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Making a movie in Lithuania

I spent 9 weeks in Lithuania shooting the feature Lošejas (The Gambler). I starred as Ieva, a woman who starts a love affair with a co-worker and struggles with a moral dilemma while trying to raise a young son. The film is directed by Lithuanian director Ignas Jonynas, and is entirely in Lithuanian.

 

Although my father is Lithuanian, I only started learning Lithuanian in the last two years through classes here in Los Angeles. That was the basis for serious work on the script. After a month with a speech coach working on my accent and lots of hard work on my own, I found a comfortability with the language and the script that I can be proud of. The language work and some intense scenes in various bodies of water under various weather conditions made this some of the most challenging work I’ve ever done as an actor. 

 

  • Užupis street Užupis street My neighborhood while staying in Vilnius...
  • Market breakfast Market breakfast Summer in Lithuania means farmers markets with fresh fruits and vegetables. Heaven!
  • Varnikai Varnikai A visit to Varnikai, a nature preserve just outside of Vilnius.
  • Semeniškiai Semeniškiai A visit to my uncle Kostas with my cousins...
  • Raganų Kalnas Raganų Kalnas Sculptures in Hill of Witches in Juodkrantė, Neringa
  • Raganų Kalnas Raganų Kalnas Wood sculpture in Hill of Witches in Juodkrantė, Neringa
  • Uncle Kostas Uncle Kostas
  • On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) First day of shooting.
  • On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) Working with actress Vilija Grigaitytė
  • On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) With co-star Vytautas Kaniušonis
  • On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) On the set of Lošejas (The Gambler) With director Ignas Jonynas and co-star Vytautas Kaniušonis
  • Still from Lošejas (The Gambler) Still from Lošejas (The Gambler) With co-star Vytautas Kaniušonis
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I got to Lithuania with no expectations. I simply loved the script and the character I was playing. The prospect of working for 9 weeks with people you don’t know, especially in a foreign country can be a bit scary. So I was happy to find a super-professional production. Everyone was helpful and friendly and welcoming from day one. By the end of the production, I could easily say I can come anytime to Lithuania and shoot a film of my own and know exactly who to call.

 

With a few days off here and there, I got to visit my family in Lithuania and reconnect with my Lithuanian roots. 9 weeks is a long time to spend in a country by yourself, but I always felt welcome and comfortable. Vilnius in the summertime is magical, and every day had a new discovery. We also spent a week shooting in Klaipeda, by the Baltic Sea. I spent a couple of days in Neringa, taking a ferry across the Curonian Lagoon and then a bus down the Curonian Spit, stopping in Juodkrantė and Nida. Juodkrantė is possibly my favorite place in Lithuania. It’s a sleepy town, with just a few restaurants and shops and a really cool sculpture park in the forest called Hill of Witches (Raganų kalnas). Nida, on the other hand, seems built for tourists. I enjoyed myself there even though it was just for one night. I stayed in a very nice guest house near town, walked the beaches and ate a ton of smoked fish, which is the specialty in Neringa.

 

Between the amazing work, seeing family and soaking in local culture, the trip was an incredible experience, one that I would happily do again. The Gambler should turn up late next year in the festival circuit. I’m super excited to see the finished film!

 

 

5 Responses so far.

  1. Whit Spurgeon says:

    That’s awesome, Oona!

  2. Ajay says:

    Hi I am from Delhi, India and just watched your movie, Gambler, in a film festival here. I liked it very much.

  3. Sean M Shepard says:

    Amazing film! My (Lithuanian) wife and I are uber-impressed with your complete lack of American accent when you speak Lithuanian! Amazing! I hope to see you in more Lithuanian films in the near future!

  4. Richard Penny says:

    Oona,
    Just saw your film The Gambler. Wow. Gritty and poignant. I will have to look for you in other films.
    Excellent work.
    Richard in Seattle.

    • admin says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Richard in Seattle! I’ve taken a hiatus while raising my young daughter, and just starting to look for new projects… Best, O.

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