Estonia is a delight for filmmakers looking for pristine locales; a new cash rebate programme sweetens the bait
Estonia is located in north-eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, Latvia and Russia. It is best known for its beautiful forests, scenic lakes and wetlands, waterfalls, over a thousand remote islands, seaside and beaches, lighthouses, luxurious manor houses, winding roads, farms and pastures, medieval architecture, industrial estates, Soviet architecture, castles and palaces, and impressive contemporary architecture such as the KUMU museum.
National Parks of note include Lahemaa, Soomaa and Matsalu. The beautiful medieval capital of Tallinn is the main production centre. Tallinn is a short hop trip away from Helsinki, Finland, and other nearby capitals includes Stockholm, Sweden and Riga, Latvia.
Estonia is a very film friendly country. Tallinn requires permits to film in public spaces. It allows 40 days for permitting if filming will affect public transport lines and allows 30 days if your shoot ends after 11pm. Most of the rest of Estonia does not require any special film permits. Estonia trades in the euro. It is generally more expensive than its Baltic neighbours but much less expensive than Scandinavian countries. Estonia is a country of exciting locations and its small size makes all locations easy to reach.
Estonia doesn’t have to struggle to find a point of difference: it is completely unique. With a newfound confidence, the country has crept from under the Soviet blanket and leapt into the arms of Europe. The love affair is mutual. Europe has fallen head-over-heels for the charms of Tallinn and its Unesco-protected old town. Put simply, Tallinn is now one of the continent’s most captivating cities and in overcrowded Europe, Estonia’s sparsely populated countryside and extensive swathes of forest provide the most picturesque locations for filmmakers.
Estonia is a good location in any of the four seasons. It has winters with thick white snow for months, spring with the nature slowly turning green and bursting in bloom, summers with white nights – 20 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset – and colourful autumn months. Only south-east Estonia has a more continental climate since it is farthest from the sea. This is where in winter the temperatures can drop to -35° C and snow coverage is the thickest and most beautiful.
Estonia’s brand new cash rebate programme is now in operation and ready to receive applications for 2016. The incentive offers a competitive cash rebate of up to 30 per cent, with a varying required minimum spend such as the €1 million set for feature films and the €2 million set for full-length animated films.
With 2016 being the initial testing period, the budget is capped at €600,000 and will increase to €2 million the following year. The four periods of submission throughout 2016 are with deadlines on February 9, March 29, May 24 and November 8. The Tartu and Viru film funds are already available with an annual budget of €150,000 and €50,000 respectively.
Tartu Film Fund
The Tartu Film Fund is budgeted at €150,000 annually. Local film production companies providing production services for international film projects are eligible to apply for funding. Under the scheme, the rebate for a single project is 10-20 per cent of eligible expenditure incurred in the Tartu area. This will be issued after the production is complete and projects are audited.
Viru Film Fund
Estonia’s first regional fund – Viru Film Fund – functioning as a cash rebate, is based in the Eastern region of Estonia. The region is known for its large-scale industrial and mining infrastructure but also swathes of untouched natural habitats. Viru Film Fund finances locally incurred costs for any audio-visual productions. The fund aims for maximum flexibility, with no minimum spend requirements and no artistic criteria imposed on applicants. There are no deadlines and projects are handled on a first come, first serve basis. The fund is open to legal entities with an established track record in professional audio-visual production, but no restrictions as per legal residency. In 2016, the annual budget is around €50 000.