Changing Tune, Greece Now Wooing World’s Filmmakers

FILE - PM Alexis tsipras addresses at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in Chicago, Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. Photo: PM Press Office/Andrea Bonetti via Eurokinissi

With many studios and directors bypassing Greece to shoot films about Greece in other countries because of an unfriendly atmosphere and bureaucracy, they’re now being sought out to bring in critical cash.

The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition – with a hardcore element seeking to block privatizations and foreign investors – passed legislation setting aside 450 million euros ($524.9 million) for productions over the next five years.

“It’s ridiculous that so many Greek-themed films should be shot elsewhere,” film director Andonis Kioukas, who now presides over an international film festival on the island told the British newspaper The Guardian.

“There have been so many missed opportunities. In the last decade we’ve lost Alexander the Great, Troy, 300 and Mamma Mia 2. Greece could be the best open-air studio in the world … For years we’ve been saying ‘take measures to become more competitive’.”

Kostas Tsegas the Greek tourism board’s chief executive, said at the same event that,
“Our desire is to facilitate the audiovisual industry in whatever way we can,” “The multiplier effects on the economy are enormous … Large foreign productions generate an increase in the country’s GDP. Only one large production can create over 755 jobs.”

Visiting the biggest film studios outside Hollywood in Chicago last month, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the money had been set aside to provide 25% in cash rebates for expenditure by foreign producers in Greece.

“It is a national issue and there is no time for complacency,” Lefteris Kretsos, a senior SYRIZA official who accompanied him told the paper. “This is a global industry and whether it is feature films, TV series video games, documentaries or animation, it is growing all the time.”

A Hellenic film commission overseeing permits has been set up and will be expanded with regional offices nationwide and get around the country’s reputation for making its legendary sites off-limits for movies. It wasn’t said if using the Parthenon or Acropolis will be permitted as it almost never is allowed.

Another problem is the country’s powerful archaeological council which can block films whimsically that it doesn’t think will promote Greece or may be offensive to its ancient heritage.

“Archaeologists will often ask to read a movie script before they hand out permits to film in ancient sites and, of course, scenarios in Hollywood are top secret so that is never going to happen,” Venia Vergou who heads the film commission told the paper.

“One of our key advantages is the hundreds of beautiful archaeological sites … A film-friendly country will always say yes to permits,” she said, without explaining why that wasn’t done with Mama Mia 2 after the original brought worldwide attention to the island of Skopelos where it was shot. The follow-up is being made in nearby Croatia.

Studies show indisputably that holidaymakers will choose a destination if a good movie is shot there.