is particularly stunning, with its rolling dunes and evergreen forests.