Money talks and it is thanks to a lucrative series of financial incentives that Greece hosted about 60 international projects in 2021. The country’s cash rebate incentive for film and TV productions rose from 35% to 40%, and there has been an acceleration of both the application process and payback of the rebate. There is also a new 30% tax relief to be combined with the rebate.
Among those productions were season three of Amazon and Paramount’s political action thriller Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan; Small Village Films, Exile Entertainment and Arcadia’s Voices In Deep; and David Cronenberg’s Crimes Of The Future, co-produced by Robert Lantos for his Canadian outfit Serendipity Point Films and Panos Papahadzis of Athens-based Argonauts Productions. The sci-fi film, set in a near-future where humans are adapting to synthetic surroundings and evolving their biological makeup, was shot on location around the Greek capital and at Kapa Studios last summer.
“When I first wrote the screenplay for Crimes Of The Future, the film’s location was ambiguous,” writer/director Cronenberg has said. “But as the film came to fruition, we began exploring the opportunity to shoot in Greece. Looking at the unique buildings and exteriors in and around Athens, the incredible textures of an ancient city, and the hypnotic presence of an ancient sea, my vision for the film suddenly coalesced. Among the [other] Athenian gifts were the passionate and diligent Greek cast and crew who went over and above to make us feel welcome.”
Other recent shoots include Disney+ biopic Rise (formerly known as Greek Freak), about the life of Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo, which was serviced by Greek production service company Faliro House; the second season of Apple TV+’s Tehran, starring Glenn Close; and Millennium Media’s gangster movie The Enforcer, starring Antonio Banderas, which shot last summer and doubled Thessaloniki for Miami.
Millennium returned in March this year, shooting part of its thriller The Bricklayer — starring Aaron Eckhart as an ex-CIA agent lured out of retirement — at Nu Boyana Film Studios in Thessaloniki, part of which is still under construction. Meanwhile Nia Vardalos has written the script and is hoping to film My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 in Greece.
The Greek government and the Hellenic Film Commission of the Greek Film Center have worked hard to attract international productions despite the country having struggled during the pandemic. The commission has launched a location scouting support programme for international projects looking to film in Greece.
Several have shot on the Greek islands. In 2020, Evia hosted writer/director Ruben Östlund’s dark comedy Triangle Of Sadness, produced by Erik Hemmendorf of Stockholm’s Plattform Produktion with Heretic in Greece.
Triangle of Sadness: filming in Greece, Hellenic Film Commission
“The shoot was fantastic,” says Östlund. “The crew were experienced and engaged. The locals made anything we asked for possible. The locations in Hiliadou, Evia are completely unique. We were lucky with the weather, and were so lucky [to be able to film] with the Covid craziness.”
The Venetian mansions of Spetses housed Maggie Gyllenhaal’s psychological drama The Lost Daughter, starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson, and serviced by Faliro House. The island also hosted Rian Johnson’s Netflix sequel Knives Out 2.
Nida Plateau on the island of Crete stood in for Syria in Shariff Korver’s suspense drama Do Not Hesitate, produced by the Netherlands’ Lemming Film and Heretic.
Previously, UK outfit The Ink Factory and the BBC used Athens and the town of Elefsina to double for Palestine and Lebanon respectively in the TV drama The Little Drummer Girl.
“The generous support of numerous arms of government, and the highly talented crew and support team at Faliro House, made the shoot one to remember and repeat,” says The Ink Factory co-CEO Simon Cornwell.
Locations around Athens were also the setting for writer/director Marcel Barrena’s Mediterraneo: The Law Of The Sea, a Spain-Greece drama about the refugee crisis, produced by Fasten Films, Lastor Media, Arcadia Motion Pictures, Cados Producciones and Heretic. Filming took place in Attica from September to October 2020, with a crew of 172, of which 140 were Greek.
“Mediterraneo was a challenge for everyone involved — many exteriors, lots of action on the sea and a mixed cast and crew from Spain and Greece,” says producer Tono Folguera. “The interpersonal understanding on the team was peak. The technical level we found [in Greece] corresponds perfectly to European
standards and the infinite variety of landscapes and locations Greece offers was key for us to be able to adapt and deal successfully with changes in weather
Some projects even prioritised Greece over other locations, such as German director Nana Neul’s road-trip movie Daughters, which was filming in Germany in March 2020 when the production was put on hold due to the pandemic.
“We were supposed to go from Germany to Italy and then end in Greece,” says Bettina Brokemper at Heimatfilm, the German co-producer alongside Heretic. “But that changed once we were able to film again and, instead, we started back up in Greece in mid-June on the island of Amorgos.
“The experience was great, like filming at an outdoor studio where the cast and crew could walk from one location to the other and maintain their social distancing requirements.”
Greece offers so much variety — from medieval old towns to Minoan palaces; snow-capped Mount Olympus to the volcano on Nisyros; the picture-perfect Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea to the forests and lakes of the mainland; there is even a desert on the island of Lemnos.
The mainland of Greece and the region of Epirus hosted the Netflix TV series Beckett, directed by Ferdinando Cito Filomarino. Filming took place across the Vikos–Aoos Geopark with its spectacular views of mountains, forests and rivers and fertile plains and valleys in the mountain ranges from north to south.
The beautiful Ionian island of Corfu has also been used for the ITV series The Durrells with its Italian and Venetian architecture and flavour.
“You can even film within the crater of a volcano on the other worldly island of Nisyros, as Miguel Angel Jimenez did for his Spanish-Greek co-production, Window to the Sea,” adds Geronimaki.
Window to the Sea: filming in Greece, Hellenic Film Commission
Aside from beautiful historical and natural locations, there are plenty of modern sites open to filming. Highlights include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, which houses the national library, national opera and Stavros Niarchos Park. There are also plenty of upscale neighbourhoods that can stand in for Italy or France, and nothing is too far from a pristine beach. Greece is renowned for its light, thanks to 250 days of bright sunshine a year and mild winters.
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Stavroula Geronimaki, acting director, Hellenic Film Commission
One of the country’s key selling points is the variety of beautiful 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. “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.”
“It has been a very popular, safe alternative filming destination this year with close proximity to multiple beaches and access to varying landscapes,” adds Kopanou at Green Olive Films.
The capital, Athens, is particularly popular, and can even double for other locations. In Athens you can shoot easily all eastern countries, but it also has parts that could imitate an upscale neighborhood in Italy or France. Its natural parts are so diverse that it can double for any other country, insists Elena Priovolou at local outfit Argonauts Productions.
Greece is also renowned for the quality of its light, thanks to 250 days of bright sunshine a year and very mild winters.
Many of Greece’s most popular and picturesque filming locations are just a few hours’ drive from capital Athens. Many of the islands have their own airports and are easy to reach from the mainland by both sea and air. Greece is a four-hour flight from London and 10 hours from New York.
“Greece offers an ideal shooting environment with exciting diverse locations, mild climate, predictable weather, frequent and convenient flights from all European capitals, plus the lowest rates in the Euro zone,” enthuses Tsilifonis from Central Athens.
Shooting permits are generally straightforward to obtain, although it can be a little tougher for the archaeological sites, as the application needs time to pass through a committee. It’s also important to note that archaeological sites and monuments only allow shoots for long form scripted content, not for commercials.
“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.
Shooting permits are generally straightforward to obtain, although for archaeological sites applications must pass through a committee.
The Greek Film Center offers production support and access to a network of production service companies based throughout the country.
Athens’ Kapa Studios has 10 soundstages (between 400 square metres and 1,600 square metres), while Nu Boyana Studios is currently building a facility in Thessaloniki. Just three hours by car from Bulgarian capital Sofia, 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.
The growing number of productions shooting across Greece means there are good local crews available to work on projects of all sizes.
The majority of the workforce is based in capital Athens, but there are also efficient crews in other high demand places such as Thessaloniki, Crete and Corfu. They all speak excellent English.
Most of Greece’s popular and picturesque filming locations are just a few hours’ drive from Athens. Many of the islands have their own airports and are easy to reach from the mainland by both sea and air. Greece is a four‑hour flight from London and 10 hours from New York.