The Estonian Film Institute (EFI) is the largest funding source for film production in Estonia. It is
financed mainly by the Ministry of Culture. In 2016 the annual state support for film industry was €10,421,294 with €255,855 from the Estonian Film Institute, €640,000 from the Ministry of Culture and €2,035,461 from the Cultural Endowment.
EFI supports development, production and distribution of Estonian films and co-productions, cross-media projects, film-related events, the screening of art-house film programmes by cinemas,
film-related education, film-related research work, and the restoration and protection of film heritage. Production support is allocated for the production of a full-length feature films (65 minutes or longer), short films, documentaries and animations. Amateur film production, commissioned, promotional and commercial films as well as television broadcasts and series, pastime games, pornographic films and films promoting racism or violence are not eligible for production support. The recipient of production support is expected to spend at least 50% of the support grant on economic activity in Estonia. In case of minority co-production support is allocated to an Estonian producer for participation in a project of an international full-length feature film, long documentary film (50 minutes or longer) or
animation film provided that the main producer of the film project is not a legal entity registered in
Estonia and that the Estonian co-producer owns property rights for the film that are proportional to his or her participation. 100% of the grant is to be spent in Estonia. The amount of support allocated by EFI for a minority co-production may not exceed 70% of the project’s consolidated Estonian budget. According to the minority co-production grading table, the Estonian creative or production-related participation in a documentary film is required to be graded at least 3 (of which at least one point is from the creative grading table). Two calls for co-production projects are announced annually.
In February 2017 two documentaries have received EFI co-production support. Estonian company Maagiline Masin, co-producer of ‘Love Express’, produced by Polish company Colab Pictures and co-produced by HBO, received €25,000. Local prodco Vesilind was granted €20,000 as a co-producer of the film ‘Gentle Warriors’ produced by Lithuanian production company Moonmakers. The deadline for the second call for minority co-productions projects is September 27, 2017.
In 2016, Estonia launched a pilot cash rebate system, Film Estonia, targeted at foreign feature and quality TV productions. The overall budget in the first year of the cash rebate system reached €500,000. Estonia’s cash rebate allows for reimbursement of up to 30% of locally incurred costs. The maximum grant can be applied if the film production uses Estonian based filmmakers, actors and other production crew. It can also be applied if the story is Estonian or|and set in Estonia. The system imposes a €1 million minimum budget threshold for feature films and €2 million for animated films, as well as minimum requirements for local spend (€300,000 for features film, €100,000 for animated films). The cash rebate system generated over €1.5 million of inbound investment. Based on the initial success of the scheme, the budget for Film Estonia Fund doubled reaching €1 million in 2017.
There are also regional film funds which provide funding for film production. Estonia’s first regional fund – Viru Film Fund – provides cash rebate for any audio-visual filmed in the county of Ida-Virumaa, the Eastern region of Estonia. The fund is open to legal entities with established track record in
professional audio-visual production, but no restrictions as per legal residency. In 2016, the annual budget was around €50 000.
Another institution, 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% of eligible expenditure incurred in the Tartu area. This will be issued once production is complete if all of the requirements established by the fund are met.
Financing and educational opportunities of the European Union’s Creative Europe programmme are mediated by Creative Europe MEDIA desk operating as a separate department of the Estonian Film Institute. Estonia is also a member of Eurimages, the Council of Europe’s Film Support Fund.