International Producers Offered 25% Cash Rebate to Shoot in Greece

FILE - The full moon rises behind the columns of the ancient marble Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, about 70 Km (45 miles) south-southeast of Athens, on Tuesday , May 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

After suffering through the embarrassment of blocking – and then allowing – the BBC to shoot scenes from an anticipated miniseries at the ancient site of Cape Sounion, Greece’s struggling film directorate said foreign film productions will be offered 25 percent cash rebates to shoot in the country.

That was seen as a shot in the arm for the economy that is built around tourism with evidence that people who see countries in the movies want to go there, which Greece has ignored for years, seeing series and films lost to other countries.

The sequel to the phenomenally-popular Mamma Mia that was shot on the island of Skopelos was moved to Croatia, but will appear as a Greek island in the movie.

Greece will offer 450 million euros ($526.43 million) over the next six years through the rebate for all qualifying local spending of at least 100,000 euros ($116,985) up to a maximum of 5 million euros ($5.85 million) for the shoots, said the movie industry’s paper of record, Variety.

“I think the impact will be huge,” Venia Vergou, Director of the Hellenic Film Commission told the paper, explaining that the rebate will offer Greece a chance to capitalize on its rich natural and historic bounty. “We have amazing archaeological sites that no other European country has.”

Vergou said the failure to attract Mamma Mia II was a tough blow to the local film industry. “After losing ‘Mamma Mia,’ many people actually felt … what that loss meant,” she said.

American writer-director Steven Bernstein, who moved to Greece in 2016 and is building a film studio on the island of Syros, sees the incentive as an important sign of progress. “This tax rebate is a huge step in the right direction,” he told the paper.

Part of the continuing problem is the notorious Greek bureaucracy, a labyrinth that can turn into a dead-end and there was no indication how long it would take for the rebates to be processed in a system noted for being tedious and slow.

Vergou said that, “It’s not only the incentives. It’s not only the cash rebate. It’s actually changing the mentality all over the country,” she said. “There has to be a very coherent strategic plan at the national level.”