How US fantasy series, The Outpost, filmed in Serbia during Covid

KFTV Talks to Jonathan English, head of Belgrade-based Balkanic Media, about how they helped service the shoot, including bringing cast in from abroad, under strict protocols

The Outpost is an American fantasy-adventure TV series for The CW, which follows Talon (Jessica Green), the lone survivor of a race called the Blackbloods who travels to a lawless fortress  on the edge of the civilized world to track down the killers of her family.

The third season of the show started filming in Belgrade, Serbia from January to March, but was halted by Covid. It then resumed filming from June to August. Now the show is onto its fourth season.

Here we talk to Jonathan English, head of Balkanic Media, who produce the show for Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment and Arrowstorm Entertainment.  

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the shoot for The Outpost?

 Working in Serbia has always been extremely successful for me. I first worked here in 2013 and did several productions over the next few years. I then moved to Serbia full time in 2016 and set up Balkanic Media. Since then we’ve focused on handling international productions like The Outpost. The show is broadcast on CW Network in the US and NBC in the rest of the world. We are now shooting the fourth season, so it’s become a very successful show and I’m proud that it’s almost entirely made in Serbia with many Serbian heads of department and even local directors. 

Whereabouts in Serbia have you been shooting The Outpost? Was it just the PFI Studios? And how long for?

THE Outpost TV series is shot mainly at PFI Studios just outside of Belgrade, and also on various locations in and around the city. But mainly we shoot all the interiors at the studio and on the backlot where we have built a large medieval town, which is the Outpost of the title.

What Covid protocols have you had in place?

Before we returned to work we planned and prepared a very detailed and thorough anti-Covid plan. Our medical team is run by a doctor who was for 30 years the head of the Belgrade ER ward. The main part of the plan is the podding system where departments are working in isolation from each other. Meetings are held virtually and we try to maintain the highest protocols and precautions around the cast and crew to keep them safe and the show running.

So far I think we’ve been very lucky but we do constantly try to maintain the highest measures we can, and encourage everyone in the crew to take responsibility for themselves when not in the workplace. 

Did you face any difficulties getting into the country and filming locations? (e.g. quarantining, testing, permits etc)

Our only challenge there was in bringing foreign cast members and some of the producing team in and out of the country. The star of the show, Jessica Green, is Australian and when we were able to go back into production it was quite challenging arranging for Jessica to leave Australia. I’m happy we were able to eventually arrange her travel and the show continued. 

What were the benefits of filming in Serbia?

In a word, extensive. Probably the first is the cash rebate, which is up to 30% of local Serbian spend over €5m. Its 25% under €5m. 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.

However, there are many other significant benefits to Serbia as well. The government support for film and television production is really fantastic. I’ve never worked in another country where there is such good access to the government and genuine support from them for the local industry and shooting. The crews are also I think some of the best in Europe.

There is a long tradition of service production and filmmaking in the country and when it was former Yugoslavia, then it had one of the busiest film industries outside of the UK. Serbia also remains one of the most competitive countries in Europe for rates and costs, so combined with the rebate, I think its arguably one of the best deals in Europe. 

Did you access the local funding/incentives for The Outpost?

 Yes, on all the international productions that Balkanic Media handles we successfully receive the Serbian rebate.

Did you use a mix of Serbian and US crew?

We do but I’m proud to say that most of the crew on our projects are always Serbian, including as I mentioned above, on The Outpost we even have Serbian Heads of Department. 

What other projects have you worked on in Serbia recently?

We have now filmed three seasons of The Outpost, episodes of Seal Team for CBS, the feature film The Deal for Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment and Microsoft’s 2018 Xbox Games Pass campaign.

 

How US fantasy series, The Outpost, filmed in Serbia during Covid
Jonathan English
How US fantasy series, The Outpost, filmed in Serbia during Covid
Jonathan English

The Outpost is an American fantasy-adventure TV series for The CW, which follows Talon (Jessica Green), the lone survivor of a race called the Blackbloods who travels to a lawless fortress  on the edge of the civilized world to track down the killers of her family.

The third season of the show started filming in Belgrade, Serbia from January to March, but was halted by Covid. It then resumed filming from June to August. Now the show is onto its fourth season.

Here we talk to Jonathan English, head of Balkanic Media, who produce the show for Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment and Arrowstorm Entertainment.  

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got involved in the shoot for The Outpost?

 Working in Serbia has always been extremely successful for me. I first worked here in 2013 and did several productions over the next few years. I then moved to Serbia full time in 2016 and set up Balkanic Media. Since then we’ve focused on handling international productions like The Outpost. The show is broadcast on CW Network in the US and NBC in the rest of the world. We are now shooting the fourth season, so it’s become a very successful show and I’m proud that it’s almost entirely made in Serbia with many Serbian heads of department and even local directors. 

Whereabouts in Serbia have you been shooting The Outpost? Was it just the PFI Studios? And how long for?

THE Outpost TV series is shot mainly at PFI Studios just outside of Belgrade, and also on various locations in and around the city. But mainly we shoot all the interiors at the studio and on the backlot where we have built a large medieval town, which is the Outpost of the title.

What Covid protocols have you had in place?

Before we returned to work we planned and prepared a very detailed and thorough anti-Covid plan. Our medical team is run by a doctor who was for 30 years the head of the Belgrade ER ward. The main part of the plan is the podding system where departments are working in isolation from each other. Meetings are held virtually and we try to maintain the highest protocols and precautions around the cast and crew to keep them safe and the show running.

So far I think we’ve been very lucky but we do constantly try to maintain the highest measures we can, and encourage everyone in the crew to take responsibility for themselves when not in the workplace. 

Did you face any difficulties getting into the country and filming locations? (e.g. quarantining, testing, permits etc)

Our only challenge there was in bringing foreign cast members and some of the producing team in and out of the country. The star of the show, Jessica Green, is Australian and when we were able to go back into production it was quite challenging arranging for Jessica to leave Australia. I’m happy we were able to eventually arrange her travel and the show continued. 

What were the benefits of filming in Serbia?

In a word, extensive. Probably the first is the cash rebate, which is up to 30% of local Serbian spend over €5m. Its 25% under €5m. 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.

However, there are many other significant benefits to Serbia as well. The government support for film and television production is really fantastic. I’ve never worked in another country where there is such good access to the government and genuine support from them for the local industry and shooting. The crews are also I think some of the best in Europe.

There is a long tradition of service production and filmmaking in the country and when it was former Yugoslavia, then it had one of the busiest film industries outside of the UK. Serbia also remains one of the most competitive countries in Europe for rates and costs, so combined with the rebate, I think its arguably one of the best deals in Europe. 

Did you access the local funding/incentives for The Outpost?

 Yes, on all the international productions that Balkanic Media handles we successfully receive the Serbian rebate.

Did you use a mix of Serbian and US crew?

We do but I’m proud to say that most of the crew on our projects are always Serbian, including as I mentioned above, on The Outpost we even have Serbian Heads of Department. 

What other projects have you worked on in Serbia recently?

We have now filmed three seasons of The Outpost, episodes of Seal Team for CBS, the feature film The Deal for Dean Devlin’s Electric Entertainment and Microsoft’s 2018 Xbox Games Pass campaign.

 

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