On 30 March Ukraine’s first agency of a kind – Lviv Film Commission was presented at the DocuDays film festival in Kyiv. Olha Reiter, its founder and director explained what the tasks, plans and first achievements of the newly established agency are.
Lviv has long been one of Ukraine’s most attractive film sets for both local and international film-makers. According to Olha Reiter Lviv Film Commission has been established to promote the city as a film location as well as to work out a transparent system that would make filming in the city easy from organizational standpoint.
Reiter, 29 years old, is a founder of Wiz-Art, Lviv-based group of young professionals passionate about cinema and visual arts. One of the group’s most well-known project is the Wiz-Art Lviv International Short Film Festival, due to happen this summer for the ninth time.
“I enjoy living where I now live. We started thinking of what we can do to develop locally,” said Reiter emphasizing the move away from the once traditional “centralized” structure of the cultural sector where regions were dependent on the center as well as had little opportunities and motivation to generate own projects.
Lviv Film Commission has been operational for two months now, explains Reiter. It is part of the Lviv City Council’s structure. Olha says it took her some time to formulate the ways to make this project happen as well as to get support from the local authorities. “For a year and a half we were discussing the project with lawyers and city authorities,” she explains. The team now consists of three people and a photographer.
One of the first steps the Lviv Film Commission is now undertaking is compiling a portfolio of Lviv, part of it is already available on the commission’s web site. Reiter says the team is actively scouting the locations to create a respective database. She also emphasizes that they are ready to land a hand with obtaining permissions for filming in Lviv and are accepting the requests both online and in paper version lodged directly at the city council.
The Film Commission’s Director says the team is now compiling a database of local professionals of the film sector that will be available online in six months. Reiter added that they plan to introduce the policies and incentives that would encourage international film-making teams working in Lviv to engage local professionals.
Olha says the newly established institution is already active in promoting the city as a film location internationally. “We have been to [the film festivals in] Berlin and Clermont-Ferrand and plan to be in Cannes this year as part of the Ukrainian pavilion,” Reiter says. She adds that domestic work to improve the process is ongoing as well. “We are working to change some of the regulations at local level,” Olha explains adding that the Commission has signed a memo with the regional state council. Over the time, she admits, the commission’s activities may expand to the entire region.
Among the advantages Lviv has to offer to a film-making team Reiter names a combination of unique architectural locations and industrial zones. The city is also located close to the mountains. She also notes proximity to the Polish border, and underlines that a visa is not required for a short-term stay in the country. Reiter says the Lviv Film Commission can also be a point of entry for an international film-making team into the rest of Ukraine. She was encouraging film professionals from other regions of Ukraine to set up their local film commissions and start collaborating.
The Commission can already boast a success story achieved over the two months of its official work. “It is a full-length project,” Reiter says. “We’ve managed to put in touch the film director, the director of photography and find a location for them,” she adds. Founding the location was key, she emphasizes, otherwise they would have decided to film elsewhere. She says she cannot disclose the project details or names at this point.
Speaking on her motivation to bring this project forward Olha Reiter says culture is a way to introduce changes and enhance the economy. “Cinema also gives us an opportunity to tell our stories. Sometimes a film may deliver better diplomacy than 10 years of work by a diplomatic institution,” she summarized.