Exclusive: Why Netflix, Lionsgate, ITV and others are heading to Croatia

KFTV gets the lowdown from international production figures of big projects, including The Ipcress File and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, about their experiences filming there

By Chris Evans 27 May 2021

Exclusive: Why Netflix, Lionsgate, ITV and others are heading to Croatia
Hotel Portofino filming in Bale, Croatia. Credit: Drugi Plan

Croatia has become one of the world’s most popular international filming locations and 2021 is shaping up to be one its busiest years with 20 international projects already announced by May. 

One of these is ITV Studios and Altitude Television’s spy series, The Ipcress File, which is filming in Zagreb, Rijeka and Split from 22 April to mid-June. John Hodge has written the drama with James Watkins set to direct all six episodes.

“After our great experience with McMafia, with James Watkins directing, we are returning to Croatia for the production of The Ipcress File with the same director,” says Paul Ritchie, the series’ producer. “We are once more taking advantage of Croatian locations, which will stand for seven different worldwide countries and territories.”

Other projects include Netflix crime series, Clark, that was partly filmed in Croatia in the Spring; Sweden’s Dramacorp series Hamilton, which filmed across several Croatian locations for 30 days up to 10 June; and UK outfit Eagle Eye’s six-part series Hotel Portofino, which has been filming in Opatija (where the hotel is located), Rovinj and Lovran, with the support of local service provider Drugi Plan.

“We are finding Croatia extraordinarily versatile in terms of locations, geographical variety, and architectural range, and the expertise of the crew and local creatives is also proving invaluable,” says executive producer Walter Luzzolino of Eagle Eye.

Dutch-Belgian-Croatian co-production film, Crossing, has also been shooting in Croatia across May and June. It is set in Morocco and Spain, but the filming is being done in Croatia, which is challenging in itself. Still, the experienced and well-prepared crew we’re working with in Croatiamake it that much easier,” says Germen Boelens of Dutch outfit Revolver Films, who is co-producing alongside Dries Phlypo of Belgium’s A Private View and Siniša Juričić of local outfit Nukleus Film. “We had a good feeling about it when we did the location scouting on two earlier visits and chose to film in Pula, Rijeka, Zadar and Zagreb.”

Tanja Ladovic Blazevic, head of Filming in Croatia, expects the industry to be working at full capacity this year and “we are laying the foundations for expected future growth. There is pent-up global demand for high-end content and we intend to help meet it.”

These latest projects build on a strong couple of years for Croatia. Lionsgate’s The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, starring Nicolas Cage, filmed in and around the walled city of Dubrovnik in October last year with a crew of just over 400.

While pre-pandemic, major projects to shoot in Croatia included Amazon Studios and Endgame Entertainment’s romantic drama Bliss starring Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson, HBO series Succession and Lionsgate’s action sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard starring Hayek, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson.

“Croatia is a wonderful place to shoot. The crew are fantastic, no nonsense, talented technicians and nothing seemed to be a problem — there were only solutions,” says Matt O’Toole, producer of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, which shot predominantly in the Istrian coastal town of Rovinj. 

“We pretty much shut down the entire town, the local business owners and authorities were a dream to deal with and helped us achieve everything we needed, including some hefty action sequences. We also shot in Zagreb, which again was a great experience.”

Croatia is growing in popularity thanks to a generous filming incentive worth up to 30%, reliable local crews and dramatic and varied backdrops. The latter includes Dubrovnik, which boasts a mix of Roman, medieval, renaissance and baroque architecture, as well as beaches with azure seas, Roman ruins, castles, vineyards, cobblestones and snowy peaks. HBO shot multiple seasons of Game Of Thrones in the city. 

Main image: ITV and Altitude Television's The Ipcress File filming in Zagreb. Credit: Sanjin Strukic & Goran Stanz/PIXELL.

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