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Antetokounmpo Biopic Among High-Budget Movies Lined Up in Greece

antetokounmpo biopic
Giannis and his brother Thanasis in Sepolia, Athens. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0

The Giannis Antetokounmpo biopic by Disney, focused on the teenage years of the NBA star in Athens, stands among a substantial number of high-budget productions lined up to film in Greece in 2021.
The unprecedented boom is thanks to the latest improvements to Greece’s highly successful cash rebate incentive scheme for audiovisual productions, which are bearing fruit within just a few months from being put into place.
For the first time since its 2018 launch, the ambitious investment plan has managed to attract high-budget international projects exceeding 10 million euros each.
The identity of most of those lined up to start shooting in 2021 has leaked, since the producers have already visited Greece for scouting, talked to local production companies and crews, and, in some cases, announced the films, says Panos Kouanis, President and CEO of the Greek National Center of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME).
This is the case with Disney+’s biopic of the teenage years of Greek NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, which was officially announced in early December 2020 and with casting for the lead actor underway.
The live-action movie, entitled “Greek Freak” after Antetokounmpo’s nickname in the NBA, is expected to be filmed in Greece in summer 2021.
“Before that, the latest Nia Vardalos film, co-produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, will commence shooting in the spring.
“There is also the TV series Jack Reacher, produced by Amazon Studios, Skydance and Paramount Television Studios; a fiction film by a different division of Paramount; and an additional two or three feature length high-budget projects by other production companies that we are in talks with”, EKOME’s top executive adds.
The vast majority of crews, actors, and extras who will be hired to work in these productions will be locals.

Scaling up

According to Panos Kouanis, from the moment that the updates on the incentives were confirmed, there has been a flurry of interest from high-budget international audiovisual productions to film in the country.
The decision to make above-the-line salaries and a wider part of the below-the-line applicable for eligible costs in the rebate scheme was a key move.
It opened up a whole new market which has never existed in Greece before, he tells Greek Reporter.
“Experience showed that, in the first three years of operating the scheme, only low budget projects or small fractions of bigger budgets went forward, compared to international production budget sizes. 3.3 million euros was the largest approved.
“And that had to change. We didn’t want the big budgets filming everywhere in Europe, except for Greece”, Kouanis explains.
The redesign started as soon as Europe went into its first lockdown in March, 2020.
“First, we secured the cash flow for the projects which had already been approved for the scheme, whether they were just starting out or were coming to an end at that moment, and we made sure that everything was going to work out fine.
“Second, we kept up with the developments on the international market, so that we could make the necessary improvements and adaptations [to the scheme] after the pandemic crisis”, he recalls.
EKOME’s watchful response to the situation, matched by the successful handling of the pandemic in Greece that made foreign filmmakers feel safe in the country, generated many new audiovisual projects in the autumn months.
In Kouanis’s words, “cash rebates are a very dynamic tool which we need to constantly follow, progress, and adapt to international developments. Staying behind, in comparison to what other countries offer, would only make us non-competitive”.

Creating infrastructure

At the same time, EKOME has been working with the municipalities of Athens and Thessaloniki as well as with regional administration across Greece, to create film offices in every prefecture. Five million euros have been allocated to the project.
“The Municipality of Athens recently started a collaboration with the Hellenic Film Center (EKK) to boost its film office. This is a great move which enhances the role of Athens as a destination for filming international productions.
“Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Western Greece, Northern Aegean, the Ionian Islands, and the Peloponnese, will all have their respective film offices”, Kouanis explains.
Most importantly though, he anticipates that the cash rebates scheme will become a motive for the creation of industry infrastructure. And in the long-term, that will create even more jobs.
“Combined with the tax relief from the government’s new development law, the cash rebates scheme can work as an incentive for Greek and international investors to set up infrastructure facilities for TV and movie production and post-production. This will be witnessed within the next couple of years”, he states.

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