THE NATIONAL FILM CENTRE ANNOUNCES THE RESULTS OF CALLS FOR APPLICATIONS FOR TV SERIES
On 9 September, the National Film Centre (NFC) informed on three film industry calls for applications for extra financing and announced the results of one of them. In the competition to produce episodic films or series of high artistic and cinematographic quality, two projects have received the financial support. The production company Mistrus Media will produce a series about the Press Queen of Latvia between the two world wars, Emīlija Benjamiņa; but production company Red Dot Media will adapt for the screen the novel Cherchez la femme (Meklējiet sievieti) by the Latvian crime fiction classic, Andris Kolbergs.
16 applications were submitted for the evaluation panel review in the call for applications for TV series (at least 7 episodes of at least 45 minutes each) where the available funding is EUR 1,000,000, and the regulations of the call for applications provided to support at least two projects that should be completed and premiered in Latvia in 2021. Almost all strongest Latvian production companies and active film directors competed for the financing. The quality of applications shows that the Latvian film industry is ready for new challenges and could produce even more than two TV series of high artistic and cinematographic quality simultaneously.
“The task of the cultural sector, upon exiting the Covid-19 crisis, is to become stronger and growth-oriented. The financing along with several support mechanisms that the government has allocated to stabilize the sector financially is aimed at the creation of new cultural treasures. I am pleased that the audience will see the result of the series competition already next year,” said Nauris Puntulis, the Minister of Culture, at the beginning of the press conference.
The head of the National Film Centre Dita Rietuma announced the results and expressed hope that the first competition for the production of TV series will not be the last, and that, in the nearest future, it will be possible to find financing to produce other valuable ideas submitted to this unexpectedly stiff competition. Two projects received the financial support in the competition, the length of each will be seven episodes.
A special panel of experienced media experts reviewed the submitted projects, it included Baiba Zūzena (the head of TV3 Latvia, LNT (MTG Group) and All Media Baltics in Latvia until the autumn of 2019), Ģirts Līcis (media content expert and strategic manager of the London-based media consulting company K7 Media), Edmunds Jansons, film director and representative of the NFC feature film expert commission, Maira Dobele, film director and representative of the NFC documentary film expert commission as well as the head of the film production department of the NFC Inga Blese.
The studio Mistrus Media calls their project titled Emīlija. The Press Queen of Latvia (Emīlija. Latvijas preses karaliene) “a national series”. The total budget of the series is EUR 1,045,000 and it has received EUR 529,942 from the call for applications fund to start the production. With the focus on the crucial events in the life of Emīlija Benjamiņa, the seven episodes of the series, however, will also show the colourful and diverse society of Latvia between the two world wars, featuring many historic figures. The series will be directed by three experienced directors: Kristīne Želve, Dāvis Sīmanis and Andis Mizišs; and it is written by an equally illustrious team: Ivo Briedis, Baņuta Rubesa, Māra Zālīte and Aiva Birbele. Guna Zariņa is already cast in the starring role as Emīlija Benjamiņa, she will play in tandem with Baiba Broka as Emīlija’s maid and childhood friend Berta, the alter ego of the rich entrepreneur. Other parts will be played by Juris Bartkevičs (Antons Benjamiņš), Inga Tropa (Emīlija’s sister, actress Annija), Raimonds Celms (Anton’s son, Jānis Benjamiņš), Artūrs Skrastiņš (clairvoyant Eižens Finks) and others. The director of photography will be Andrejs Rudzāts, art director – Aivars Žukovskis, producers – Gints Grūbe and Inese Boka-Grūbe.
The other project that received the financial support in the call for applications was the series Cherchez la femme (Meklējiet sievieti). Its total budget is EUR 802,041 and it has received EUR 470,058 to start the production. It is emphasized in the project application that two companies have joined forces in this project, each with its own considerable experience: Red Dot Media produced the Centenary call for applications Red Forest (Sarkanais mežs, 2019) and the studio Kultfilma produced the feature film Blizzard of Souls (aka The Rifleman, Dvēseļu putenis, 2019). Both are harsh stories that promote patriotism and explain historic events. Now the two companies have joined forces in the series Cherchez la femme to discuss truthfully and honestly the events of the 1990’s that have formed our country of today. The series will have two directors, and both are also co-screenwriters: the experienced TV director Armands Zvirbulis (also the co-director of Red Forest) and Dzintars Dreibergs (director of Blizzard of Souls). The series are based on the novel Cherchez la femme (1996) by the Latvian crime fiction classic, Andris Kolbergs. It embraces a broad cross-section of society and paints a vivid picture of the epoch as it is set in the dramatic “time of great chances” – the Latvia of the 1990’s, but the events stem from the Soviet era and the national Awakening movement. The series will be produced by the experienced genre and TV professional Arta Ģiga (also the producer of Red Forest). The series will be shot by one of the greatest masters of cinematography Gints Bērziņš (his latest projects include City on the River directed by Viesturs Kairišs and In the Mirror directed by Laila Pakalniņa).
The two series supported in the call for applications will be produced in co-operation with film distribution and exhibition companies and will premiere in 2021.
To support the cultural sector, seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergency situation declared in spring, on 16 June 2020, the Cabinet of Ministers, following the action plan drafted by the Ministry of Culture decided to allocate EUR 9.7 millions in 2020 for the cultural sector from the contingency budget, including EUR 2 millions for the Latvian film industry. On 9 July 2020, the government decision was adopted by the Saeima Budget and Finance (Tax) Committee, and the National Film Centre could announce three calls for applications, where it is planned to distribute the financing received from the contingency budget.
The three calls for applications are:
1) series – the development and production of TV series of high artistic and cinematographic quality with the budget of EUR 1,000,000 (the projects were accepted until 7 August, the results on 9 September),
2) low-budget feature film development (and production) with the budget of EUR 800,000 (the results after 11 September),
3) mitigation of the Covid-19 crisis – a two-part support funding to compensate the increase of production costs for films receiving the financial support from the state, and for independent projects (the results after 17 September).
The National Film Centre
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