Estonian Producers Explore Alternative Distribution

    Zero.Point by Mihkel Ulk Zero.Point by Mihkel Ulk credit: Allfilm

    TALLINN: Estonia has successfully experimented with alternative ways of distribution lately, but opinions vary as to whether a simultaneous release in cinemas and on SVoD is beneficial for such a small industry.

    Riina Sildos from Amrion considers the Estonian territory as too small and the cinema network as too well functioning to start on SVoD at the same time as in the cinemas, though it may be well worth trying for short films and documentaries. Her studio has seen that SVoD prolongs a film’s lifespan significantly, as their oldest film still in distribution is from 2005 (Mat the Cat by René Vilbre).

    Kalev Tamm, the producer of Estonia’s most successful animated films, Eesti Joonisfilm, admits that in the last few years DVD and SVoD have switched places and for short auteur films SVoD is really proving a better medium. He thinks that cinema should retain some of its exclusivity though.

    Marju Lepp from Filmivabrik, on the other hand, released the 2016 drama Family Lies by Manfred Vainokivi and Valentin Kuik very quickly on SVoD, and discovered that it worked. In her opinion, target groups are simply different and the SVoD release certainly benefited from the media buzz surrounding the premiere. Lepp is planning a similar approach for her next, albeit a very different film, Beyond the Forest by Andrus Tuisk.

    In 2016, Zero Point by Mihkel Ulk (Allfilm) was translated and subtitled in all the official languages of the EU in the frame of Under the Milky Way’s Working (Sub) Title initiative. It was subsequently made available on a number of VoD platforms including iTunes, Microsoft, Amazon, Google Play, Vimeo, etc. Producer Evelin Penttilä admits that the collaboration with Under the Milky Way gave the film a lot of visibility and as a result Zero Point became the first Baltic film to be picked up by Netflix. The Creative Europe supported project aiming to cut the cost of translation and to facilitate the distribution of European films on VoD platforms across multiple territories, has therefore proved successful.

    Since then, Netflix has also picked up the children’s film The Secret Society of Souptown by Margus Paju (Nafta Films). The horror adventure Ghost Mountaineer by Urmas Eero Liiv (Kopli Kinokompanii) and the youth drama I Won’t Come Back by Ilmar Raag (Amrion) are now available on Amazon Prime. Additionally, Estonia’s latest foreign-language Oscar entry November by Rainer Sarnet (Homeless Bob Production) is on HBO, while a few other titles are on Amazon Video.

    Domestically, almost all titles are available on the largest service provider Telia, and also on a smaller scale on Starman.