Spotlight on Greece

KFTV gets the lowdown from leading international production figures about their experiences and reasons for shooting in the rich variety of locations in this Mediterranean country 

By Chris Evans 10 Dec 2021

Spotlight on Greece

Money talks and it is thanks to a lucrative suite of financial incentives that Greece has hosted approximately 60 international projects in 2021, all facilitated by the Hellenic Film Commission. The country’s cash rebate incentive for film and TV productions has risen from 35% to 40%, and there has been an acceleration of the application process and payback of the rebate. There is also a new 30% tax relief to be combined with the rebate. Plus, the Hellenic Film Commission has launched a location scouting support programme for international projects looking to shoot in Greece

"Greece now offers one of the best cash rebate systems worldwide, which is the main reason why all major studios and streamers are bringing their productions to 'Marblewood'," insists Andreas Tsilifonis, executive producer at Central Athens Film Productions, who have worked on several major TV shows and fiction projects during Covid.

Incoming productions include Rian Johnson's Net­flix sequel Knives Out 2, season three of Amazon and Paramount’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Small Village Films, Exile Entertainment and Arcadia’s Voices In Deep, and David Cronenberg’s Crimes Of The Future, co-produced by Robert Lantos for his Canadian outfit Serendipity Point Films with Panos Papahadzis of Athens-based Argonauts Productions. The sci-fi film, set in a near-future where humans are adapting to synthetic surroundings and evolving their biological makeup, shot on location around the capital and at Kapa Studios from August. “Athens is the perfect setting for Crimes Of The Future, as it is bespoke tailoring for Cronenberg’s unique vision of a future that intermingles with the past,” says Lantos.

Other recent shoots include Disney+ biopic Greek Freak about the life of Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo, which was serviced by Faliro House ProductionsMillennium Media's gangster movie Barracudastarring Antonio Banderas, which shot over the summer in Central Macedonia with Thessaloniki doubling for Miami; and the second season of Apple TV+ series Tehran, starring Glen Close. Nia Vardalos is also returning to directing duties for Universal’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.

Latest Covid-19 protocols

Alternative and doubling locations

Greece has an abundance of stunning historical locations, beautiful islands and sandy beaches, while Athens is a very diverse city, combining modern and ancient architecture.

“During Covid, producers seem to prefer ‘isolated’ areas of Greece where crew and cast can stay safe together during filming [often doubling the place for other locations],” says Tsilifonis. “Popular locations include Corfu with it’s Italianate architecture, Santorini’s volcanic landscape, and even the new Olympic venues.”

Here we provide some locations highlights, with the assistance of the Hellenic Film Commission…

Highlight: Island of Evia (Euboea)

Situated close to Athens but a world apart, Evia has a diverse history and range of scenery, including beaches and coves on its east coast, a mountainous interior, and a west coast that includes the city of Halkida. Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s Triangle Of Sadness, produced by Erik Hemmendorf of Stockholm-based Plattform Produktion with Heretic in Greece, and starring Woody Harrelson, filmed on the island from late September to November 2020.

Giorgos Karnavas, producer at the film’s Greek partner, Heretic “It is a unique place with almost jungle-style greenery and a complex of five beaches. [While we were filming] the weather was unprecedented. We managed to shoot summer even up to mid-November.”

Ruben Östlund, director “The shoot was fantastic. The crew were experienced and engaged. The locals were friendly and made anything that we asked for possible. The locations in Hiliadou, Evia are completely unique. We were lucky with the weather and we were so, so lucky with the Covid craziness.”

Highlight: Island of Amorgos

One of the Cyclades, untouched by mass tourism, with secluded beaches and beautiful villages. German director Nana Neul’s road trip movie Daughters filmed on the island in summer 2020.

Bettina Brokemper at Heimatfilm, the German co-producers of Daughters “We were supposed to go from Germany to Italy and end in Greece. But that changed once we were able to film (post-lockdown) and instead we started back up in Greece in mid-June on this island. The experience was great, like filming at an outdoor studio where the cast and crew could walk from one location to another and maintain social distancing requirements.”

Highlight: Vikos Gorge, Pindus Mountains

The stunning Vikos Gorge in north-west Greece is in almost virgin condition, a haven for endangered species and contains many and varied ecosystems. It recently played host to the Netflix thriller Beckett, starring John David Washington.

Ferdinando Cito Filomarino, director “Greece is a country that makes it easy to see the beauty in the backdrop. You see how gorgeous the countryside is, like the Vikos Gorge and these towns, the mountains of Tsepevolo. Being able to put our characters in that sort of space made it more dimensional.”

Highlight: Elefsina

Elefsina was the European Capital of Culture in 2021, thanks to the city’s mix of archaeological sites with a modern café, theatre and growing film scene. The BBC’s The Little Drummer Girl shot Elefsina for Lebanon (and doubled Nikaia in Athens for Palestine).

Simon Cornwell, The Ink Factory co-CEO and executive producer of The Little Drummer Girl “The variety and scope of filming locations available in Greece made it the perfect place to bring The Little Drummer Girl to life. We were able to shoot not only scenes set in Greece, but scenes in Lebanon, Israel, Yugoslavia (as it then was) and Rome. The generous support of government, and the talented crew and support team at our wonderful partners Faliro House, made the shoot one to remember.”

Highlight: Crete

The largest and most populous Greek island has long been a popular filming backdrop thanks to its stunning beaches and villages, but it can also pull off a few surprises as a double. Dutch production Do Not Hesitate chose Crete’s mountains to showcase Syria.

Leontine Petit, CEO of Lemming Film, producers of Do Not Hesitate “We did not expect to find such great locations in Greece. Due to Heretic and their team, the shoot went beyond our expectations.”

Highlight: Nisyros

Not your typical Greek island. This small Aegean land mass is also an active volcano with an other-worldly landscape that has the potential to make it a popular location. The island is reached by ship from Piraeus and Kos and has a heliport. Nisyros recently hosted the Spanish-Greek co-production drama Window To The Sea, starring Emma Suárez as a woman who travels to the island to escape and finds love.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, writer/director, Window To The Sea “We shot in Athens and Nisyros in September and October. What was truly amazing was not only the uniqueness of the locations, but the spirit of the local people and crew.”

This feature is a condensed form of our Greece profile in the forthcoming issue of our Production Guide, due out at then of this month.

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