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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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