Lithuania to renew film production

    As the Lithuanian Government continues to ease the quarantine restrictions, the borders of Lithuania are slowly opening up. From 15th May, by general decision residents of the Baltic states can move freely from one state to another. Thus, individuals who have arrived in Lithuania from Estonia or Latvia, do not have to self-isolate for 14 days. From 13th May, Vilnius International Airport has begun partial operations again. Presently regular flights are going to Frankfurt and Riga airports, from 25th May there will be daily flights to Tallinn and regular flights will be renewed from Vilnius to Norway as well. The Government continues considering the possibility of opening the borders with other neighbouring countries. As of 18th May, cafés, bars, gyms, and nurseries have reopened in the country. Due to reducing number of coronavirus infections, the Government has given permission to continue film production that was suspended on 16th March due to implementation of quarantine. The Ministry of Health (Lith. SAM) have prepared recommendations, which instruct on how to safely conduct filming and other related activities.

    The main recommendations – only healthy individuals can work, it is recommended to limit physical contact as much as possible, to maintain safe distance of 2 metres, and to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), unless it is not possible to do so due to nature of work. If any symptoms of the virus (or any other infection) become apparent, the individual has to be furloughed immediately. Filming sets have to be provided with disinfectants, closed spaces should be aired at least once per hour, all individuals above the age of 6 years old have to wear PPE, except for actors and extras, who cannot wear PPE due to the nature of their work. Outsiders are not allowed to be on set or to observe the filming. “From now on, when issued with a permit to film in Vilnius, all of the crews will commit to follow the safety recommendations” – said the director of Vilnius Film Office, Jūratė Pazikaitė.

    In the most recent years Lithuania has become an appealing locale for international filmmakers. Filming of the miniseries Chernobyl, the winner of numerous Golden Globe and Emmy awards, took place in Lithuania. Also,  another HBO miniseries, Catherine the Great, featuring Helen Mirren were also filmed in Lithuania. This winter, just before the pandemic, filming of the most popular series in the world Stranger Things 4th season was concluded in Vilnius.

    “We are happy, that Lithuania is one of the least affected territories by COVID-19. According to general statistics we are a safe country, thus we hope, that the international film production will soon be able to renew its work at full speed. We continuously watch the international atmosphere,” – reflected Kęstutis Drazdauskas, the Chairman of the Board of the Independent Producers Association, on the slowly recovering film industry.

    As of 19th May, there were 1562 confirmed coronavirus cases in Lithuania, of those there were – 471 active cases, and – 1025 had fully recovered. Having managed to stop the spread of the virus in a timely manner, less and less new cases are diagnosed on daily basis. Due to improving results, all of the shops were reopened in the country, cafés were allowed to serve customers indoors, salons providing beauty services have resumed their work, and museums and libraries are open to the public again. Vilnius City Municipal Council has provided all outdoor cafes and restaurants with an opportunity to use the city’s public streets ex gratia, in an attempt to reduce the businesses’ losses.

    The Government of Lithuania has allocated 68.3 million euros for the culture sectors of Lithuania, to combat the impact of the pandemic, some of the funds will be used to support the infrastructure to maintain long term support of culture sectors, some directly to support culture and art creators. Lithuanian Council for Culture has announced an additional competition for individual one-off grants, for culture and art creators. Once funding has been increased, an additional issuance of scholarships will be organised. The Ministry of Culture has also issued 3.4 million euros for the film sector. Lithuanian Film Centre has announced additional competitions for film production grants as well as individual awards. Opportunities for financial support for film culture projects, film distributors, are being discussed. Companies that have been affected by COVID-19, have been provided with partial rent compensations, and furloughing of staff was financially compensated as well. Vilnius City Municipality Council, in response to the effects of COVID-19, has announced the plan 4x3, which will attempt to conquer the financial challenges created by the pandemic. The budget for the culture sector is 1.5 million euros. The council also plans to suspend the collection of rent from organisations and businesses, will not collect fees for events in public spaces, and greater attention will be paid to music and stage arts.

    Recommendations for filming work were prepared through a close collaboration with the Independent Producers Association of Lithuania (NPA) and the Lithuanian Advertising Producers Association (LAPA). Please find the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Lithuania recommendations below: