FNE Film Meets Games: Q&A with Mindaugas Jokūbaitis, Producer at Lithuanian OAK9 Entertainment, UAB

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    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis Mindaugas Jokūbaitis source: Private archive

    VILNIUS: FNE spoke to Mindaugas Jokūbaitis, producer at OAK9 Entertainment, UAB, about their current activities, as well as the state of the Lithuanian animation and game development industries.

    OAK9 Entertainment is a leading production and full production studio in Lithuania, with a focus on animation and game art projects.

    Central and Eastern Europe is one of the most important locations for global games developers and studios, and artists in the region are increasingly working for both film and games. FNE looks at how these two sectors of the entertainment industry are converging and why this trend is important for the future development of both.

    FNE: When was OAK9 Entertainment founded and what have been your main missions and strategic projects so far?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: OAK9 Entertainment is one of the leading producers and full production studios in Lithuania, with a focus on animation and game art projects. Our journey in game art outsourcing started in 2011 and since then we have been producing the best quality game art. Later, we started doing pre-rendered scenes, some comics and animations, which led us to become more of a production house. And today we are focusing more on developing, as well as producing and executing animated projects.

    We had a coproduction with Cyprus on an animated short Dragon Recipes directed by Maria Pavlou, and we are now finalising our own short Imagine That, which is the directorial debut by Karolis Kveselis. We also have an animated series for kids in development/production, Stomp! Stomp! Rhinos!, as well as a feature film for family audiences, whose working title is Helen

    The first season of the children TV series for kids Stomp! Stomp! Rhinos! will probably be finished at the end of 2023. This is one of our main projects that we've worked on recently, closely with a clinical psychologist, and for which we used several scientific methods for emotion regulation. The series focuses on how kids recognise and manage emotions, and also on how they express feelings, and it educates them to talk about them with their family. The series has a beautiful goal: to help parents in raising strong young individuals, who would be responsible for controlling their own emotions in their life adventures.

    FNE: What is the current situation in the Lithuanian animation industry and what distinguishes it from the industry of other countries? 

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: It depends from which point you would like to hear it. Overall, the animation industry is rising. I would not call it booming, but with each year we have more animated films being produced or coproduced.

    From an economic perspective and the industry sustainability, there is a lot to improve. The game industry sustains itself. 

    The animation industry is living mostly from support from the Lithuanian Film Centre, but the funding is way too low, even documentaries have a bigger budget per year. However, things are getting a little bit better. Ten years ago, animation was kind of an outcast in Lithuania, it was not taken seriously and it was considered only for kids. These days, animated projects are being made for kids, adults and teens, and in more genres (action/comedy, drama and horror).

    So, “animation is not a genre, but a medium”, as Guillermo del Toro said in his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. People in the animation industry are disappointed each time animation is called a genre, and you can still hear that definition during awards events.

    But we can say that Lithuania is a bit of a hidden gem. And in the upcoming years there will be more exciting projects from the industry and the producers.

    FNE: Video games and films are fast approaching each other and colliding. How is that reflected in Lithuania? Are there any initiatives being launched that bring these two sectors together?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: Internationally yes, there are a lot of cases. In Lithuania I haven‘t personally heard of such a case between Lithuanian companies. Maybe because there is a bit of a lack of an internationally appealing project that could work both ways.

    We will try to do that with the TV series Stomp! Stomp! Rhinos!, which we have in production, so we will see in the future. We will explore the oportunities to either collaborate with gaming studios or find another way to make our ideas alive.

    FNE: Do you have any experience using VFX in terms of games? What can you tell us about your experience, your vision of game cinematics and important to mention, VR?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: We have had experience using VFX within the film and animation industry. Nevertheless, we haven‘t worked directly on game cinematics or on a game VFX. In our opinion, VR is a very interesting experience, but we are not very deeply involved in this area.

    FNE: Which Lithuanian animations would you single out from your portfolio that have had an international success?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: I believe our upcoming short animated film Imagine That directed by Karolis Kveselis, whose premiere will be in September 2023, could receive some international recognition from festivals around the world. The film is about a young girl and a boy, and a friendship that unites two different worlds, teaching both characters that we can have a positive impact on each other if we care more about one another. 

    FNE: Are there any films, animations and TV series from Lithuania that are being turned into games or games that are being turned into films, animations or TV series?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: I haven‘t heard about such a collaboration.

    FNE: How much is the turnover and how much is the percentage of expected growth in the region? Are there any companies working on both games and film, who are they and what are they doing?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: The animation industry is mostly oriented at art projects and animated shorts films that usually don‘t bring any revenue, only recognition. Companies working in servicing have higher turnovers. But if I‘m not mistaken, the animation association doesn‘t collect such information. However, I expect that the animation industry should grow by 12-15 percent in the near future.

    FNE: How do you see the development of the relationship between the film and games industries?

    Mindaugas Jokūbaitis: I think there is a need for a lot of discussion first. We need to find out how to collaborate, but I definitely think that in the near future our relationship will strengthen.

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