Filmmakers fear that the new institution might fall short of their hopes as until now they have all been left aside – no one has consulted them nor invited to cooperate on setting up the institution.
All hopes rest on future chief
The Government consented to creating the Lithuanian Film Centre within the Ministry of Culture on 18 April; in May, actual work began.
“In early May, the Lithuanian Film Centre was registered in the Legal Entities Register; after the Public Service Department approves a new structure, there will be a contest for appointing a chief of the institution who will then select a team of 14 people,” Irma Pužauskaitė, senior specialist at the Culture Ministry, explains the procedure.
She said that the new centre will allow for a more effective development of various aspects for promoting Lithuanian cinema.
“Human resources have always been short to administer cinema funding, take care of promotion and cinema education. I think that once the institution starts work and there are more people involved with it, many cinema-related tasks will be done more effectively, like protection of film heritage, education, etc.,” the Culture Ministry spokeswoman says.
Filmmakers and cinema industry representatives, meanwhile, are less enthusiastic about the new centre.
“For some reason, filmmakers were hardly consulted in establishing the institution. There hasn't been a single meeting with film industry people to discuss it,” claims Rasa Miškinytė, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Independent Producers Association. “In the Culture Ministry, one person only is working on the project, which is regrettable – one person cannot possibly create a structure as complex as a film centre. There must be very intense cooperation, since the purpose of the centre is to help us create and promote Lithuanian cinema – not to boost the Culture Ministry's image.”
According to the producer, Lithuania could try and benefit from the fact that it is one of the last European countries to be setting up a Film Centre – it could make use of their experience.
“The fact that all hopes now rest on the future chief is perverse. They refuse to realize that, firstly, they must work out a structure for the centre and if it is right, it will prevent any boss from doing a bad job. As it is now, the new person will have to build the structure alone – what is he or she to rely on?” Miškinytė says. “One fears that the Lithuanian Film Centre might become one more bureaucratic structure supporting a big staff but failing to work for us, filmmakers.”
Censorship in regulations
Arūnas Matelis, board member of the Lithuanian Cinematographers Union, points to other threats relating to the future Film Centre.
“With a 10-15-year lag, we are finally catching up with Europe. But this Centre will be of no use, if its administration costs are disproportionally high compared to funding for filmmaking,” award-winning director-producer thinks. “I have also many doubts about the new wording of the Film Centre regulations. The Lithuanian Cinematographers Union can see in them clear and dangerous intentions to interfere with the creative process and ambitions to control it – that is something missing from all other EU countries.”
Matelis, who is an internationally-acclaimed documentary filmmaker, shares his own vision of a good film centre.
“I wish that the Film Centre did not believe itself to be a boss who knows filmmaking better than directors and producers – for whom it's their life. I wish the institution were a hard-working helper, representing, first of all, the Lithuanian film art and Lithuanian filmmaking, and not confusing it with commercial cinema services,” Matelis says.
Who works and how
Žilvinas Naujokas, producer of Lithuania's all-time most profitable film “Tadas Blinda. The Beginning,” thinks that the Film Centre's success will largely depend on who will work in it.
“The fact itself that Lithuania will have an institution charged with taking care of cinema, is great. It is no less important, though, who works in it and what policies they implement. The institution should be staffed with people who know cinema – not necessarily artists with no experience in management, but not functionaries either, who have nothing whatsoever to do with film and know nothing of contemporary cinematic trends. It will be up to people working there if the Film Centre takes Lithuanian filmmaking forward or backward,” Naujokas says.
Gražina Arlickaitė, member of the European Film Academy and founder of the Lithuanian Film Academy, is also reserved.
“In Lithuania, the centre should do whatever such centres do throughout the world – provided we manage to deal with arising challenges. If Lithuanian film production, distribution, and promotion is coordinated sensibly, it will bear results, if not – there will be no results. And our record is mixed, “Arlickaitė notes. “We have had famous filmmakers who have already passed away: Vytautas Žalakevičius, Marijonas Giedrys, Robertas Verba, Henrikas Šablevičius. We must introduce the world to their oeuvre and boast a little about what talents we have had and still have. The main goals of the Lithuanian Film Centre should be exactly these: supporting filmmakers and their work, promoting it, and nurturing new talent.”