Eastern Europe's Latest Film Tax Rebates Open for Business

"Gloria" is playing at Lithuania's Vilnius Fest

Updated: Lithuania hopes incentives will bring more international production. Vilnius IFF's new "Baltic Gaze" regional competition also puts spotlight on territory.

BERLIN -- The Lithuanian Film Center, which administers Eastern Europe's newest film incentives -- tax rebates worth up to 20 percent of local spending on film shot in the country -- opened for business at Berlin's European Film Market Thursday.

Producers have already begun inquiring about the incentives, introduced Jan. 1, but film center head Rolandas Kvietkauskas expects interest to climb during the market.

"Even though the incentives came into force only at the beginning of the year, we have already received a number of inquiries," he said. "We have the first application for a national production and hope foreign productions [will follow] after the EFM."

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The incentives, which apply for in country spends of above a minimum of Euro 43,443 ($59,000), rely upon producers working with local partners and Lithuanian-registered tax-paying companies. It is similar to other schemes adopted across central Europe in the past decade.

Backers of the scheme hope it will help make Lithuania a hot new location. The small Baltic state boasts ancient forests, long sandy beaches on its Baltic Sea coast, ancient cities, monasteries and castles.

The European Union country has English and other foreign language speaking crews and skilled technicians. Once part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania's film industry though small remains highly professional.

The country's leading annual movie showcase, the Vilnius International Film Festival, which marks its 19th edition next month, is also expanding.

The festival, which runs in the Lithuanian capital March 20-April 3, opens for the first time ever in the historic National Philharmonic Hall with a screening of Sebastian Lelio's Gloria.

The festival, which includes a busy industry sidebar "Meeting Point - Vilnius" is adding news programs this year that include families films specially dubbed for children and a new regional competition section, "Baltic Gaze" that will be judged by a panel of international film festival programmers.

Algirdas Ramaska, executive director of VIFF told The Hollywood Reporter: "Industry professionals who have been to Vilnius know all about Lithuania's stunning locations and the strength of regional films. We'd like to share that secret with a wide audience."

He added that the festival promised a warm welcome to producers interested in the region and that the festival was "a one stop shop for all relevant information about Lithuania and the Baltic for filmmakers."