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Citing COVID-19 Record, Movie Makers Urged to Make Trip to Greece

Αssociated Press

This image released by IFC Films shows Rob Brydon, right, and Steve Coogan in a scene from "The Trip to Greece." (Andy Hall/IFC Films via AP)

ATHENS - Greece’s record in holding down the number of cases and fatalities in the COVID-19 pandemic is also being used to try to lure more film producers to come to the country to shoot, coinciding with the release of the buddy road film The Trip to Greece.

Greece’s New Democracy, working to reverse the country’s previously notoriously anti-film mentality, is also raising cash rebates from 35% to 40% with more films being shot in the first post-pandemic European co-production movie start-up, said Variety.

“Greece is quite a success story in these particularly difficult times because of (COVID-19) measures that were taken early on,” said Venia Vergou, Director of the Hellenic Film Commission during a virtual Cannes Market panel.

The government on March 23 imposed a lockdown of non-essential businesses on March 23 to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus and didn’t begin a weekly gradual lifting until May 4, leading to the first tourism from other countries with safe records arriving June 15.

The hit Greek TV series, a period piece about three farm sisters who live in a small, fictional village in the Thessalian flatland in the late 1950’s was the first Greek production that started filming after the pandemic, the industry’s entertainment bible wrote.

The scheduled production output of “Wild Bees,” which is produced for Antenna TV, was “only one week ahead of the (TV) screenings, which is very common in Greece,” said its director, Lefteris Charitos. So basically its Greek fans had been left high and dry. But “when things started looking better … our producer came up with a plan,” he said.

“He saw all the protocols coming out of Europe…and bought thousands of masks and gloves; we were tested; and we basically decided to start shooting only a week after lockdown was over,” Charitos recounted.

Producer Yorgos Karnavas, making the German-Italian-Greek co-production Töchter (English translation Daughter) is shooting on the island of Amorgos and, saying his is the first European co-production to start filming post-pandemic.

“We brought international crew in with a private plane, so they didn’t have to be on the plane with other people; they were tested (for coronavirus) two days before…and the hotel is fully booked by us,” said Karnavas, of Greek company Heretic, who noted that for this feature coronavirus-related the extra costs “can go up to 2% of the budget.”

He added that they are shooting with very few scenes with extras, “so in many cases the logistics are easy.”

The next international shoot expected to start filming in Greece is French director Francois Uzan’s comedy Smile For The Photo, starring Jacques Gamblin and Pascale Arbillot and co-produced by France’s Orange Studios and Greece’s Fenia Cossovista, who said the plan is for cameras to start rolling on July 13.

Cossovista said health measures will go beyond those ordered by the government and that all cast and crew will be tested for the virus, adding that Frances’s Fonds de Garantie will ensure that insurance companies are refunded if there’s a breakout during shooting.

Increasing the cash rebate for filmmakers is awaiting final approval, expected in July, the report said, with the government eager to get the economy going again and luring other foreign investors.

The bill also involves extending funding options to more beneficiaries than the country’s current scheme allows and also accelerating the rebate payback process.

Greece is benefitting from praise by British producer Josh Hyams who helped finance The Trip to Greece, starring British comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, going cross-country and sharing dining, historical and philosophical experiences and their dueling impressions of Michael Caine.