The Next Film Industry Hotspot You Should Be Paying Attention To – Estonia

  • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is developing a new virtual ecosystem
  • Estonia has now four active cash rebates and talent capable of handling A-level production services

Tiny Estonia might be well-known as one of the digitally most advanced countries, but did you know that it has become a point of interest for the global film industry? Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was the latest example of international productions that enjoyed the help of Film Estonia’s cash rebate and the growing local talent and exciting filming locations, but international filmmakers have been regularly coming here in bigger numbers every year, looking for both fresh local and international films, projects and talent. Why? To attend the annual Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival aka PÖFF!

Black Nights, the youngest member in the distinguished A-category and the only one founded by a woman – Mrs Tiina Lokk –,  became a FIAPF-certified competitive film event in 2014 and has seen a steady rise in international recognition ever since, regularly premiering films that move on to screen at other festivals and get acquired by platforms like Netflix, Amazon and HBO, to name a few. It is also the place where the Nordic, Baltic and CIS region’s industry come to meet filmmakers and festival agents from all over the world.

What the festival is hoping to be able to organise again this year –
the physical opening ceremony

Ever since COVID-19 has shown its potential effect on societies and global systems, Black Nights has been preparing for several possible scenarios, getting ready to take place physically but also upgrading the digital infrastructure. „Actually, this is putting it mildly, “ says Tiina Lokk, „as some of the changes that are being prepared will actually rewire the festival’s DNA, making it more digital, networked and ubiquitous and inclusive than ever before,” she adds with excitement. “But first and foremost, we plan to make the physical festival happen!”

The plan includes building a unique online environment that caters the festival’s needs in terms of screening public and closed screenings, conferences, an extensive online industry platform that includes a market place, virtual meeting and pitching rooms and a year-around project market to connect projects at all stages of their cycle with respective parties of interest – financiers, producers, distributors etc.

Another important aspect will be the year-around promotion of Estonia as a location for production and recruiting talent, including the introduction of locations of interest, a database of the country’s professionals and the services they provide, and of course, the content they have produced. Estonia’s first two regional film funds – the Viru Film Fund and the Tartu Film Fund – will be in charge of keeping the locations and talent pools up to date.

The third fundamental element of the new platform is education, that will see the launch of PÖFF Academy aiming to provide high-quality audiovisual education with partners at the Estonian Film Institute, the Baltic Film, Media, Art and Communication School and the Pallas University of Applied Sciences.  

Shoot your next film in Estonia?

Did we get your attention with this? How about considering to shoot a project in Estonia? The previously mentioned Viru and Tartu film funds operate two of Estonia’s four cash-rebate systems, in addition to the country’s biggest, the Film Estonia Cash Rebate and the youngest, Film Fund of Estonian Islands

Several Soviet-era sites in Tallinn were used as locations in Tenet, including the inner city highway used for the car chase

Film Estonia recently allocated an unprecedented 5 million dollars to the production of Christopher Nolan’s upcoming thriller Tenet, while also offering a valuable professional experience for everyone involved, from the local production partners and talent to the film funds to the city government and the ministries. They were all left eager for more.

On the set of Erna at War. By Karl Anders Vaikla

Tartu, the second biggest city of Estonia has a film fund budgeted at €150,000 that was recently involved in the Danish-Estonian-Belgian coproduction of Erna at War, a historic drama set during the First World War. The film, directed Henrik Ruben Genz, sees Trine Dyrholm and Ulrich Thomsen in lead roles.

One of the many spectacular locations in Viru county is the Narva river that separates Estonia (left) from Russia (right

Viru Film Fund is located in the varied and exotic Eastern Estonia that borders Russia. The film fund, capped at €200,000, has supported several Estonian and Finnish co-productions, including the historic epics The Eternal Road that had its international premiere in the Official Selection – Competition of Black Nights in 2017, and 1944, an Estonian war epic. Two Estonian films, Mother by Kadri Kõursaar, and The Manslayer / The Virgin / The Shadow have won awards at Black Nights and received praise from international critics.


How to submit to Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Film Estonia Cash Rebate and production

Viru Film Fund and cash rebate

Tartu Film Fund and cash rebate






© 2019 NGO Black Nights Film Festival