Greece is looking to emerge strongly from the coronavirus. Already local productions are up-and-running and international projects are set to return in the coming months. But it is the Greek government’s approval of a rise in the country’s cash rebate incentive for film and TV productions from 35% to 40% that is the biggest highlight.
On top of the rise, there will also be an acceleration of the application process and payback of the rebate to further entice foreign investors.
Once the amended legislation has been voted and approved by parliament, which is expected to be July, the 40% cash rebate will apply to eligible expenses. Until then, applications are considered on the current 35% basis.
The incentive has already proven popular thanks to the extremely low minimum eligible Greek expenditure of €100,000 for feature films and documentaries and €30,000 for TV Series per episode, with no cap per project.
In a further boost, the Greek government has created a 30% tax credit, which can be combined with the rebate, as long as the amount a production receives does not exceed 50% of each project’s total production spend.
Forthcoming projects, expected to benefit from the incentives, include Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle Of Sadness, starring Woody Harrelson, which had originally been planned for a late April shoot but is now set for early July. Plus, Francois Uzan’s On Sourit Pour La Photo (literally Say Cheese), a France-Greece co-production between Radar Films, Unagi Films and Fenia Kossovitsa of Greek outfit Blonde.
While in the last couple of years, the country has hosted a selection of high-profile international shoots, including Michael Winterbottom’s projects Greed, which shot on the island of Mykonos, and The Trip to Greece, which filmed at several archaeological sites, including the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and the Ancient Agora of Athens.
Conspiracy thriller, Born to Be Murdered, directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino and starring John David Washington and Alicia Vikander, also filmed in Athens where a demanding riot scene and election speech were shot at Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament.
Another challenging shoot was Window to the Sea, a Spanish-Greek co-production, starring Emma Suárez and Akylas Karazisis, which filmed partially in Athens, but mainly on the island of Nisyros, where some scenes were actually shot in the crater of the island’s volcano.
Additionally, Do not Hesitate directed by Shariff Korver, a Dutch production looking for a safe location to showcase Syria found the ideal landscape at the Nida Plateau on the island of Crete. “We did not expect to find such great and suitable locations in Greece not to say in Europe for our project. Due to Heretic and their team the shoot went beyond our expectations,” says Leonitine Petit, CEO at Lemming Films, producers of the project.
ITV period drama The Durrells has also filmed in Greece on the island of Corfu.
“Some of the locations were quite remote, however there were always ways to work around them, sometimes with boats, sometimes with trucks, but the Greek locations teams are very highly experienced working in such environments,” enthuses Pat Lees, a producer on the show. “We worked on the last 3 seasons of the show with the experienced Greek line producer Kostas Raftopoulos who, along with his experienced crew, brought these elements together, assisted with the location permits, and created excellent working practices with the UK cast and crew.”
The majority of the Greek film crew, such as props department, electricians, locations team, production team, camera crew, SFX etc came from Athens, “which is the main crew base of the Greek film industry”, adds Lees. “They were excellent crew, very collaborative and highly profiled professionals. A number of supporting crew such as drivers, assistants in several departments, and some local suppliers came from Corfu.”
Greece offers a huge variety of locations, including thousands of archaeological sites and monuments, many of which are included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
“You can find everything from medieval old towns to Minoan palaces,” enthuses Venia Vergou, director of the Hellenic Film Commission, to KFTV. “The versatility of landscapes is also striking - from the snow-capped mountain Olympus to the volcano in Nisyros, and from the iconic Cycladic islands to the forests and lakes of the mainland.”
As it is a small country, within a few hours “productions can shoot in urban locations, villages by the sea or in white mountains,” adds Elena Priovolou at local production company, Argonauts Productions, to KFTV. “While Athens can shoot for all eastern countries, and parts of the city can also imitate upscale neighbourhoods in Italy or France. The natural parts are also so diverse they can double for any other country. We even have desert on the island of Limnos.”
Pretty much anything water/sea orientated can also be catered for. “Aside from the obvious, exotic beaches, we have underwater locations, marinas, harbours, and an abundant choice of boats, including yachts and motor sailers,” Simos Manganis, CEO of Green Olive Films, tells KFTV.
Greece is also renowned for its great light, thanks to 250 days of bright sunshine a year, and very soft winters.
Permits to shoot are generally straightforward to obtain, although they’re a little tougher to get at the archaeological sites, as they need time to pass through a committee. They are issued by archaeological, municipal, police, port and military authorities, and relevant ministries.
“We strongly advice producers to apply at the competent authorities of the Ministry of Culture and Sports at least one month prior to filming. Additionally, the expertise of Greek producers and location managers is needed to handle these permits,” says Vergou.
Fortunately, the new government is planning to make the application process for shooting at the archaeological sites quicker and easier. Likewise, more regional film offices are opening up to assist producers and help make the process smoother.
The Greek Film Centre offers production support and access to a network of experienced service companies throughout the country.
Production studios and sound stages are available in Greece, but they are not yet at the same level as neighbouring countries. However, Kapa Studios in Athens has the capacity of 10 sound stages (between 400 square meters and 1.600 square meters), while Nu Boyana Studios has announced that they will open a branch in Thessaloniki. Just three hours from Sofia by car, Thessaloniki is ideally located to move equipment from the original Nu Boyana facility, and an international airport makes it easy to bring talent into the country.
Thanks to the growing number of productions shooting across the country there are some very good local crew available to work on projects of all sizes. However, the numbers would be stretched thin if there were a lot of big productions shooting at the same time.
“Greek crews speak perfect English and have the expertise to collaborate flawlessly with international audio-visual productions,” insists Vergou. “We have outstanding drone operators and post-production facilities equipped with high-end industry technologies to world-class VFX.”
The majority of the workforce is based in the capital, Athens, but there are also efficient crews in other high demand places like Thessaloniki, Crete and Corfu.