Turkey boasts an impressive cinematic history and just before the Covid-19 crisis struck it launched a new cash rebate of up to 30% based on local spend for feature films, documentaries and TV series, as part of efforts to entice international productions to the country.
This will be a huge boost for Turkey as it emerges from the crisis in the coming weeks, helped by the emergence of Netflix-backed local series like Rise of Empires: Ottoman, and an improved security situation. Before the crisis almost 50 million foreign visitors had flocked to the country in 2019, helped by the US Department of State rating Turkey as Level 2, the second-least severe of four travel warning categories.
“It is very safe to film in Turkey, which is a magical place,” enthuses Ronald L Carr (Con Air, The Tale), US producer of French-Turkish-US drama Scent of my Daughter. “We filmed in the Hatay Province, near the Syrian border, including at a refugee camp, and the local crew and community were great – everyone chipped in.
“Turkey is also great for doubling for other locations, even Beverly Hills thanks to its high-end hotels (Wolfgang Puck, Ritz Carlton etc) and malls. We travelled to Iskenderun [the largest district in Hatay], which is on the Mediterranean and it looks just like Nice, so we did scenes there.”
Carr has set up his own company in Turkey, Czar Pictures, and plans to return to the country with a few more projects, including one with a “top-line” cast.
Local production activity is already happening and international productions are expected to return from June or July. "We continue our daily work during the Cov-19 pandemic by following strict protocols and regulations to ensure the health and safety of our crews and always in line with clients’ requests and requirements," insists Ege Yasar at leading local production service providers Mental Film. "Things are slowly getting back to a 'new normal’ and we already have several studio shoots confirmed for next month. We have adapted ourselves to this transition and in a short period we will be able to welcome foreign productions once more."
"It seems that the business will be in full swing towards the beginning of July. We are fully ready to handle remote productions in terms of technology and software," adds Chad Ozturk at another leading local production service provider, Panda Films.
Any productions looking to film in Turkey and access the incentive will need to spend at least TL6m (£760,000) in the country for feature films, and TL1m (£127,000) for documentaries and TV series (per episode).
Turkey is arguably most famous internationally for the city of Istanbul, considered by many to be the point where East meets West. The city has long attracted film productions that shoot against its picturesque backdrop.
Beyond the iconic architecture of Istanbul, Turkey offers a broad range of location options, ranging from the Eastern Black Sea mountain chain in the north to the Taurus mountains in the south and the high plateau region of Anatolia in the centre.
There are natural wonders like Cappadocia, which is where a lot of Hollywood and European films were shot in the past and is like an open-air film studio. Plus, beautiful beaches, rocky shores, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, mountains, dry lands, modern architecture, unique cities, towns and villages, all within close distance of each other.
"Turkey is the ideal country to shoot nowadays because of the currency drop," enthuses Osturk at Panda Films. "Imagine a country where you can find all kind of beaches, mountains, valleys, pastures, fields and A level crew who worked on top class Hollywood and Bollywood productions. You can get an English speaking gaffer for €215 for a 12 hour shoot day. The country really is a hidden paradise for cost effective production."
"Turkey is unique: a transcontinental country with centuries of intriguing heritage boasting a great range of locations and a diverse array of casting possibilities," adds Yasar at Mental Film. "Turkey’s climate provides all four seasons at any time so you can shoot what you want, when you want it across a large variety of terrains."
Filming in Turkey requires permits from the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which usually take about two weeks. However, producers should keep in mind that the general filming permit is only the first layer of permits; other regulations/permits will need to follow depending on the city of filming.
Turkey maintains an extensive and cost-effective transportation network with the Turkish Republic State Railways extending 10,985 kilometres across the country, including a high-speed line that connects Istanbul to Ankara. The network of highways and motorways also exceeds 10,000kms across the country.
Airport across Turkey welcome 12,000 international flights per week and should visiting producers wish to transport film equipment via sea, many ports across the country are open to international freight ships.
Turkey is a relatively cheap place to shoot with competitive prices for equipment rental and crew, and it offers a favourable exchange rate.
If producers are bringing in equipment, it’s best to do so with an ATA Carnet. If the crew are looking to hire locally, they should remember that the rental houses are based in Istanbul.
The intention is to transform the laid-back Mediterranean beach resort of Antalya into a major shooting hub, complete with its own studios. The area already has the historical Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival.