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Greece Is Becoming the Hollywood of Europe

Hollywood Greece
Filming on the Acropolis of Athens for NBC’s series, The Good Place, in 2020. Photo courtesy of Avion Films / Vanias Xydas

Greece is becoming the Hollywood of Europe as it emerges as the movie industry’s favorite European film destination for high-end productions.

Snubbing the uncertainty that the global pandemic crisis has brought upon the international filming industry, the southeastern European country sees Hollywood film crews and star-studded casts arrive one after the other for the second year running -thanks to the timely implementation of strict safety protocols and the successful fulfillment of its powerful financial incentives scheme.

Leading the trend this summer is streaming giant Netflix, which makes the best of Greece’s filming locations by supporting two diverse projects as distributor.

Greek Reporter was among the first to talk to Netflix Chief Ted Sarandos on camera about the company coming to Greece to produce films.

Currently underway filming Rian Johnson’s Knives Out 2, starring Daniel Craig, on the Greek island of Spetses, the California-based company is also set to premiere its first movie entirely shot in Greece, the action thriller Beckett, at the 74th Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland, on August 4.

At the same time, Hollywood A-listers Antonio Banderas and Kate Bosworth are shooting in Thessaloniki for Millennium Media’s noir thriller The Enforcer, and Apple TV Plus is preparing to return to Athens for the second season of Israeli spy drama Tehran, which has been a global hit with audiences.

David Cronenberg’s upcoming sci-fi thriller, Crimes of the Future, will also begin shooting in Greece in August; and the list of projects goes on through the fall season and well into 2022 already.

Film-friendly face of Greece lures Hollywood projects

According to the National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EΚOME), year 2020 was a milestone in the development of the Greek cash rebate program, which has been being gradually built and improved since 2017.

With the support of the Ministry of Digital Governance, EKOME kept the program fully operational throughout the pandemic, guaranteed its continuity and ensured that foreign production companies were informed of its uninterrupted function and of the safety protocols for filming in Greece.

Moreover, the cash rebate and tax relief incentives were strengthened and the anticipated National Film Offices Network finally came alive after careful planning.

As a result, by mid-April 2021, Greece’s cash rebate program for audiovisual productions had received 166 applications for funding of feature films, TV series, documentaries, animation films and digital games.

Of these, 125 projects were approved, with the total investment in the country amounting to 127€ million, while the public expenditure was expected to reach 46€ million.

Over 31,000 employees worked in these projects, and more than 150 locations across Greece were recorded on footage for the world to see.

“In 2021 we managed to exceed market expectations, in particularly difficult times due to the pandemic. I am very optimistic for what lies ahead and, above all, for our success to put our country on the global audiovisual map”, Chairman and CEO of EKOME, Panos Kouanis, commented at the time.

Greece meets Hollywood at Cannes Film Festival

Despite the incessant vivid interest from Hollywood studios to film in Greece, and while the shooting schedule for the following months remains brimming, the incentive program’s executives are not resting at their laurels.

With the Cannes International Film Festival returning as a physical event this week, EKOME has joined the Greek Film Centre (GFC) at the national pavilion, which will be open at the Festival Market from 6 to 17 July 2021.

Greece Hollywood
Greece’s national pavilion at the Film Market in Cannes International Film Festival. Credit: Facebook / EKOME

The joint presence of the two institutions, proof of their strategic cooperation, aims to further highlight the comparative advantages of Greece in attracting international audiovisual producers.

“We support with all our might the national strategy for the development of the audiovisual industry and the promotion of the Greek creative community into becoming international”, Kouanis says in a new statement.

New fund for location scouting in Greece

The world’s most prestigious film festival is also the perfect place for GFC to present its brand new Location Scouting Support Program, the latest funding tool for facilitating foreign producers who wish to shoot in Greece.

“It is important now for Greece to develop a coordinated strategy for its international presence in major festival events and Markets”, adds Markos Holevas, President of the BoD of the GFC, speaking of the institutions’ presence at the Film Market in Cannes.

Aimed at attracting international audiovisual productions in Greece and also enhancing the employment of Greek filmmakers, the GFC’s Location Scouting Support Program offers funding in the form of a subsidy.

It is addressed to feature films or documentaries with a minimum running time of 70 minutes, as well as to TV drama series and TV documentaries, but excludes travel, cook or reality shows.

Eligible projects can have a Greek co-producer as a minority partner or not, as long as the project commits to collaborate, during the location scouting, with a Greek production company.

The minimum shooting days in Greece should be 15 days for fiction feature films or TV dramas and seven days for documentaries.

The minimum estimated expenses to be incurred in Greece in case the project gets eventually produced in the country is 50.000 euro, and the maximum amount of the subsidy 10.000 euro.

Film Offices come into the picture

In the meantime, productions that are already set for filming in Greece can count on the cooperation of the National Network of Film Offices, which have recently launched in 13 regions across Greece, plus in Athens and Thessaloniki, in partnership with public and private stakeholders.

Hollywood Greece
The Mayor of Athens joined the producers of Disney’s Greek Freak movie on set at the Triton basketball court in Sepolia district. Credit: City of Athens

The free services provided by the Film Offices include suggesting locations, offering guidance and assistance with administrative procedures for issuing permits, alongside intermediation with public services, professionals and locals, logistical support and consultation.

The Film Office of Athens alone, has contributed to the needs of over 40 local and international audiovisual productions in its first year of operation.

Among the most recent was Disney’s Greek Freak, the Hollywood movie inspired by the teenage years of NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo in Athens.

The high-budget project, which was supported by the Athens Film Office, went into shooting in spring and concluded the Greek part of its filming schedule at the end of June.

200 crew and hundreds of extras worked locally for the movie in Antetokounmpo’s home district of Sepolia, filming scenes at the humble Triton basketball court where the star had been training as a young boy.

The latest Nia Vardalos film, co-produced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and two episodes of Amazon’s TV series Jack Reacher also figure among the most awaited international productions filming in Greece in 2021.

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