Croatia has already resumed local production filming and is expected to welcome international productions shortly, as there is no quarantining or testing required when entering the country.
This will be good news for Hollywood and international producers worldwide, as Croatia has proven to be one of the hottest shooting territories in the world, constantly featuring high on the Hollywood studios’ places to film.
In recent times major projects have included Amazon Studios and Endgame Entertainment’s romantic drama Bliss, starring Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson, HBO’s series Succession, BBC crime drama series McMafia, which filmed across Croatia, including the island of Prvic, doubling it for the Mojave desert, and the action sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson.
The draw of incredible shooting locations, especially along the coast, is a strong one for these productions. But there’s also the enticing film incentive, raised to 25% of qualifying local expenditure in 2018, with an additional 5% if productions shoot in less developed regions of Croatia.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard took advantage of the incentives, filming in several locations, including the small town of Rovinj on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. The old town stands on a headland with houses tightly crowded down to the seafront.
“We pretty much shut the entire town down,” explains Matt O’Toole, a producer on The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, to KFTV. “The local business owners and authorities were a dream to deal with and helped us achieve everything we needed to, including some hefty action sequences.”
Other locations included the capital Zagreb, the city of Karlovac in central Croatia, and Pisarovina, in the county of Zagreb, for a total of 11 days. As well as the port city of Rijeka for seven days, Motovun and River Mirna Valley for 10 days, the Lim Channel for five days, Buje for two days, the island Bisevo and Vodnjan for a day.
In total there were 489 professional crew members and 621 extras used across these locations. Most of whom were locals and they left a strong impression on the producers, some of whom even travelled to the UK to be involved in the shoot there.
“The crew are fantastic, no nonsense and talented technicians and nothing seemed to be a problem - there were only solutions,” says O’Toole.
Of the more well-known, and popular, locations in Croatia, most productions turn to the stunning walled city of Dubrovnik. In recent years, it has hosted an impressive line-up of projects, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Robin Hood, Game of Thrones, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.
“Most projects tend to base themselves in Dubrovnik,” explains Tanja Ladovic Blazevic, programme co-ordinator at Filming In Croatia, to KFTV. This is partly thanks to the city’s good infrastructure, which includes airports and hotels for big crews. “The other cities like Zagreb and Rijeka are also popular.”
But venturing away from the cities is a cornucopia of landscapes and scenery, which will take your breath away. "Croatia offers a large variety of locations, contrasting from snowy Alpine peaks to lush green forests to spectacular Mediterranean coast with numerous islands, all in compact geographical region," enthuses Bojan Magdic at local production service providers Blue Sky Adriatic.
“There’s also everything from idyllic hills in the north (Zagorje) to dramatic river canyons (Zrmanja) and abandoned villages still marked by war (Lika),” adds Antonia D. Carnerud at Croatian Films Ltd to KFTV.
The stunning coastline alone stretches for 6,278 kilometres and includes 1,244 islands, of which only 48 are inhabited. “The Mediterranean climate offers long periods of good weather and travel is easy between [the coastal and mountain] locations thanks to good highways,” Jernej Krivic, head of production at local outfit Bas Production, tells KFTV.
Plus several of Croatia’s locations can, and have, doubled for a huge variety of countries. McMafia has doubled Zagreb for Prague, Dubrava Clinical Hospital for a Russian hospital, the Johann Frank nightclub for a club in Tel Aviv, and the lunar-like Pag doubled for the sands of Egypt. In the latest season it also doubled for Italy.
“The producers considered Italian locations, but our overall diversity of locations, our services, crew, competitive budgets, as well as the tax incentives, prevailed,” enthuses Igor A. Nola of local outfit MP Film, which provided production support for McMafia.
“There are so many options, such as Hrvatsko Zagorje for Tuscany, Italy, Zagreb for Vienna, Austria, Slavonia for Hungary, the Adriatic islands for Sicily or Sardinia, Pula for Rome, the Velebit Mountains for the Pyrenees, and more,” enthuses Alen Milic, founder of Film Croatia, to KFTV.com.
Shooting at these various locations can be relatively straightforward, but requires the assistance of experienced local production contacts. “It has become a little more complicated due to large amounts of shoots and tourists visiting the country,” says Krivic. “Depending on the locations chosen, it involves talking to local authorities or even going to high-end officials in the government.
“[It is important to note that] It is not possible to shoot in summer in the coastal towns due to tourist season, so most shoots there happen between October and May. But road blocks can be achieved within 14 days, although a bit more time is needed for longer periods of shooting in city centres.”
“[For Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard] We closed traffic on a bridge and in various towns for action, stunt driving scenes. We also managed to close down a state road for five consecutive working days – two weeks in a row. We got huge support from local road authorities, police and community,” enthuses Nola at MP Film to KFTV.
Mirta Jusic Dovoda, CEO at Mirta Productions, does voice a note of caution though to KFTV: “The government institutions are not always co-ordinated. Some of them expect you to start the procedure at least a month in advance. For some nationalities there are not only shooting permits but also work permits to be done, as well as visas.”
This is why hiring the services of a local co-ordinator is key.
The local production companies and crew are very experienced and speak good English, so are vital to international producers.
“There are plenty of experienced high-end crew, lots of equipment, and Croatia is part of the EU (unlike some of its neighbouring countries), so it’s easy to bring crew and equipment in, if necessary,” says Krivic.
As for studios, the main facility is....
Jadran Film – based in Zagreb, this film production and distribution company offers five soundstages, including one with an internal pool, and lots of office space. However, it tends to be booked up fast due to a large amount of local productions that film there.
“[But] there are several smaller stages, as well as warehouses and open lots throughout the country that are regularly adapted by production companies for larger scale shoots,” says Blazevic at Filming In Croatia.
The Croatian government is also backing plans to build a major new studio near Zagreb airport to help accommodate the rise in productions.
Croatia lies between central and Eastern Europe, bordering the Adriatic coast. It extends over 57,000 square kilometres and is split into three geographically distinct zones: the Coastal region (including 1,244 islands, of which 48 are inhabited), the Mountain region and the Pannonian region, all well connected by road. Capital Zagreb is the main production centre, so crew, equipment and talent generally need to travel from there. Beaches are a 90-minute drive from the capital and it is possible to go from coast to mountains in around four hours. Dubrovnik is a six-hour drive from Zagreb but there is the option of a flight in under an hour.