Ilze Gailīte Holmberga • Director of the Latvian National Film Centre
"We are the only organisation responsible for the development of the Latvian film industry"
by Elisa Cimino
Cineuropa met with Ilze Dailite Holmberga, Managing Director of the Latvian Film Centre, during the Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries, a pitching session and workshop combined with film screenings. The Baltic Sea Forum, which took place in Riga from September 4-8, 2013, provides a platform for international networking for documentary film professionals, and disseminates documentary contents with a focus on the Baltic Sea Region.
When did the Baltic Sea Forum start its activities?
Ilze Gailīte Holmberga: The Baltic Sea Forum took place for the first time in 1997 in Denmark, initially it was a Danish initiative for the Baltic countries, Poland and the western part of Russia. It continued to be a Danish initiative until 2001 and then, as the Baltic countries were on their way to enter the European Union, the Danish government decided to let us continue this adventure. At the beginning of this “second phase”, the Baltic Sea Forum was a travelling event through the Baltic countries, but since a few years it always takes place in Riga.
Can you say a few words about the 2013 edition?
We are proud of it! We have very good tutors, 22 projects from 12 different countries, and about 60 guests including experts, producers, and broadcasters. We organised two public workshops: the first one, Changing TV Landscape, analyses the interaction between right holders, VOD platforms and changes in the TV landscape. The second, Behind the Lens and in Front of the Screen, explores new ethical lines for shooting and publishing films and photos. The Baltic Sea Forum is an important event for us and for the region but of course we are thinking about how to improve it. We face several challenges and the most important one is the lack of money for financing documentaries. The main problems is that 20-15 years ago the television landscape was very different, there was bigger support for documentaries and there were many coproductions, but now the money is gone. The Baltic Sea Forum is an important event for people to meet, but how to find funding, that’s an open issue.
The financial crisis has had deep repercussions on the Latvian film industry. How does the National Film Centre face the situation?
We are the only organisation responsible for the development of the Latvian film industry, which is one of the smallest in Europe. When the crisis started we experienced dramatic cuts of 70% of the budget, and only in 2013 did we get a little addition. We hope that next year we will receive double the funding but this is not clear yet. The total amount of money for the film industry in Latvia is 2 million euros, including the budget of the Riga capital fund. This year we had 7 feature films - most of them without state support – and 20 documentaries and short films. This year we created new strategies giving priority to the Internet, distribution and archives. But we need more resources. We work in very close collaboration with film producers associations, directors’ unions... There is constant feedback about what we do and all we do is based on collaboration among all actors.
What are the strategies at the international level?
We would like to be more visible at the international level; only a few Latvian films have been shown in big festivals. We had a very good working system with other Baltic countries in the past, but these collaborations ended because of the financial crisis. Now we need to discuss with our neighbours about what strategies to implement to improve collaborations in the future. Now the Riga Film Fund offers production support to international coproductions, with cash rebates for up to 20% of the local production expenditure for films shot in Riga. Here foreign producers can find wonderful natural landscapes that are still uncontaminated and professional expertise for reasonable costs. In recent years we hosted several coproductions with Russia, India and Asia.
In 2014 Riga will be under the spotlights: it will be one of the European Capitals of Culture and it will host the European Film Awards in December. What kind of initiatives are you going to organise to give more visibility to the local film industry?
The European Film Awards will take place in the Opera House, a big ceremony awards will be organised by EFA in collaboration with Riga 2014. We are organising many industry events for film professionals, such as discussions, master classes and location scouting, as well as initiatives for larger audiences. There will be more film screenings during the entire year and some specific initiatives, as for example the educational workshop for children, which will give the possibility to children to make their own films about Riga. These films will be shown in many locations around Latvia.
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