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Magnetic Latvia Film Conference attracts the crème de la crème of the audiovisual industry


- The conference, organised by the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, took place during this year's Riga International Film Festival

Magnetic Latvia Film Conference attracts the crème de la crème of the audiovisual industry
Andris Ozols' opening speech at the conference (© Magnetic Latvia/LIAA)

The Magnetic Latvia Film Conference took place for the first time from 18-19 October in Riga, during the Riga International Film Festival. The brand-new event focused on the development of the Northern European film market and was held in a purpose-built pavilion on the banks of the River Daugava. After a quick introduction by presenter Mārtiņš Daugulis, the event was opened by the inaugural speeches by Dita Rietuma, director of the National Film Centre, and Andris Ozols, director of the LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia). Ozols highlighted the value of Riga and other Latvian cities as potential locations for international productions, the country's qualified workforce, and the local industry's efforts to favour creativity, entrepreneurship and networking.

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Next, veteran Romanian producer Ada Solomon held a 30-minute talk about the future of the film industry. In particular, Solomon pointed out the importance of preserving film heritage and the irreplaceable value of the theatrical experience in today's world, dominated by information overload and massive technological developments.

The first panel, entitled “Potential of the Baltic Film Industry”, was hosted by Jonathan Olsberg, chairman of Olsberg SPI, and Latvian producer Jānis Kalējs. In particular, Olsberg noted that the industry is experiencing a “global production deluge”, namely “a massive increase in scripted content, film and TV dramas in particular, that will lead Hollywood alone to spend about $80-85 billion in 2020”. “Content is not king; consumer is queen,” he added, and then explained how Netflix and other major players are on the lookout for more products that directly address local consumers.

The second panel, moderated by Olsberg and entitled “Local Production Value in the Global Landscape, Baltic Focus”, saw the participation of Itambuca Filmproduction CEO Paul Aguaiuja (Estonia), Sergei Serpuhov from Baltic Pine Films (Latvia), Ieva Norviliene from Tremora (Lithuania) and Gary Tuck from Baltic Film Services (Lithuania). Their conversation revolved around their companies' productions for the international market as well as their efforts as service providers for high-end projects, co-produced with other European countries and the USA. Most of the speakers agreed on a few main areas of development to ensure a brighter future for the region: an urgent demand for larger studio spaces, the training of additional qualified members of the workforce and an overall hesitation when it comes to creating more appealing stories for the international market.

In the afternoon, a panel entitled “How to Get Small Country Products into the Big Markets” was moderated by Solomon, and involved acclaimed Polish director Agnieszka Holland, British producer Julie Baines, Katriel Schory, executive director of the Israel Film Fund, and Shelley Page, an international animation talent consultant. Among the myriad topics that were covered, Holland expressed her hopeful take on the latest generation of filmmakers, while Schory invited producers to be more proactive in helping their movies “to get out to the world” and stated how co-productions “are not a magic formula”, as at times they can favour “mediocrity through limited choices in terms of cast, crew and locations”.

The last panel, entitled “Selling Your Product in Different Channels”, was moderated by Martins Grauds. The speakers were EUROVOD vice-president Andreas Wildfang, G Thomas Esmay, director of corporate strategy from Breaker (USA), and Michael Werner, CEO of sales company Eyewell (Sweden). During the debate, huge importance was placed on quantitative insights, the applications of blockchain in the film sector, investments in localisation services, and how to home in on specific market segments.

The first day was brought to a close by a one-hour presentation of local production companies and a networking party. On the second day, some of the guests were invited on a “Familiarisation Tour”, a special location tour around Latvia, during which they visited locations including Spilve Airport, the resort city of Jūrmala, Rundāle Palace and Cinevilla's backlot.

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