Bosnia and Herzegovina is small country of around 3.8 million that was previously part of the former Yugoslavia. Most people in Europe know the country because of the Bosnian War of 1992-1995, which caused widespread death and displacement. These days, it is at peace but there is still some unrest. Earlier this year a number of major cities experienced riots as people protested against high unemployment and economic inertia.
In terms of film and TV production, BH has to contend with the fact that its larger neighbours, Croatia and Serbia, have become important centres of activity. When you also factor in the appeal of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria, it’s difficult for the country to woo high-profile productions.
Having said all this, BH has its attractions. A small country with a diversified landscape, it can offer a number of different looks within a relatively small geographic space. It is also popular with productions that want to recount the Balkans War.
The most high-profile recent production was Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey. The film, a wartime love story between a Serb man and a Muslim woman, shot in Sarajevo and Vares in 2011. Most productions in Bosnia are still centred on war-related themes. Another recent example was Twice Born (aka Venuto al Mondo) which starred Penelope Cruz. Cruz shot in Sarajevo for nine days during 2011.
Colin Farrell also shot in Bosnia. In Triage (2009), he played a photographer suffering the psychological consequences of spending a lot of time in a war-torn region. In 2013, Bosnian-born director Emir Kusturica shot Along The Milky Way in locations including Trebinje, Mt Zelengora, Mokra Gora, Kamen Gora, Prijepolje and Hutovo Blato. This was another war project. The one exception is Tesla, a film which will explore the life of scientific pioneer Nikola Tesla (scheduled for 2015).
In terms of commercials work, B-H’s locations offer is similar the rest of Eastern Europe – varied landscapes in close proximity with prices that are lower than Western Europe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is mostly landlocked, except for 26km of Adriatic Sea coastline. Emerge Film Solutions says: “The interior of the country is mountainous in the centre and south, hilly in the northwest, and flat in the northeast.”
With regards to interesting landscapes, the country has national parks, rivers, lakes, forests, waterfalls, countryside, bridges, traditional villages and Orthodox monasteries. Of particular interest is the Mostar Old Bridge, an elegant Ottoman bridge. Also interesting is the Blagaj Tekke, Despite significant damage during the Balkans War, Sarajevo continues to be a pull for producers.
In terms of climate, Bosnia has a moderate continental climate, marked by hot summers and cold, snowy winters. Herzegovina in the south of the country has a Mediterranean climate. In terms of permits, the process is pretty straightforward.
Bosnia doesn’t have a film commission at present so the first port of call should be your local embassy or consulate to find out the best channels into the country. Alternatively, talk to local production companies or companies you already know in neighbouring territories such as Serbia and Croatia.
There are no studios or post-production facilities in Bosnia so this work needs to be done in nearby Croatia or Serbia. Crews and equipment are usually brought in from nearby countries through there are a few local firms worth noting.
One of these is Scout Films which was formed in 2005 and is based in Sarajevo. Scout’s Ensar Halilovic says: “We are a production service company. We mostly work with foreign productions that are shooting in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We provide full service such as location scouting, acquiring necessary permissions, providing local crew and cast, assisting in equipment rental, handling accommodation and catering etc..”
Another local production firm is Refresh Production in Sarajevo, which can be found on Facebook and at www.refresh.ba.
In terms of casting, Emerge Film Solutions says: “Casting facilities are undeveloped so street casting is often required. Bosnia and Herzegovina offers mainly Bosnian, Serb and Croat looks. All other talent looks need to be brought in but close proximity to major European production centres allows easy access.” The same hold for directors and DoPs.
There have been reports of the Defence Ministry renting out military equipment, ammunition and soldiers for films, but this usually requires senior level government permission.
The main roads are in a fair condition, but rural roads are mostly in a poor condition, so allow for extra travelling time. Several international airlines service flights to B-H. In terms of accommodation, Sarajevo is the main centre and is home to hotels such as Hotel Central and City Boutique Hotel.