Latvian media man on U.S. top 100 list

  • 2000-11-23
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA – According to U.S. entertainment magazine Hollywood Reporter, Latvian Independent Television director general Andrejs Ekis is one of the 100 most influential entertainment and media figures worldwide, a claim that Ekis himself flatly agrees with.

Ekis is a television and movie fanatic. His arms and hands fly through the air as he explains his success and his interest in film making. Ekis went to St. Petersburg to study culture and got hooked on what he nowadays calls a drug.

"I had two possibilities - to be a film director or own a TV station," Ekis said. "My wife was expecting our third child so I had to choose so I could feed all three of them."

In short, Ekis went for the size of the wallet. The first TV station he started was called PICCA TV and became a huge success. Back in 1994 the Latvian air was full of different TV channels, Ekis said. "I had to do something different."

PICCA TV was the most stupid name Ekis could come up with. He got the idea from the way the screen was divided. On one side there were small information squares and in the bottom there was scrolling advertisements.

"Germans came here and saw PICCA TV and they could not understand how it could be successful," Ekis said. "It was PICCA TV's success that helped me build LNT in 1996."

Ekis has managed to build success after success. LNT is still the most successful commercial broadcaster in Latvia.

"I always say that I am a drug dealer," Ekis said. "Take Brazilian soap operas for instance. Lonely people want fairy tales. People not happy with their lives need a half-hour fix, and I know what people need. I must create an addiction for my viewers."

Still, Ekis thinks his position brings a huge responsibility where there is very little room for mistakes.

"I don't sell crimes or blood. I want positive people on the screen," Ekis said. "Television is the biggest microphone in the world."

Ekis said he doesn't know whose idea it was to put him on the top 100 list in the U.S. magazine but he thinks he belongs on it.

"When my wife was asked by journalists if she loves her children, she had to give the only possible answer, and now I am asked if I belong on that list; yes, of course, because nobody knew about Latvia before," Ekis said.

It's not the first time Ekis has been acclaimed with titles and fame. Last summer, a jury in Budapest named Ekis as the best manager in Eastern Europe.

There is, however, much ahead of the 36-year-old. His passion is still to make movies, and he calls his time as a TV channel general director a learning period.

"Now I am studying what viewers want from television," Ekis said. "I study ratings every day and I am learning."

Ekis predicts the death of TV as we know it in 10 years. He thinks people will sit at home and create their own movies and order programs, such as news, directly from TV stations. He is determined he will be one of those who will make movies for this kind of new television era.

"In 10 years I will be producing movies," Ekis said. "I would like to produce 10 movies every year."

Ekis said his favorite movies are "Dangerous Liaisons," featuring John Malkovich, Glenn Close and Uma Thurman in a French aristocratic setting and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," staring Jack Nicholson as a mental patient.

"This movie reminded me of living in the Soviet system," Ekis said. "Just like a mental hospital."

Ekis admitted he can cry at movies, but the last time he did so was three years ago when he saw Lars Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves."

Today Ekis owns a film studio called Platforma Filma, and he refers to it as the most modern film studio in the Baltics.

"We just bought brand new cameras so we won't be using Kodak anymore," he said. "Everything will be made in digital."

For a man who seems to have everything he could possibly have, he still craves more.

"The biggest freedom for me would be if I could be myself," Ekis said. "We all play roles with different masks."