Slovenia has been developing its global production profile since launching a 25% cash rebate in 2017, with a string of big projects arriving at the Central European country. These include Amazon and Sony Pictures Television’s The Wheel Of Time, which filmed across the Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovenia; Left Bank Pictures’ spy series Strike Back for UK broadcaster Sky; and Davide Del Degan’s indie feature Paradise. Several Bollywood projects have also shot in the country.
At the end of last year and into 2021, the Luxembourg-Slovakia-Slovenia-Croatia co-production Beanie filmed in Zagreb and Viba Film Studio in capital Ljubljana.
“The co-production between four countries meant the structure of the team — authors, actors, as well as the technical crew — was international,” says Ida Weiss of Slovenian outfit Bela Film, a producer alongside Luxembourg’s Wady Films, Objectif from Slovakia and Croatia’s Studio Dim. “During the pandemic, it was challenging to organise an extensive and diverse team. Fortunately, it all ended well, also because we strictly observed the Covid-19 prevention measures.”
Although the filming incentive’s annual fund totals only a relatively low $1.2m (€1m), international filmmakers talk of a film-friendly attitude in the country and permits that can be secured through a straightforward process. Special permission is required to film in national parks.
Much of Slovenia’s international appeal is built on its pristine natural environments and historic architecture — all found across a small geographic area. Ljubljana is the main production centre and it is relatively easy to move crew and equipment from there to the coast or the mountains.
“Most of the shoots happen in the north west part of Slovenia due to its stunning nature,” insists Jernej Krivic, head of production at local outfit Bas Production. But the historical capital city, Ljubljana, is also growing in popularity.
Ljubljana has some eye-catching historic buildings including a castle, town hall and cathedral. Koper on the coast is also spectacular for its scenery. Founded by the Romans and later ruled by the Venetians, the medieval town centre is an especially striking site.
The Julian Alps can be reached in a couple of hours from Ljubljana, offering easy access to the spectacular Lake Bled, with its island, castle and mountain backdrops. A large part of the alpine scenery is within Triglav national park, where it is possible to find glacial lakes such as Bohinj. The country also offers lush meadows and rolling hills, forests, rivers, vineyards and beaches. Head south to find Mediterranean vistas and climate along the 50 kilometre Adriatic coastline.
“It is possible to shoot at various locations during the same day, as one can be surrounded by the rolling hills of Pomurje in the morning, while enjoying the sea or looking down from an Alpine summit in the afternoon,” says Mojca Plansak at the Slovenia Film Commission. “Slovenia boasts two climate zones — the continental and the coastal. This is extremely convenient for filming, especially during the winter.”
“The variety of locations can double for Italian coastal towns and Tuscany, Swiss and Austrian Alps and old metropolises thanks to Austrian-Hungarian empire influence,” adds Krivic.
Slovenia’s beauty makes it a viable choice for commercials producers. One high-profile production was Park Pictures’ The swan for Audi, serviced by Ljubljana-based Bas Productions. Another project saw LG shoot a commercial for its 3D TVs in Ljubljana against the backdrop of a town square with rows of historic houses. More recently, Anonymous Content filmed a campaign for mobile game Game Of War: Fire Age in Slovenia. Ireland, the Czech Republic and Croatia were also considered as locations but the producers said Slovenia offered the most cost-effective option.
International film and TV producers have also taken an interest in shooting in the country, with seven productions taking advantage of the incentive in 2018, and more from Croatia, Italy and the UK in 2019, including the Strike Back TV series. Bollywood is also flocking to its shores.
Getting permits to shoot is usually straightforward. “There is no restriction with regards to access to filming in public spaces,” says Mojca Planšak from the Slovenian Film Commission in the Slovenia Film Centre.“It typically only takes up to five working days for permits in the cities.
“There are some restricted areas, such as Lipica or Triglav National Park where special permission for shooting is needed.”
Ljubljana is home to experienced English-speaking crews and a good range of equipment. Anything not available can be brought in from Slovenia’s neighbours Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia.
The Slovenian Film Centre and Film Commission offer logistical and technical support. There are few restrictions when shooting in public spaces, and it takes up to five working days to secure permits in the cities. The best-known studio facility is Viba Film Studio, which also rents out equipment, has post-production facilities and owns a large collection of costumes and props.