Spotlight on Lithuania

KFTV speaks to leading production experts shooting in the country about the the appeal of the 30% rebate, cheap labour, great locations and a capital that can double for cities worldwide. 

By Chris Evans 25 Nov 2021

Spotlight on Lithuania
Prizefighter filming in Lithuania. Credit: Jonas krivickas

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, with the capital, Vilnius, hosting 14 international film and TV projects and two commercials in 2021.

Netflix has shown particular interest, filming season four of Stranger Things around Vilnius, including at the former Lukiskes prison. Netflix also returned to the Lithuanian capital for season two of its original series Young Wallander.

“It was such a pleasure to be back there. Everyone 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 was a home from home.”

Projects from all over Europe have visited over the last year, including Camelot Films’ drama Prizefighter: The Life Of Jem Belcher, which relocated from Wales to Vilnius in summer 2021, doubling the city for 19th-century England and using majority local professionals. “The crew and hospitality were world class,” says the film’s producer Matthew E Chausse, who previously worked on Vertical Entertainment’s 2020 sci-fi Skylines in the city.

Others include Netflix’s six-part Swedish crime drama Clark starring Bill Skarsgard; the Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) series Max Anger, co-produced by UK outfit Twelve Town, and movie Hilma, directed by Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules); and Story House Pictures‘ German TV series Sisi about the life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, which used 100 local crew members when filming in and around Vilnius last summer.

Latest Covid-19 protocols

Financial incentive

Lithuania offers a 30% rebate. International productions should spend at least $48,000 (€43,000) and shoot for at least three days in Lithuania to qualify and must work with a local co-producer.

Alternative and doubling locations

Lithuania has a variety of landscapes, from national parks boasting 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.

Highlight: Vilnius

Vilnius is the key focal point for many of the productions that come to the country due to its multifaceted history, offering gothic, renaissance, baroque and neoclassical architecture that provide perfect backdrops, and a highly skilled film industry workforce.

“Offering an abundance of compelling locations, from moody dark alleys and disused prisons to trendy restaurants, Vilnius provides the wide-ranging look and feel productions are after,“ says Pazikaite. “Diverse historical backgrounds are imprinted on the city, making Vilnius a go-to location for shoots depicting various periods.”

Alexander Tanno, head of Nice Drama (A NENT Studios company), co-producers of Max Anger “We had out challenges shooting in Lithuania. But what I can say is that it worked well as a stand-in for St Petersburg 1996, which is when our show takes place. Moreover, the size of Vilnius both worked in our favour and to our disadvantage. It worked well 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 $1.6m (€1.4m)].”

Sven Bohse, director of German TV series Sisi “We chose to film in Vilnius [which doubled for 19th century Austria, using Vilnius University as a stand-in for the famous Hofburg palace] for the funding, experienced production companies and crews, stunning old buildings, and… horses. Everything that you need for shooting a historic movie.”

Jonas Spokas, CEO of Baltic Locations and supervising location manager for Young Wallander “The majority of the shoot was in the residential district of Seskine in Vilnius, doubling for Malmö, Sweden. We scouted and debated several Vilnius districts, but the director went for Seskine based on how strong an impression the surroundings made on screen.”

Highlight: Kino Studija (Martynas Studio)

This impressive complex situated outside Vilnius was used for Chernobyl and is now a viable studio, including a warehouse area of nearly 2,000 square meters, four hectares of backlot and nearly 1,000sqm of production office space.

Rob How, Chernobyl series’ UK line producer “We turned it into a backlot, converting the interior into sets with power and parking, and turned factory offices into production, art departments and accounting offices. It’s a great space for productions to build sets.”

This is a condensed version of the Lithuania profile that will appear in the next issue of our Production Guide due out at the end of this year.

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