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Interest in Latvia as film shooting location grows

Local and foreign cinema projects are actively taking place in Latvia. This year there is a particularly strong demand for co-financing for foreign films in Latvia, National Film Center (NKC) told Latvian Radio May 19.

The workability of the Latvian film industry and the diversity of the local nature and urban environment are also playing an important role in the eyes of foreign cinematographers. Latvian film service providers are ready for an even larger amount of work, and the National Film Centre will focus on making it possible.

One of the ways of encouraging foreign filming in Latvia is to grant co-financing, and this is the case for both the National Film Centre (NKC) and the Riga Film Fund. The support of both co-financing program\s can be combined.

NKC deputy head Inga Blese told Latvian Radio that the demand for co-financing for foreign films in Latvia this year, compared to other years, was larger and the competition in both programs was significant: “This means that Latvian filmmakers, who look up their foreign partners and are encouraging them to come here, have been very active and have made good contacts in recent years. Latvia was also quite successful in dealing with the epidemiological situation last year, which helped the film-making process not stop at all.”

This year, ten film projects have been funded by NKC, and some of them are already being filmed. Blese distinguishes two important benefits from foreign filming in Latvia: one – foreign filmmakers themselves bear the costs of their stay in Latvia, the other – Latvian filmmakers are becoming more and more competitive because they have a regular opportunity to work on international teams. It is essential that the logistical base of local businesses is also developing over time.

Jānis Kalējs, board member of the Latvian Film Producers Association, said that Latvian producers, providing services to foreign cinema makers, attract up to 40-60 local service providers, sub-contractors (caterers, dressmakers, transport providers, hotels and others) during the implementation of one project.

The survival and further development of the local cinema industry requires the attraction of foreign cinema projects.

“As the film industry and the service section are developing, many young people choose these professions, so experts are becoming more and more professional. It's a good trend. It should be noted that these [young] professionals are not going anywhere, they go to work on Latvian films and freshen our industry,” he says.

However, foreign filmmakers are brought to Latvia not only by co-financing grants and local cinema professionals, but also by different places and relatively short distances between locations.

The Riga Film Fund also supports foreign film filming everywhere in Latvia, but if it takes place in the capital, filmmakers may apply for an additional co-financing percentage, said Dace Lešinska, representative of the fund. Mostly, there is no need for permissions to film in Riga. Permission is required only if traffic flow is changed or otherwise restricted.

The support mechanisms offered in Latvia for filming foreign films are, however, not unique: one or another type of support tools are available in most European countries. Inga Blese considers that the Baltic neighbors have probably developed this support system more successfully – for example, Lithuania, with its support mechanism has attracted larger projects. “We can do more – we can welcome more and make more,” said Jānis Kalējs.

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