Slovenia, which used to be part of the former Yugoslavia, is not hugely well-known as a filming hub, but the Slovenia Film Commission, part of the Slovenia Film Centre, is doing its best change this preconception. Their latest success is the announcement that the country will soon have a 20% cash rebate for productions shooting in the country.
The country joined the EU in 2007 and has transformed itself into a stable economy, with the Euro as its currency. While it has not been immune to the economic slump across the region, GDP in this country of 2 million people is expected to return to growth in 2015.
Key advantages of filming in Slovenia include geographic diversity, well-preserved historical architecture and proximity to Western Europe. As a small country with good roads it is also easy to get around.
In terms of infrastructure, Slovenia has a good crew base and film-friendly authorities. Like most countries in Central & Eastern Europe it trades off the fact that it is cheaper than the US or Western Europe when it comes to production.
In 2007, Slovenia was selected to be one of the locations for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The reason for this was that it resembled New Zealand, where previous Narnia movies had been shot. The main Slovenian scene was a bridge battle. For this, a bridge was built at Bovec in the Soca Valley.
The country is also sometimes used as a location for commercials. One of the most high-profile productions in recent times was Park Pictures’ The Swan for Audi.
The ad, which was shot in the town of Skofja Loka, recreated a 1930s backdrop. It showed the transformation from a very early Audi to a modern marque. Locations were all in Slovenia and the local service company was Ljubljana-based Bas Productions.
Another high-profile project saw Korean consumer electronics firm LG shoot a commercial for its 3D TVs in Ljubljana against the backdrop of a town square with rows of pretty houses.
Trekking equipment brand Quechua has also filmed on location in Slovenia. It used the Julian Alps to double for the French Alps (a way of saving money). Other recent visitors include Bollywood filmmaker VV Vinayak for his feature film Kayak.
The most famous studio in Slovenia is Viba Film Studio, which was established in 1994 and today operates as the country’s national technical film foundation.
Viba, which is in Ljubljana, is involved in the production and/or post-production of the majority of Slovene films included in the National Film Programme (co-funded by the Slovenia Film Centre but it also operates on a commercial basis (international co-productions, commercials, etc.).
In terms of facilities, there are two studios measuring 720 sq m and 460 sq m. Adjacent to the studios are production areas for scenery, wardrobe, props and make-up. Viba also rents out a variety of equipment for film production. On top of this its stores a collection of costumes and props that has been built up throughout the post-war years of the Slovene film industry.
Slovenia is a small country with diverse geographic backdrops. According to the Slovenia Film Commission, it’s possible to find Alpine peaks, Mediterranean-style coastlines, meadows, hills, pine forests, lakes, rivers, beaches, castles and palaces within a two-hour drive of capital Ljubljana.
A large part of the Alpine scenery is within the Triglav National Park, where it’s possible to find beautiful glacial lakes such as Bled and Bohinj.
The Alpine scenery is a big part of Slovenia’s attraction, since it is possible to double other Alpine locations at a lower price. But other places of real interest are the vineyards in the South of Slovenia and the country’s 9000 stunning Karst caves.
As for cityscapes, Ljubljana has some beautiful old buildings including a castle, town hall and cathedral. Other population centres of note include Koper, which is on the coast. Founded by the Romans and later ruled by the Venetians, the mediaeval town centre is one of the most beautiful sites in the country.
On the whole, permitting in Slovenia is a straightforward process with no extraordinary rules to worry about. It typically takes up to five working days for permits in the cities.
It is also possible to control streets and close down traffic, but closing down traffic in the main centre can take 2-3 weeks. Filming in National Parks is restricted and requires special permits.
Describing the climate, Emerge Film Solutions says: “Slovenia has a Mediterranean climate on the coast and a continental climate with mild to hot summers and cold winters in the plateaus and valleys to the east.
“The Alps in the north are warm in the summer and covered in snow in the winter. July to August is the peak season for tourists on the coast so September to October is a better time to film if you want to lock down locations. November to February is the peak season for tourists visiting the Alps.”
Ljubljana is the main production centre so this is where most crew, equipment and talent are based. There is not a big pool of directors, DoPs or post-production houses but the Narnia project highlights a good pool of set constructors. Crews generally speak good English.
There are a number of companies that handle local production and provide access to kit and crews as well as advice on studios.
Aside from Bas, mentioned earlier, these include Division Productions, which is based in Ljubljana but has production capabilities across the region. Division says most kit is available locally but special items can be brought in from Germany, Austria and Hungary.
Another company with a full-service offering is VPK, which has production experience, studios and rents out equipment.
In terms of onscreen talent, a number of production houses offer casting services. Talent is mostly Caucasian with small Asian and African communities.
Specialist companies include Hikikomori, which specialises in 3D computer graphics and real-time content development, across TV, commercials, games and corporate videos.