Written by Murray Ashton on Jul 12, 2018. Posted in Interviews

On location in Vilnius with Jurate Pazikaite of the Vilnius Film Office

As the Director of the Vilnius Film Office, Jurate is at the heart of the Lithuania's relationship with the global production industry.

How did you become involved in the film business and what has been your career path to get you to your current role as director of the Vilnius Film Office?

I began my career in the field of economics and investment before drifting to the film industry and film office management. Working in the division of Investment Project Management of the City of Vilnius, I’ve been responsible for PPP and EU projects, the city’s credit rating, participation in international exhibitions and markets. In 2011 I received a new project in the form of building up a film office and I have been working with it since the very beginning. It was the first film office found in Lithuania.
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What does your role involve?

The institution helps local and international filmmakers to ensure that shooting goes smoothly in the city, whether it’s a big or small-scale production. We’re working closely with local and international producers and location managers, helping with locations, shooting permits, dealing with citizens’ complaints, informing local communities about planned shoots in the city, roads closures, dangerous scenes, intermediating between official institutions and production companies, meeting producers, helping foreigners to find local producers and so on. It’s a one stop-shop for contacts, info and locations.

Citizens are friendly towards filmmakers when they receive info about shoots in advance. We always aim to keep a positive attitude about the film industry among the public, sharing info that specifically states how foreign productions have economical and financial benefits to the city, for instance jobs are being created, taxes are being paid and it’s good for the accommodation/catering sectors. By working with foreign productions, our local film crew are constantly improving their skills. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget the publicity of the city that has emanated from projects produced by HBO, the BBC, Netflix, ABC and National Geographic.

One of my first tasks was joining international organisations like EUFCN and AFCI. We also take part in the international events, like Berlinale, Cannes Film Festival and AFM to promote the city of Vilnius.
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How do you assist foreign producers and production professionals considering Vilnius as a filming location?

We help by providing comprehensive information about locations, logistics, accommodations, technical support and special supplies, organising meeting with producers, and the rules and regulations of shooting in Vilnius. We also have an online shooting permit system for the convenience of the producer, saving them time and money.
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What can you tell us about Vilnius as a filming destination?

Local crews are all English-speaking (usually crews speak 2-3 foreign languages including English, Russian and Polish). Some crew speaks German, French, Spanish and Italian however. Local crew members are multi-talented and highly skilled with the experience of many foreign productions under their belts. All of the biggest Lithuanian production companies that have worked on foreign productions are based in the city of Vilnius.

Vilnius is a city of life that stands at the juncture of three cultures – Central, Northern and Eastern Europe. The Old Town is among the largest in Eastern and Central Europe and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The buildings in the old town were built over several centuries, creating a blend of many different architectural styles. Although Vilnius is known as a Baroque city, there are examples of Gothic, Renaissance, and other styles.

The city is open for filmmakers from all around the world, shooting permits are given quickly and shooting in public areas is free of charge. With regards to luxury hotels – we have Kempinski in the heart of the city, The Marriott, Radisson, Novotel and Ramada chains. The city itself is a compact one as you will be able to reach most locations in under 30 minutes.

The 20% Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive came into effect in January 2014 as a new policy measure to foster local and foreign film production in Lithuania. It offers an opportunity to save up to 20% of the film production budget through a private investment scheme.

KS Film Studio, situated just outside Vilnius, offers a full range of services including green screen VFX, equipment and wardrobe in addition to three sound stages of 1000 sq metres. KS also includes 2000 sq metres of warehousing within a total area of 15 acres that includes a 7.5 acre back lot. Upgrading with a smart LED lighting system and other technical equipment is scheduled for 2019.

There is also Vilnius Film Cluster, a sound stage and service complex based in a reconstructed industrial site near Vilnius that was established by a group of leading Lithuania film and TV production and service companies. The complex includes 1100 sq metre floor area, storage and green screen areas.

Vilnius Film Studio has 1,500 sq metres of floor space and is designed for the production of commercials, films and TV shows. The studio contains two filming areas - a main space of 970 sq meters and a smaller area of 90 sq meters.
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Does Vilnius offer any financial or non-financial incentives?

The 20% Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive came into effect in January 2014 as a new policy measure to foster local and foreign film production in Lithuania. It offers an opportunity to save up to 20% of the film production budget through a private investment scheme. We also offer free location scouting upon arrival to the city.
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What locations are most commonly used by foreign productions coming to film in Vilnius?

The Uzupis district – a Republic in a City with its own Constitution, famous for its artistic community and romantic, mysterious atmosphere is particularly popular, alongside the streets of the Old Town.

What are the more unusual locations that you have to offer?

Shooting the forests of Kuala Lumpur in one of our city parks is quite a unique experience. Or shooting Thailand in Vilnius, mostly shot with interiors but still quite a challenge and our filmmakers did a great job.

What locations worldwide has Vilnius been used to double for and on what productions? 

In different periods we’ve achieved Rome, Amsterdam, New York, Paris, Moscow and London. Our crew are very creative, hard-working and ready to offer the best solutions.
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What foreign productions have filmed in Vilnius in the past few years?

Recent productions include HBO’s Chernobyl, the BBC’s War and Peace and Netflix’s Tokyo Trial.

What do you do to chill in Vilnius after a busy production?

Everyone will find what to do here on days off, depending on their likes. Cultural life here is alive and rich. Lithuania is a hospitable safe EU country; there are no any specific restrictions. As in every country you have to respect the laws, follow the rules and instructions given by the local production.

Click here to contact Jurate.

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