FNE at Baltic Event 2014: Northern Europe Converges on Tallinn’s Dynamic Industry Forum

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TALLINN: When it comes to Tallinn’s film industry meeting point, the Baltic Event running 24-28 November 2014, Estonia is punching way above its weight. FNE spoke with Marge Liiske, managing director of the Baltic Event, just as the 13th edition was going into full swing.

“The Baltic Event began in 2002. It started with screenings and in 2005 we added the coproduction market,” Liiske told FNE. “In 2008 we began POWR, a screenwriters’ workshop which we do in cooperation with the Torino Film Lab. B’EST [an acronym for the Baltic Bridge East by West], which brings together producers from the EU and CIS who share mutual interest, is presented in cooperation with EAVE,” she added.

The Black Nights Film Festival launched its Industry@Tallinn programme in 2010. Liiske views the younger industry event as a welcome partner. “We’re complimenting each other,” she said, pointing to the new European Genre Forum Pilot 2014 which gives a platform to genre filmmakers, especially those specializing in horror films and thrillers. “We had a lot of genre film projects applying” to the Baltic Event, Liiske said, noting, “Filmmakers are going into audience-friendly films.”

The 2014 industry events were buzzing with producers, directors, sales agents, film funders and commissioners, among others, as projects in varying stages of development and production from Northern Europe, CIS and CEE sought out likely partners. With over 250 industry guests, Liiske said, “We are trying not to grow any bigger! We want to have this personal approach. But you see the needs and a gap in what you can offer, and this is how it grows.”

Lithuanian producer Ieva Norviliene of Tremora, a Baltic Event regular, confirmed Liiske’s observation. “It’s very relaxed here. You can meet with someone and then you can meet and talk with them again. It’s not the rush of Berlin or Cannes,” she told FNE.

The Baltic Event also acts as a crossroads. “We join North and East, old countries and new,” Liiske said. “Our strength is that we still speak many languages, and within the three Baltic States, we try to have a friendly division of tasks, with a documentary festival focus in Riga and Lithuania’s focus on shorts.”

The Baltic Event and Black Nights festival also make an effort to bring in sales agents from around the world. The festival and Baltic Event have a network of 20 to 30 sales agents attending regularly, mostly from Scandinavia, Russia, Europe and North America. There are also three sales agents comprising the jury for the competition of North American Indies and at least one sales agent on the selection committee.

The strategy seems to be paying off in terms of business being done at the festival. Canadian sales agent Michael Da Silva of Cinemavault told FNE he would definitely be returning, after making his first trip to Tallinn this year. He added that he appreciated meeting with filmmakers who were in the late stages of completing their films and who were actually looking for sales agents to help them with marketing and selling their films, rather than using them to fill financing gaps. The company is one of many likely to pick up some projects that were pitched or screened at Tallinn this year.