Money talks and it is thanks to a series of lucrative financial incentives that Greece has hosted about 200 international projects over the past couple of years. The country’s cash rebate incentive for film and TV productions rose from 35% to 40%, and there has been an acceleration of both the application process and rebate paybacks. There is also a new 30% tax relief to be combined with the rebate. Among those productions were season three of Amazon and Paramount’s action thriller Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan; Netflix sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, starring Daniel Craig; Small Village Films, Exile Entertainment and Arcadia’s Voices In Deep; and David Cronenberg’s Crimes Of The Future, co-produced by Robert Lantos for his Canadian outfit Serendipity Point Films and Panos Papahadzis of Athens-based Argonauts Productions. The sci-fi film, set in a future where humans are adapting to synthetic surroundings and evolving their biological makeup, was shot on location around the Greek capital and at Kapa Studios last summer.
“When I first wrote the screenplay for Crimes Of The Future, the film’s location was ambiguous,” writer/director Cronenberg has said. “But as the film came to fruition, we began exploring the opportunity to shoot in Greece. Looking at the unique buildings and exteriors in and around Athens, the incredible textures of an ancient city, and the hypnotic presence of an ancient sea, my vision for the film suddenly coalesced.
Among the [other] Athenian gifts were the passionate and diligent Greek cast and crew who went over and above to make us feel welcome.” Other recent shoots include Disney+ biopic Rise, about the life of Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo, which was serviced by Greek production service company Faliro House; the second season of Apple TV+’s Tehran starring Glenn Close; and Millennium Media’s gangster movie The Enforcer starring Antonio Banderas, which shot last summer and doubled Thessaloniki for Miami. Millennium returned in March 2022, shooting part of its thriller The Bricklayer — starring Aaron Eckhart as an ex-CIA agent lured out of retirement — at Nu Boyana’s nascent facility in Thessaloniki.
Current and forthcoming shoots include Nia Vardalos’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, which has been filming on the island of Corfu and in Attica, and Fernando Trueba’s English-language romantic thriller Haunted Heart, which shoots on Mount Pelion this autumn.
The Greek government and the Hellenic Film Commission of the Greek Film Center have worked hard to attract international productions despite the country having struggled during the pandemic. The commission has launched a location scouting support programme for international projects looking to film in Greece. Several have shot on the islands. In 2020, Evia hosted writer/director Ruben Ostlund’s dark comedy Triangle Of Sadness, produced by Erik Hemmendorf of Stockholm’s Plattform Produktion with Heretic in Greece. “The shoot was fantastic,” says Ostlund. “The crew were experienced and engaged.
The locals made anything we asked for possible. The locations in Hiliadou, Evia are completely unique. We were lucky with the weather, and were so lucky [to be able to film] with the Covid craziness.” The Venetian mansions of Spetses housed Maggie Gyllenhaal’s psychological drama The Lost Daughter, starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson, and serviced by Faliro House. The island also hosted Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
Nida Plateau, on the island of Crete, doubled for Syria in Shariff Korver’s suspense drama Do Not Hesitate, produced by the Netherlands’ Lemming Film and Heretic, while Amazon’s Daisy Jones And The Six filmed on the island of Hydra.
Locations around Athens were also the setting for Mediterraneo: The Law Of The Sea, writer/director Marcel Barrena’s Spain-Greece drama about the refugee crisis, produced by Fasten Films, Lastor Media, Arcadia Motion Pictures, Cados Producciones and Heretic. Filming took place in Attica from September to October 2020, with a crew of 172 — some 140 of them Greek. “Mediterraneo was a challenge for everyone involved — many exteriors, lots of action on the sea, and a mixed cast and crew from Spain and Greece,” says producer Tono Folguera. “The interpersonal understanding on the team was peak. The technical level we found [in Greece] corresponds perfectly to European standards, and the infinite variety of landscapes and locations Greece offers was key for us to be able to adapt and deal successfully with changes in weather patterns.”
Some projects even prioritised Greece over other locations, such as German director Nana Neul’s road-trip movie Daughters, which was filming in Germany in March 2020 when the production was put on hold due to the pandemic. “We were supposed to go from Germany to Italy and then end in Greece,” says Bettina Brokemper at Heimatfilm, the German co-producer alongside Heretic. “But that changed once we were able to film again and, instead, we started back up in Greece in mid-June on the island of Amorgos. The experience was great, like filming at an outdoor studio where the cast and crew could walk from one location to the other and maintain their social-distancing requirements.”
Modern and ancient locations
Greece offers so much variety — from medieval old towns to Minoan palaces; snow-capped Mount Olympus to the volcano on Nisyros; the picture-perfect Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea to the forests and lakes of the mainland. There is even a desert on the island of Lemnos, while the striking mountainous region in northern Greece is particularly popular with action movies and thrillers.
Aside from historical and natural locations, there are many modern sites open to filming. Highlights include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, which houses the national opera, national library and Stavros Niarchos Park. Upscale neighbourhoods can also stand in for Italy or France, and nothing is too far from a pristine beach.
“Thessaloniki, which hosts the Nu Boyana Film Studios, has attracted numerous major productions recently, as has the Peloponnese, which offers an impressive variety of locations, from picturesque villages to sandy beaches,” says Stavroula Geronimaki, Hellenic Film Commission’s operations manager.
Greece is renowned for its light, thanks to 250 days of sunshine a year and mild winters. Shooting permits are fairly easy to obtain, though archaeological site applications must pass through a committee.
As clearly highlighted above, Greece offers so many stunning, varied locations — from medieval old towns to Minoan palaces; snow-capped Mount Olympus to the volcano on Nisyros; the picture-perfect Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea to the forests and lakes of the mainland; there is even a desert on the island of Lemnos.
The mainland of Greece and the region of Epirus hosted the Netflix TV series Beckett, directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino. Filming took place across the Vikos–Aoos Geopark with its spectacular views of mountains, forests and rivers and fertile plains and valleys in the mountain ranges from north to south.
“An impressive number of films, particularly actions and thrillers, take place in our mountains in northern Greece because the scenery is so powerful, insists Elena Priovolou at local company Argonauts Productions. While in Athens you can easily shoot all eastern countries, but it also has parts that could imitate an upscale neighborhood in Italy or France. And its natural parts are so diverse that they can double for any other country.
“There's a real appetite for filming in and around our capital city, with Athens' archaeological sites and magnificent backdrops proving eternally popular locations,” adds Galateia Kapralou, head of production at local outfit NEEDaFIXER, who have been working on drama series Cartes Postales and One August Night.
“The city of Thessaloniki, which hosts the Nu Boyana Film Studios, has also attracted numerous major productions recently, as has Peloponnese, which offers an impressive variety of locations, from mountains to picturesque village, waterfalls and sandy beaches,” says Stavroula Geronimaki, acting director of the Hellenic Film Commission.
The Greek islands are also proving to be hot filming spots. “The reason is their beauty, unique landscape and vast diversity, combined with useful facilities for productions,” says Priovolou. Corfu has recently been used for the ITV series The Durrells and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 with its Italian and Venetian architecture and flavour.
You can even film within the crater of a volcano on the other worldly island of Nisyros, as Miguel Angel Jimenez did for his Spanish-Greek co-production, Window to the Sea.
Aside from beautiful historical and natural locations, there are plenty of modern sites open to filming. Highlights include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, which houses the national library, national opera and Stavros Niarchos Park. There are also plenty of upscale neighbourhoods that can stand in for Italy or France, and nothing is too far from a pristine beach.
Greece is also renowned for the quality of its light, thanks to 250 days of bright sunshine a year and very mild winters.
Many of Greece’s most popular and picturesque filming locations are just a few hours’ drive from capital Athens. Many of the islands have their own airports and are easy to reach from the mainland by both sea and air. Greece is a four-hour flight from London and 10 hours from New York.
“Greece offers an ideal shooting environment with exciting diverse locations, mild climate, predictable weather, frequent and convenient flights from all European capitals, plus the lowest rates in the Euro zone,” enthuses Tsilifonis from Central Athens.
Shooting permits are generally straightforward to obtain, although it can be a little tougher for the archaeological sites, as the application needs time to pass through a committee. It’s also important to note that archaeological sites and monuments are available to long-form scripted content and commercials, as long as they meet the requirement of no violence, racism or sexism.
But Fay Katsari, owner at local production service providers Dare Film, who have been busy on commercial campaigns for the likes of Nike and Hermes, says “the permit process is now quicker for archaeological sites”. Equally, Vassilis Lanier, executive producer and partner at Avion Films, adds that “traffic police are more flexible about blocking off streets”.
Producers are strongly advised to apply at the competent authorities of the Ministry of Culture and Sports at least one month prior to filming. Additionally, the expertise of Greek producers and location managers is needed to handle these permits.
The Greek Film Center offers production support and access to a network of production service companies based throughout the country. Athens’ Kapa Studios has 10 soundstages (between 400 square metres and 1,600 square metres), while Nu Boyana Studios is topping out a facility in Thessaloniki. Just three hours by car from Bulgarian capital Sofia, Thessaloniki is ideally located to move equipment from the original Nu Boyana facility, and an international airport makes it easy to bring talent to Greece.
The growing number of productions shooting across the country means there are good local crews available to work on projects of all sizes. The majority of the workforce is based in capital Athens, but there are also efficient crews in other high-demand places such as Thessaloniki, Crete and Corfu. They all speak excellent English.
Most of Greece’s popular and picturesque filming locations are just a few hours’ drive from Athens. Many of the islands have their own airports and are easy to reach from the mainland by both sea and air. Greece is a four‑hour flight from London and 10 hours from New York.
Most of Greece’s popular and picturesque filming locations are just a few hours’ drive from Athens. Many of the islands have their own airports, and are easy to reach from the mainland by both sea and air. Greece is a four‑hour flight from London and 10 hours from New York.
Greece is a member of the European Union and a participant in the Schengen Agreement. Its currency is the euro.