Lithuania’s tax incentive continues to boost the local industry


By Vassilis Economou, CINEUROPA

The Lithuanian Film Centre has recently announced the results of the national tax-incentive scheme for film production for last year. Implemented in 2014, the Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive covers up to 30% of the production budget, and as has also been announced, the scheme will be effective in its current form until 31 December 2023. As we previously reported (see the news), the incentive is available for the production of feature films, TV series, documentaries and animated films, and foreign producers are eligible to partake with a local producer attached as a co-producer or as a provider of production services.

After the record-breaking results of 2018, when the total budget of all projects surpassed €45 million, with the Lithuanian input coming close to €9 million, last year’s results are reasonably moderate but still make 2019 the second-best year since the introduction of the scheme. In detail, around €22.9 million were spent in Lithuania; close to €15 million were foreign production expenditure, of which €10.5 million were spent by international producers, while a total of close to €8 million were spent on co-productions and national productions, of which more than €5.5 million were from local companies. The remaining amount of that sum came through the Film Tax Incentive scheme.

A total of 36 projects made use of the scheme, and most of them took advantage of the 30% cap that was first imposed in 2019 – having stood at 20% until 2018 – with an average support of 29.83% being provided through the scheme, for all projects. Out of these, eight were international co-productions (with a budget of almost €3.2 million), 20 projects were national productions (with their costs reaching over €4.7 million), and eight projects were staged by foreign producers (who spent almost €10.5 million), while Lithuanian businesses participated with €4.5 million in investments. It’s worth noting that there is no cap per project, and the annual cap for investments is set at €50 million per year.

If we include the 2019 figures, since 2014, 157 productions – 41 international, 49 co-productions and 67 national – have benefited from the Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive, bringing the country a total of €111.9 million in investment, with €76 million of this coming from international and €35.9 million from Lithuanian companies.

Rolandas Kvietkauskas, the director of the Lithuanian Film Centre, commented, “Six years of tax incentives have helped the national film industry to develop quality services and establish itself on the international film production map. We are proud to be able to name famous international projects that Lithuanian professionals have been a part of. At the same time, the scheme is a significant instrument to finance national productions. The experience we have gained, through analysing the results and the support from stakeholders and decision makers, allows us to be open to discussion about how to make the system even more effective in order to help talented people to realise their ideas and better serve the needs of this industry’s development.”

Regarding the productions, five international series have become some of the biggest ones ever shot in Lithuania, with three of them having been produced in 2019. The upcoming Swedish crime mini-series Young Wallander, a Netflix Original, has received over €1.5 million from the scheme. Co-directed by Norway’s Ole Endresen (Lilyhammer) and Sweden’s Jens Jonsson (The Hunters), and starring Adam Pålsson, the English-language series was shot in Vilnius’ district of Šeškinė, which doubled as the Swedish city of Malmö. The series is being produced by Yellow Bird Film & TV Productions and is serviced by Ahil.

Another co-operation between those companies is the third and final season of the Norwegian political thriller Occupied, which also streams on Netflix and is co-directed by Erik Skjoldbærg, Gunnar Vikene and Camilla Strøm Henriksen. The production, which was shot in Vilnius, was supported with €675,000 from the scheme. Local actress Ingeborga Dapkūnaitė also stars in it, while 100 of the 120 technicians were Lithuanians. Furthermore, the international spy thriller Hamilton is being directed by Erik Leijonborg and was shot in Vilnius (see the news); the Swedish series by DramaCorp and Kärnfilm is being serviced by Lithuania’s Dansu Film, and received €725,000 in incentives. It goes without saying that the two biggest hits shot in Lithuania recently have been the multi-award-winning HBO/Sky Atlantic miniseries Chernobyl, which received over €3 million in investments, and Catherine the Great, with more than €1.7 million coming from the tax incentives.

Some of the standout international productions from last year include the upcoming Swedish hospital drama Åreakuten and the German TV drama Meeresleuchten, written and directed by Wolfgang Panzer, which received more than €500,000 apiece from the scheme, and the Finnish family fantasy film Vinski and the Invisibility Powder, directed by Juha Wuolijoki.

Finally, among the beneficiaries we also find two upcoming international co-productions by local directors: the historical drama In the Dusk by Šarūnas Bartas (see the news) and the coming-of-age drama The Castle by Lina Lužytė (see the news). These are in addition to the national productions Oxygen by Ernestas Jankauskas, Paralysis by Andrius Blaževičius and Songs for a Fox by Kristijonas Vildžiūnas.