Croatia has been part of the Schengen Area, the world’s largest ‘free travel’ zone, since January 2023. This means the country has also adopted the euro as its currency and the film sector is expected to benefit as the territory comes into line with most of Europe.
Productions have also been drawn to the beautiful Adriatic locations and mix of architectural styles, ranging from Roman to medieval, baroque to modern for a long time. Moreover, Croatia is also known for doubling other locations, with capital Zagreb used to recreate Prague, Paris, Budapest and Vienna.
In 2022, 16 international projects used the incentive to shoot in Croatia, including Kate Winslet-starrer Lee, season three of Netflix’s Vikings: Valhalla, season two of Britbox’s Hotel Portofino and feature film Canary Black. And 2023 is predicted to be even busier, with as many as 20 projects expected to visit the country. Finnish series Ride Out has started filming on location around Zagreb, while Italian feature Napoli New York is based in Rijeka. Constantin Television is returning to Dalmatia with Split Homicide parts 15 and 16, while Hotel Portofino returns for its third season. The first Czech project that applied for the rebate was series On The Waves Of The Adriatic.
“This year is going to be a record-breaking year for the number of projects and for the international spend in Croatia,” says Tanja Ladovic Blazevic, head of Filming In Croatia. “I always say the crews and the local production companies are the most important [attractions]. They are the pillars of everything because they are responsible and very good workers. They know how to handle every situation.”
International producers know the incentive will be paid promptly and it is a safe place to visit. There has also been increasing collaboration between Croatia and its neighbours. Brandon Cronenberg’s horror film Infinity Pool was put together as a Canada-Hungary-Croatia co-production and received support both through the cash rebate and the state fund for minority co-production (awarded on a selective basis).
Shooting tends to be seasonal with crews arriving in the spring and again in the early autumn. July and August are high season for tourism, which means hotel prices rise sharply and it is more difficult for crews to find accommodation. Croatia does not have a big film studio — plans were underway to build one pre-pandemic, but these have been shelved for now. However, there are some small studio facilities — CineCro Studio opened recently with two smaller soundstages available.
Shooting at these locations can be straightforward, say producers, but requires the assistance of local production contacts. “[For The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard], we closed traffic on a bridge and in various towns for action and stunt driving scenes,” says Igor A Nola of local outfit MP Film, which gave production service support to The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and McMafia. “We also closed a state road for five consecutive working days, two weeks in a row. We got huge support from local road authorities, police and community.”
Shooting in the summer, particularly in the coastal towns, can be difficult because of tourists, so most productions tend to visit between October and May. Preparation is key. Depending on the location, it is advisable to talk to local authorities, or even government officials, well in advance. For some nationalities, both shooting and work permits are required, as well as visas. Hiring the services of a local co-ordinator is recommended.
“Croatia offers a very high diversity of locations within a geographically compact area, says Blue Sky Adriatic's Magdic. “The region is also blessed with two different types of climate (mild Mediterranean on the coast and Continental inland) also within a short distance of each other, which in turn provides the region with a variety of looks.“
Light Film International's Igor Mijoljević says Croatia is a “production-friendly country that offers various types of locations in one place — from breathtaking natural spots to historical towns.“
“The country has always been at the crossroads of East and West, a meeting point of different cultures, peoples and experiences. The capital Zagreb is a modern city with central European feel and the old town from the Habsburg era, while towns such as Dubrovnik, Split, Trogir, Šibenik, Zadar and Pula offer well-preserved Roman and Renaissance architecture. Besides that, the country is peppered with grand castles, stone towns and fortresses with impressive stories that are truly a creative mind's dream.
“That historical side of the country is its main strength as a place of production, but Croatia is much more than that. It also offers super modern architecture, advanced communication infrastructure, forward-looking green projects and technological solutions, smart offices and homes, numerous modern villas blended into nature, a new and functional highways network to swiftly get around,“ Mijoljević adds.
With so much production going on, there has been some pressure on crews. In the short term, local production companies have managed to put together crews for all projects currently scheduled to shoot. Leading local production companies with successful projects within the incentive programme include 4Film, Antitalent, Blue Sky Adriatic, Embassy Films, Drugi plan, MP Film Production and PAKT Media.
Crews are skilled and reliable, speak English and can service even the most demanding productions. Croatia has a good infrastructure, offering cameras, sound, lighting and grip equipment through rental houses. Plans to build a studio complex near Zagreb are at an advanced stage, while Jadran Film has five soundstages, including one with an internal pool.
Blue Sky Adriatic is a full-service production company working in the South East Europe/Adriatic region with emphasis on Croatia and Slovenia. With over 20 years of experience, the outfit have facilitated numerous high-profile international productions, but are also well-versed at finding low-cost solutions. As a service production, Blue Sky Adriatic supply equipment to clients by collaborating with reliable local vendors who are internationally well connected and who can acquire the equipment requested for the production.
The company specialises in international projects of any scale. For example, they facilitated Tribes of Europa for Wiedemann & Berg (producers of Dark) which was Netflix Europe’s largest project in 2021, which was shot in Croatia, Germany and Czech Republic. More recently, they facilitated high-profile German TV movie Riesending which primarily shot in caves deep underground for Senator Films.
On the TV commercials front, the company have facilitated major productions such as Tool of North America, Iconoclast, Park Pictures, RSA, Believe Media, BLM, Anorak and Markenfilm to name the few.
Light Film International is a production service company for commercials, films, TV series and documentaries. The local outfit provides complete production services including casting, location scouting, equipment rental, planning, budgeting, crew, security and permits.
Headquartered in Zagreb, Croatia, the company's reach extends across Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia, affording Light Film International with local knowledge and their clients a wide range of potential filming locations from the Mediterranean or the Alps to urban, rural and historic or modern landscapes.
“In our 20+ years of experience we've gained a profound understanding of international productions, which we now use to help productions succeed no matter how demanding the task. With each work we have done, we have made contacts so that today we cooperate with a number of top international professionals, supported by our highly skilled local teams,“ explains Light Film International's Igor Mijoljević.
Over the years, the company has facilitated shoots for international clients such as: Coca-Cola, Apple, Huawei, Avon, Pepsi-Cola, Allianz, Rovio, Dr.Oetker, National Geographic, Lidl, Bethesda, Tencent, Booking.com, among others.
The company's gamut of specialist equipment includes: Locally based U Crane, low loader, variety of drones from DJI ti Alta X and other heavy duty drones. A Bolt robot arm, Supertechno and other cranes, all the latest editions of light equipment, cameras from all Alexa editions to Sony Venice 2 to Phantom 4K and variety of the latest lenses.
They have recently worked on projects for many international brands such as: Booking.com, Gatorade, Dr. Oetker, Bertolli, Autodoc, Tempur and Lidl. They also provided production services for Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted – Croatia episode, as well as local support for several episodes of Abandoned Engineering, a docuseries produced by Like A Shoot.
Croatia lies between Central and Eastern Europe and borders the Adriatic. It extends more than 57,000 square kilometres and is split into three geographically distinct zones: the coastal region (including 1,244 islands, 48 of which are inhabited), the mountain region and the Pannonian Region, all well-connected by road.
The capital Zagreb is the main production centre, so crew, equipment and talent need to travel from there. Beaches are a 90-minute drive from Zagreb and it is possible to go from coast to mountains in about four hours. Historical city Dubrovnik is a six-hour drive from Zagreb, but flights take less than an hour.
“Croatia’s infrastructure is super convenient — everything is connected with a network of newly built highways and it’s easy to reach all the corners of the country in just 90 minutes drive,“ says Light Film International's Mijoljević.
Croatia is a small yet diverse country situated at the crossroads of Central Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean. It extends over 56,594 square kilometres, bordering Slovenia and Hungary in the north, Serbia in the east, and Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro in the south. Croatia also has a long maritime border with Italy in the Adriatic Sea as well as 6,278 kilometres of coastline and 1,244 islands.
Croatia has excellent transport links thanks to its highly developed tourism industry. Zagreb is the centre of the film business, while Dubrovnik is only an hour’s flight away. It takes an hour or so in a car to get from Zagreb to the coast.
Croatia can be divided into three geographically distinct zones: coastal, highland and the Pannonian region, connected by modern highways, which shorten the distance.
Zagreb Airport is the centre of air traffic, while smaller airports on the coast (Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Pula, Rijeka) bring a large number of passengers to Croatia, most of them tourists.
First person to contact
Tanja Ladovic Blazevic, head, Filming In Croatia: firstname.lastname@example.org