Greece hosted more than 20 large-scale international projects in 2021 as the country’s lucrative suite of financial incentives helped to entice productions. The cash rebate incentive for film and TV productions stands at up to 40% and Greek administrators looked to speed up the application process and payback of the rebate. Coupled with a new 30% tax relief to be combined with the rebate and a further effort from public institutions to be more supportive, the territory has welcomed an even healthier flow of incoming projects.
Stefi Productions' George Linardakis revealed that as of summer 2023, they have been "working on on 3 feature films (from Europe and other territories), a returning TV series and the 2nd season of another one and the development of our international projects Letters to Leonard and The left hand of Venus."
Recent productions included Rian Johnson’s sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery for Netflix, which shot on the Greek island of Spetses, located approximately 100 kilometres from the capital Athens, and the Porto Heli resort; and Universal Pictures’ My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, which filmed on the island of Corfu and in Athens.
Nu Boyana Film Studios, the Bulgarian production hub owned by Hollywood independents Nu Image and Millennium Media, broke ground on a studio facility partnership with John Kalafatis, CEO of the New York City-based York Films, in Thessaloniki. Dubbed Nu Boyana Hellenic, it played host to Renny Harlin’s The Bricklayer in 2022 and MJ Bassett’s comic-book adaptation Red Sonja.
Set against the backdrop of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, Millenium Media-backed Dirty Angels, directed by Martin Campbell and starring Maria Bakalova, Eva Green and Ruby Rose, also shot at locations across the Greek port city. It follows a group of female soldiers posing as medical relief who are sent to rescue kidnapped teenagers caught between Isis and the Taliban.
The third season of Tehran, the high-end series from Apple TV+, is also filming in Athens, with the city doubling as the Iranian capital. The show’s first two seasons were also filmed in Athens. An episode of Amazon Studios rock ’n’ roll drama Daisy Jones & The Six shot on the Aegean island of Hydra in summer 2022, and Spanish director Fernando Trueba’s English-language romantic thriller Haunted Heart shot on Mount Pelion in autumn 2022.
Hellenic Film Commission (HFC) is a directorate of the Greek Film Centre that supports international audiovisual productions by connecting producers with the local production industry and regional film offices. It also provides guidance on filming permits, incentives and locations, as well as location-scouting financial support for international projects looking to shoot in Greece.
In 2023, HFC smoothed the way for a May shoot of Uberto Pasolini’s The Return, starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, reuniting on film for the first time since Oscar winner The English Patient (1996). Billed as a retelling of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, the feature sees Fiennes take on the role of Odysseus, who washes up on the shores of Ithaca after 20 years away.
The Italy-Greece-UK-France co-production films for four weeks on location on the island of Corfu and mainland Greece before six weeks in Italy. Clayton says the Greek part shoots first “for reasons of light and also economy, and trying to get it done before the high tourist season kicks in, because it’s all on location”.
Other than Corfu, where the production takes in the Angelokastro castle among other locations, Pasolini also shoots at Chlemoutsi, an old fortress on the Peloponnese. Prepping a big-budget adventure film in Greece, he says, is “fun, stimulating and challenging, looking for a visual language far removed from the standard image of the classic Greek world. It was important the action always feels like it is taking place on an island, looking west to an empty sea.”
Clayton praises the Hellenic Film Commission and the Ionian Film Office, which lubricates the wheels for shoots on Corfu. “We also lucked out with our choice of Greek co-producer. I cannot speak highly enough of Heretic.”
The only surprise in putting together the finance plan is that there is not a local Greek domestic lending operation for financing the Greek cash rebate. “It means we were looking to UK-based lenders to cashflow a Greek incentive,” he reveals. “It’s a great incentive and Ekome [the Greek body that administers it] have been great. It’s just a strange quirk that there aren’t any Greek lenders who will look at the Greek incentive.”
Elsewhere, Greece offers myriad choices for location shoots — there is even a desert on the island of Lemnos. Athens boasts historical sites as well as upscale neighbourhoods that can stand in for Italy or France, and the city has fast established itself as a popular and safe alternative filming destination with proximity to beaches and access to varying landscapes.
As more international projects wash up on Greek shores, the territory is furthering its already well-established reputation for technically proficient, highly trained crews. Shooting permits are generally straightforward to obtain, although it can be tougher for archaeological sites, as the application needs time to pass through a committee. Book early to avoid disappointment.
Modern and ancient locations
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, while the striking mountainous region in northern Greece is particularly popular with action movies and thrillers.
Aside from historical and natural locations, there are many modern sites open to filming. Highlights include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, which houses the national opera, national library and Stavros Niarchos Park. Upscale neighbourhoods can also stand in for Italy or France, and nothing is too far from a pristine beach.
"Greece can double for many different locations around the world," Linardakis said. "Athens has diverse architecture that goes back thousands of years, combining modern and classic urban interiors and exteriors, with archaeological sites and very interesting public spaces. Greece in total has very rich and diverse landscape which offers countless options to filmmakers and producers."
Producers are strongly advised 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.
The Greek Film Centre offers production support and access to Kapa Studios in Athens, plus a network of service companies throughout the country. Kapa has 10 soundstages (between 400 and 1,600 square metres), while Nu Boyana Studios has opened a facility in Thessaloniki.
Three hours by car from Bulgarian capital Sofia, Thessaloniki is ideally located for the transfer of equipment from the original Nu Boyana facility, and the city’s international airport makes it easy to bring in talent. The growing number of productions shooting across Greece means there are good local crews available to work on projects of all sizes.
One such company is Stefi Productions, who provides full production services since 1971. "We are the reliable partner in Greece regardless the scale and needs of any production. We provide full support to the procedure of the 40% cash rebate, and we make sure that the producers investment in Greece returns maximum benefits," Linardakis says.
"We work with the most experienced, skilful, and multilingual crews, we have access to advanced equipment and vehicles, and we can cover any production needs. Stefi Productions has met the demands of established international filmmakers and producers for 52 years and we continue to do it with the same drive and force every day."
Many of Greece’s most popular and picturesque filming locations are just a few hours’ drive from capital Athens. Many 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 is a member of the European Union and a participant in the Schengen Agreement. Its currency is the euro.