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Dace Lesinska, Riga Film Fund and Ilze Gailite-Holmberg from National Film Centre of Latvia

What are the benefits offered by the Film Commission or the Government?

Riga City Council has created a co-financing programme for international projects shooting in Latvia or Riga. (Riga Film Fund) Recently, the Latvian Government approved a similar scheme on the national level (Latvia Film Fund)

What makes this destination exquisite for shooting an Indian film?

The capital of Latvia has northern charm, Western influences and Soviet heritage. Founded in 1201, Riga is one of the oldest medieval cities in Europe, situated on the mouth of the Daugava River, which flows into the Baltic Sea.

Riga has a lot to offer: medieval buildings, illustrious Art Nouveau architecture with famous Mikhail Eisenstein houses, 19th century warehouses, the unique hangars of the Riga Central market, 19th century wooden buildings creating small-town atmosphere, old Latvian farms at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, Soviet architecture, modern architecture, parks and woods.

Riga can easily look like Paris, Berlin, Moscow or London.

500 kms of beach along the Baltic Sea

From beaches almost untouched by civilisation in the West to fantastic resort towns, and everything in between – ancient fishing villages, 16-mt-high dunes, little fishing harbours, wide sandy beaches, unusual pebble beaches, cliffs, unique Randas Meadows and Cape Kolka, the meeting place of two seas and modern ports.

In addition, we have scenic landscapes, charming small towns, farmsteads, medieval castles and magnificent Baroque palaces, castle mounds, masonry churches, manor houses, water and wind mills, unspoilt, natural forests rich with lakes and winding rivers, intact mossy bogs, marshes, fertile lowlands, rolling hills and deep valleys.

Why should an Indian filmmaker choose your region to shoot?

One of the main advantages of Latvia is compact diversity – a compact but extensive reservoir of diverse and undiscovered filmmaking locations. In a single day, it is possible to shoot in the city centre, then move to the beach and then to a medieval castle or deep woods. It makes planning so much easier and cost-effective.

Another thing closely connected to our small size is flexibility – shooting permits can be arranged quickly and easily – if they are necessary at all. Also, quality filmmaking and technical service with experience in international projects.

We have four distinct seasons. Riga turns into a true winter fairytale during winter. In June, there is over 17 hours of sunlight on average, every day.

And not least, some of the lowest filmmaking costs in Europe.

Can you share some anecdotes about film production in your region?

Yes, it is about the filming of an Indian movie. It could have turned into an extreme event but fortunately it remains as a fun story. In the centre of the city, we have a Monument of Freedom. Foreign visiting state delegations and Latvian officials usually leave flowers there during official events.

By coincidence, on that day, there was a State visit, which had luckily finished by the time our story takes place. A filming crew had rented a tram for the day and were riding this tram and shooting inside it. Suddenly, the director had an inspiration to bring the filming outside – the scene involved gun shooting and a chase. And this inspiration took place at the Monument of Freedom! So, on the spur of the moment, the actors jumped out of the tram in front of the monument and started running and shooting. The police arrived shortly afterwards. Of course, our representatives explained the situation and got away only with a reprimand. If this had happened during the State visit, the security officers might not have been all that understanding!

Are there any other rebates that can be availed?

Riga City Council’s co-financing programme Riga Film Fund is open to Latvian-foreign co-productions planning to shoot in Riga and Latvia. Up to 20 per cent of eligible film-related expenditure can be obtained through tender as a cash rebate when filming is completed.

A co-production or a Latvian partner can be involved as production services.

What is important is that the Latvian partner makes the application, signs a co-financing agreement with the city council and hands in the report afterwards.

So if a company plans to shoot in Riga or Latvia and has a Latvian production partner, they can participate in the tender (the budget of the film project should be at least 700,000 Euros and, at the moment of application, half the funding should be in place. There are no regulations on how much of the total budget should be spent in Latvia).

Eligible expenses (incurred in Latvia): film-related transport, location and technical equipment rentals, catering, accommodation, public facilities, construction facilities, artistic and administrative services, etc. Currently, the deadline for tender applications is October 1. The next tender is planned in the spring of the next year.

There is also Latvia Film Fund.

It is possible to combine Riga Film Fund co-financing with the national scheme (Latvia Film Fund) but this should not exceed the limit set by national scheme – not more than 25 per cent of the eligible expenses (defined by national scheme).

Have any Indian films shot in your region? If so, can you name some and the assistance provided?

We have had Sriram Raghavan’s Agent Vinod, which had many actions sequences shot here with Saif Ali Khan. Luv Ranjan’s Akaash Vani and KV Anand’s Maattrraan were shot in our region too.

What is the procedure to obtain authorisation to shoot?

The local institutions to be involved are to some extent defined by the plot of the film. Therefore, foreign production companies are advised to cooperate with Latvian production companies in applying for different permits that might be necessary in Riga and Latvia. Local companies already have experience and an established relationship with various institutions will contribute to the efficiency and quality of the filming process.

In general, if shooting on the streets of Riga does not involve closing roads and other complicating factors, then there is no need to take permission to shoot. However, if shooting will inconvenience the general public (such as closing of roads), then an application for the permission has to be made.

Contacts for shooting permits in the territory of Riga

It is advisable to indicate the preliminary needs: dates of the planned shooting, locations and timings. Also, please note that in order to prepare:

• Consultations should begin at least 15 days before the intended filming.

• Official submission for permits must be made no later than 10 days before the scheduled filming.

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