After an impressive 2021, Croatia’s record as a go-to filming destination continued this year, with a huge array of international film and TV projects, including season four of Amazon and Paramount TV’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan in the popular city of Dubrovnik.
Other projects include Danish feature Camino, which shot on location in Zagreb and Rijeka from April, while Constantin Television is preparing two new entries in the Split Homicide (Der Kroatien Krimi) series to shoot in Split and Dubrovnik.
UK outfit Eagle Eye’s series Hotel Portofino is also set to return to Croatia for season two. “We found Croatia extraordinarily versatile in terms of locations, geographical variety and architectural range,” says Walter Iuzzolino, CEO of Eagle Eye. “The expertise of the crew and local creatives proved invaluable.”
A further six confirmed international projects have applied for the enticing 30% financial incentive and are set to shoot in 2022, although details are under wraps for now.
Among the abundance of big projects that shot in 2021 was Brandon Cronenberg’s sci-fi thriller Infinity Pool, a Canada-Croatia-Hungary co-production starring Alexander Skarsgard, and backed by Neon, Topic Studios, Film Forge, Hero Squared and 4 Film among others.
“We knew Canada would not be suitable, despite our beautiful scenery,” says producer Karen Harnisch of Toronto’s Film Forge. “It was clear as soon as we arrived that Croatia would provide the perfect setting, including the Sibenik area, with the support of 4 Film and the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.”
Another visitor was ITV Studios and Altitude Television’s spy series The Ipcress File, which filmed in Zagreb, Rijeka and Split in spring 2021. “After our great experience with McMafia, with James Watkins directing, we returned to Croatia for The Ipcress File with the same director,” says producer Paul Ritchie. “In one day’s drive from Zagreb to Split, I found 14 different world cities as filming locations!”
Other projects include Netflix crime series Clark, Sweden’s Dramacorp Pampas Studios series Agent Hamilton and Netherlands-Belgium-Croatia co-production Crossing, which shot in May and June 2021. “The film is set in Morocco and Spain, but the filming was done in Pula, Rijeka, Zadar and Zagreb, which was challenging,” says Germen Boelens of Dutch co-producer Revolver Films. “Still, the experienced and well-prepared crew we worked with in Croatia made it that much easier.”
Tanja Ladovic Blazevic, head of the Filming In Croatia department at the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, expects the industry to be working at full capacity this year. “There is pent-up global demand for high-end content,” she explains, “and we intend to help meet it.”
Pre-pandemic, major projects to shoot in Croatia included Amazon and Endgame Entertainment’s romantic drama Bliss starring Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson, HBO series Succession and Lionsgate’s action sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard starring Hayek, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson.
“Croatia is a wonderful place to shoot. The crew are fantastic, no-nonsense, talented technicians and nothing seemed to be a problem — there were only solutions,” says Matt O’Toole, producer of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, which shot predominantly in the Istria coastal town of Rovinj. “We pretty much shut down the entire town, the local business owners and authorities were a dream to deal with and helped us achieve everything we needed, including some hefty action sequences. We also shot in Zagreb which, again, was a great experience.”
The variety of dramatic locations is a key selling point to Croatia’s appeal. Dubrovnik boasts a mix of Roman, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque architecture, as well as beaches with azure seas, castles, vineyards, cobblestones and snowy peaks. HBO shot several seasons of Game Of Thrones here. The city has a good infrastructure, with an airport and hotels for large crews. But productions need to be careful with set construction and builds, as Dubrovnik is a protected Unesco world heritage site. Croatia’s capital Zagreb and the city of Rijeka are also popular shooting spots.
Croatian locations can double for other countries. McMafia shot in Zagreb for Prague, the city’s Dubrava hospital for one in Russia, Johann Franck nightclub for a Tel Aviv nightspot and the lunar-like Pag island doubled for the sands of Egypt.
The BBC series also filmed at the seaside resort of Opatija on the Kvarner Gulf, which is known for its Mediterranean climate and historical buildings. “You really could be in the south of France, it’s the Croatian Riviera,” notes director Watkins.
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 has a track record in global production and there are several full-service production companies in the country. The Croatian Audiovisual Centre assists incoming productions.
Crews are highly skilled and reliable, speak English and can service even the most demanding productions. Croatia has a good infrastructure, offering video cameras, sound, lighting and grip equipment through rental houses.
Plans to build a state-of-the-art studio complex near Zagreb are at an advanced stage. Until then, Jadran Film operates a facility in the city. It has five soundstages, including one with an internal pool.
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.