The landlocked south-east European country of Serbia is an international production hub to watch. It has an incentive of 25% with no per-production cap — which can extend to 30% if a film spends at least $6.1m (€5m) — and a growing crew base.
Martin Campbell’s action thriller Memory, starring Liam Neeson and Guy Pearce, is set to shoot in the country in August. The project is being financed and produced by US outfit Black Bear Pictures with Cathy Schulman’s Welle Entertainment.
Legendary Entertainment’s The Machine, starring Mark Hamill and Bert Kreischer, started filming in May. “We are so grateful for the warm welcome and support we’ve received from the local community as well as the many Serbian film professionals that are also serving as members of the cast and crew,” says the film’s producer Peter Atencio.
Serbia has the advantage of not only low production costs — roughly 30% less than the Czech Republic — but also the quick turnaround of its 25% incentive.
“The cash rebate is one of the benefits of filming in Serbia,” says Jonathan English, founder of local outfit Balkanic Media, which is co-producing The Machine. “It pays out within about 90 days of submitting the final audit and is very reliable. This has become a cornerstone for most of the international productions choosing Serbia.”
Balkanic Media and UK financier Head Gear Films also offer a $25m credit facility to back film and TV series shooting in the country. The fund cashflows the country’s cash rebate as well as offers debt and gap financing for Balkanic Media-serviced productions and its own original content. Balkanic returned to filming The CW series The Outpost mainly at PFI Studios, just outside Belgrade, last summer as production resumed after the Covid‑19 shutdown.
“We had extensive Covid-19 protocols in place, which helped to keep the cast and crew safe,” explains English, who is producing the series. “Most of the crew are Serbian, even heads of department, and the country is extremely competitive for rates and costs.”
Serbia is set to receive a further boost with the construction of a studio just 20 minutes from central Belgrade. Instigated by Firefly Productions, the complex will comprise three soundstages (two of 2,000 square metres and one of 800 square metres) plus a backlot, production offices, water tank and related facilities. Part of the complex is expected to open later this year.
Firefly is looking to take advantage by developing internationally co-produced TV productions. These include the crime thriller Gorilla alongside US outfit Gorilla Enterprises; a six-part drama series called Frust with Hungary’s Joyrider, directed by Danis Tanovic; and Fatal Ally, based on the bestselling spy novel by UK journalist Tim Sebastian.
Beyond Belgrade, Serbian locations range from gentle hills and rivers in the centre of the country through to the Dinaric Alps in the west and the Carpathian mountains and Balkan mountains in the east.
While in the south-east, the Jelasnicka gorge with its imposing 100-metre rock formations played host at the end of last year to climbing drama The Ledge, produced by UK outfit Evolution Pictures and Belgrade-based Red Production.
“Serbia is versatile on a super scale because of the money in development, more brutalist architecture than anywhere else I’ve seen, and it’s unspoilt,” enthuses Turner. “You can have art deco architecture in one place, then just a few miles down the road you’ve got mountains, snow and beautiful parks. It’s a canvas.”
Another experienced location manager, John Rakich (Netflix’s Grand Army and Jupiter’s Legacy) agrees: “Serbia is becoming popular with European filmmakers because it’s like Croatia without the tourists.”
“There’s so much there to explore. It’s an exciting up-and-coming country that I want to be successful because it has so much to offer,” concludes Turner.
PFI Studios – based near Belgrade, offers eight soundstages, ranging from 600 square meters to 1,800 square meters, and a 12.5 hectare back lot, which includes a replica of San Francisco City Hall in front of a 2.000 square meter lake, and Venice, Monte Carlo and DC streets.
Avala Studios – situatedjust six kilometers from Belgrade and offering 4 stages, although three of them have long term rental agreements. There’s also a 180 degree green screen and additional production facilities.
Firefly Productions is constructing a studio, just outside Belgrade centre in Pancevo, which will comprise three sound stages, two of 2,000 square meters and one of 800 Square meters, plus a backlot, production offices, a water tank and related facilities.
International filmmakers usually bring in their own heads of department, but quality crew can be hired locally. Specialist production equipment can be easily imported from elsewhere in Europe if needed.
Belgrade is accessible from 60 cities and ports — via the Danube river — throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and is no more than a two-hour flight from most of them. Nikola Tesla International Airport is the main entry point, 20 minutes from Belgrade and a 55-minute drive from the city of Novi Sad. Air Serbia is the national carrier and services 29 destinations throughout Europe — it is one of two-dozen international airlines that operate in the country.
First person to contact
Milica Bozanic, executive director, Serbia Film Commission @ firstname.lastname@example.org