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Rita Stanelytė on the ‘Meeting Point’ Industry Initiative at the Vilnius Film Festival 2016

Rita Stanelytė on the 'Meeting Point' Industry Initiative at the Vilnius Film Festival 2016

At
this year’s “Meeting Point Vilnius”, the industry event of the Vilnius Film
Festival
, now in its 21st edition, We sat down with its
head of industry, Rita Stanlytė, and discussed the event, its role in the
promotion of Lithuanian films, its focus and plans for the future but also the
current state of the Lithuanian film industry. 

Tara Karajica: Can
you introduce the “Meeting Point Vilnius” industry event and talk about its
inception and the reasons behind it?

Rita
Stanelytė:
Of course! It’s the seventh
year of the industry event and it started, I think, from the wish to know more.
It was started by our executive director, Algirdas [Ramaška], because he was running the festival and he felt that he
needed more information, especially about how to run the festival, how to make
it economically wealthier and how to make it successful. So, we started to
invite other festival directors from the region and from Central and Eastern
Europe, to just share experiences and ask and see what they are doing. For several
years, it was just a film festival forum with the focus of sharing experience.
But then, we grew and we understood that not only festivals needed to have more
experience and learn more, but also that Lithuanian producers and producers
from the whole region needed to gain knowledge and experience. So, we expanded
and created this bigger industry event, the “Meeting Point Vilnius”, where we
have now several sections. One is the conference for producers where we usually
concentrate on the final stage of the filmmaking process. Our main goal and
main topic will always be film promotion and film marketing, so we invite
inspiring speakers to speak about audience building, film marketing, promotion,
and everything that needs to be done because we feel that this is what producers
from our region lack. And then, another big part – a very prestigious part of
the event – is the “Coming Soon” session, where we invite projects – unfinished
films in postproduction – to be presented in the session and we invite programmers,
sales agents and distributors who are scouting for new talents and new films.
And, the third part is the “Film Festival Symposium” which has existed from the
very beginning and where we practice the development of film festivals around
the region.

Karajica: These
are the three main focuses of the event? Are they always the same?

R. S.: We try to keep that focus so that we have
something for producers, something for programmers and something for film
festivals.

Karajica: What
is the position of “Meeting Point Vilnius” among other industry events at other
festivals? Where does it stand?

R. S.: Well, our position is, you know, between
Berlin and Cannes. So, usually, it is at the end of March and as our focus is
the Baltic countries and the Eastern partner countries from the former Soviet
Union, our aim is to have films that are aiming at summer festivals, at the summer
circuit. And then again, the Vilnius event is very comfortable geographically
because it is halfway from the countries of the former Soviet Union and halfway
from the Western block. We also have this know-how, you know, Lithuania being
ten years in the European Union and a former Soviet Country so it is like a
bridge between the East and the West. And, that’s why we think this is the
advantage of our industry event.

Karajica: Today
is the second day of the event. Are your expectations being met so far and what
are the results, according to you?

R. S.: Actually, we have many international
guests. We have a hundred industry guests and another hundred festival guests
like for instance the representatives of the films in the Competition program
and jury members. I can say that the overall interest in “Meeting Point Vilnius”
is growing and I count that as the quality of the event because we want to be
better. For the second day, what I can say is that I am very happy that the
interest comes from the local film industry because it is one of the reasons why
we are doing this event, which is for the Lithuanian film industry to grow. The
producers can come – they don’t have to go anywhere – they can meet the people that
they want, that they need right here in Vilnius… So, this is also one of our
main goals and this is why we collaborate with the Lithuanian Film Centre. We therefore
have this hub of knowledge and experience that our producers can use.

Karajica: What
is the extent of involvement of the Lithuanian Film Centre in the event?

R. S.: We work closely together and we
basically collaborate on the event’s content. We discuss with them what we
should talk about, what we should present and who we should invite. Because the
Lithuanian Film Centre has this close relation with the Polish Film Institute and
the entire Lithuanian film industry wants to have closer relations with the Polish
film industry, this year at the “Meeting Point Vilnius” event there is a bigger
emphasis on the Polish film industry. Yesterday, we had a panel about the coproductions
between Lithuania and Poland and we have many Polish films screening at the
festival; we have many industry guests and journalists from Poland. So, for
example, this is one of the outcomes of the collaboration between the festival
and the Lithuanian Film Centre along with the Polish Film Institute.    

Karajica: Can
you elaborate more on the coproductions between Lithuania and Poland?

R.S.: Poland and Lithuania, although neighboring countries,
have not had much of a cooperation in the field of cinema until recent years,
when with the initiative that stemmed from the Lithuanian Film Center and the
Polish Film Institute enforced closer collaborations. To strengthen the bond
between Lithuania and Poland a special focus at this year’s « Meeting
Point Vilnius » was put on Poland. Therefore, we had a special panel
discussion about what could be done in order to enforce the coproductions
between the two countries. During the « Coming Soon » session, three
special Polish-Lithuanian coproduction  projects were presented: “Crisis”
produced by Marta Lewandowska (PL) and Marija Razgutė (LT), “Habit and armour”
produced by Dorota Rozhkowska (PL) and Kestutis Drazdauskas (LT) as well as
“The man who new 75 languages” produced by Zivile Gallego. Also, a special
guest project from Poland was presented in the « Coming Soon »
session, “Wild Roses,” produced by Roman Jarosz. 

Karajica: But, there is also a
close relationship with the Transilvania International Film Festival, right? Is
this another level of collaboration?

R. S.: Yes, this is another
level. It is a friendship level because the people from the Transilvania International
Film Festival, from Cluj-Napoca, are very good friends of ours. We kind of feel
related to them because the festivals are similar in size and stage of
development. But, we also have personal relations with the people and we really
like them. Our team always goes to the Transilvania International Film Festival
in June and they always come to Vilnius in March or April. And, this year we
are doing this Vilnius-Transilvania Express party, but it’s for fun. It’s
friendship and fun.

Karajica: What
is the relationship of “Meeting Point Vilnius” with the industry events of the
other Baltic Film Festivals?

R. S.: The thing is that the Tallinn Black
Nights Film Festival has a very strong industry event, but they are in November.
In terms of films, they take films that are more for the winter festival
circuit and we take films for the summer festival circuit. But, we are not
rivals; we work together and we have among our guests the representatives from
the festival and its industry event (Industry Days and Baltic Event). They are
very strong and they work very well. Their focus is coproductions and we do not
focus on coproductions but rather on film promotion.

Karajica: In
that sense, can you talk more about the role of “Meeting Point Vilnius” in the
promotion of Lithuanian films?

R. S.: Of course! First, we want the
Lithuanian films to travel and have an international career – or not
necessarily – or just have viewers in Lithuania. So, among the projects of
“Coming Soon” that we are selecting, the biggest part is, of course, from
Lithuania. This year, for example, we have twenty projects and ten of them are
Lithuanian or Lithuanian coproductions. This happens in Lithuania and we want
to promote Lithuanian films and this is our biggest goal. And, we really help
in every possible way Lithuanian producers to meet international people, producers,
programmers… And, we have really good examples of success: three years ago, for
The Gambler, the Lithuanian film that premiered in San Sebastián, the
programmer of San Sebastián saw the film here during “Meeting Point Vilnius”
and it traveled to more than fifty festivals around the world. But, of course,
we also want to help other films… For example, last year’s success story was
the Latvian film Mellow Mud that also met with their sales agent here and it was
shown in the Generation section of this year’s Berlinale.

Karajica: So,
it is a big booster of the Lithuanian film industry?

R. S.: I should say yes, because it is the
biggest event in the film industry in Lithuania.

Karajica: Can
you talk about the current state of the Lithuanian film industry?

R. S.: Well… I would say it is hopeful
because we have come out of this stagnation that came after we gained the independence.
The old generation of directors was making films their way and the new
generation wasn’t growing up. Now, we have, I think, the third or even fourth
generation of filmmakers and producers in Lithuania and I really love them;
they are very enthusiastic, they work from the heart, they have knowledge, they
are eager to learn more, they use new technologies and new ways of financing
even – they go and look for it themselves. This is basically for art-house
movies but commercial films in Lithuania are also on the rise. So, I think
everything is fine in the Lithuanian film industry.

Karajica: And,
last but not least, what are your long and short-term plans for the future of Meeting
Point Vilnius?

R. S.: Wow! We
have a lot of plans! We want “Meeting Point Vilnius” to be one of the established
industry events in Europe – in this part of Europe. And, I would like it for
every filmmaker that has an unfinished film to be an honor and wish to come to
Vilnius, to know that Vilnius is not just saying that it helps filmmakers but
that they actually see the real need and value. 

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