The audiovisual field in Estonia covers film-making and media services. The Ministry of Culture coordinates the drafting of legislation, strategies, action plans and other documents on media services and film policies. It also analyses developments in the content services and new technologies of media, cinema and information society, and makes appropriate suggestions. The Ministry of Culture coordinates the drafting of legislation and strategies on film policies; however, the general cinema scene is organised by the state-owned foundation Estonian Film Institute.
The General Principles of Cultural Policy up to 2020 (see chapter 1.1) state that:
- the state supports filmmaking in a capacity that meets the prerequisites for ensuring the continuation of professional filmmaking in Estonia and an increase in viewer interest;
- The Estonian Film Institute is the umbrella organisation for all-important activities in the field, supporting the development, production, and marketing of films. The institute is responsible for the restoration and digitalisation of the heritage in their possession, collects statistics on the topic and carries out activities related to in-service training and raising awareness of filmmaking. Estonian audiovisual heritage is digitalised and made available to the public;
- in cooperation with local municipalities and private companies, the state will create better opportunities for digital film screenings at theatres and culture halls in larger county centres. Estonian films are distributed at international festivals, as well as in cinemas and on television abroad and they are made available on new digital platforms;
- in Estonia, the internationalisation of filmmaking and co-production with film companies and filmmakers from other countries is supported. Estonia has the professional specialists and infrastructure for international companies to realise television and film projects in Estonia. Regional foundations are operating in order to offer the services needed internationally for producing audiovisual content in Estonia, as well as an organisation for marketing Estonia internationally as a filming location;
- the state appreciates professional filmmaking as the primary source of media literacy for young viewers and participants, and values the promotion of amateur and school film in Estonia;
- the Tallinn University Baltic Film and Media School will develop into a contemporary international higher education institution for film and media studies, where education in the field of film and audio-visual media can be obtained in Estonian as well as in English. Together with other universities, study and research directions will be developed to address the application of information and communication technologies in the creation of culture, but also cross-media studies, video game development, the digitalisation and re-use of cultural heritage, and the creation of digital learning ecosystems, including educational games. It is important that audio-visual in-service training is provided to teachers of general education schools.
The state-owned foundation Estonian Film Institute (EFI) was established by the Estonian Ministry of Culture in 1997 (then Estonian Film Foundation) with the task to share and distribute the national film budget. In 2013, EFI came to be as its successor, embracing a wider spectrum of activities in the Estonian film industry. EFI is financed by the Ministry of Culture. The institute is divided in three departments: production, development and marketing, and heritage. The production department gives support to the filmmakers at various stages of film making: supporting financially, reading concepts and scripts, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the projects, considering expert opinions from outside, and keeping a beneficial eye on the production process. The task of the development department is to help develop marketing deals for the finished product and to make sure the Estonian films find their way to festivals, audiences on foreign film markets and other important hubs of film executives and institutions.
The EFI heritage department manages films made in the Tallinn film studio in the years 1941-2001, which belongs to EFI. It owns authors rights and manages an arthouse cinema ‘Artis’. As there was only one film studio in the Soviet Estonia, it forms the considerable majority of all the films made in Estonia during this period.
EFI is member of the Creative Europe MEDIA Desk, mediating the financing and educational opportunities of European Union. EFI also organises the annual Estonian Film and TV award gala.
To ensure the preservation of more than 15 000 films created throughout a century, the state has supported the restoration, digitisation and systematisation of Estonian film legacy. There is also an ongoing plan of mass digitisation of movies. The Estonian Film Database has the objective of putting together the Estonian national filmography and making it available online for all interested parties.
An overview of the history of Estonian cinematography has been provided in the English-language publication “The World of Estonian Cinema” by EFI.
The state finances Estonian film production mainly through EFI and the Cultural Endowment. In addition, filmmakers can apply for aid from the European Union programmes. The Ministry of Culture gives out activity support to the Estonian Film Institute, the Black Nights Film Festival and the international festival of documentaries and anthropological films in Pärnu.
See also chapters 3.5.6 and 4.2.6.