ATHENS – Once reluctant, indifferent, and even hostile to the idea of letting Hollywood and foreign filmmakers use sites in the country as a backdrop for their movies, Greece is now embracing the idea and luring big names.
They’re joining the ‘Weird Wave’ of Greek directors shooting more films in their homeland and bringing international attention to tourists – free advertising – as well as producers, luring them with big state incentives, that’s working out.
In a feature on the phenomenon, Constantinos Yiannakodimos, Press Counsellor for the Office of Public Diplomacy of the Consulate General of Greece in Sydney, wrote for FilmInk that, “Greece has fast become a paradise for filmmakers, not just tourists, with Hollywood and many foreign production companies scouting its rich and diverse landscape for cast, crew and sets, whilst also taking advantage of the generous tax incentives and support services on offer.”
Well, that’s also a free ad for the New Democracy government, of course, but also part of the siren song that’s bringing A-list actors and filmmakers to Greece like Ulysses returning home.
All just a few years after the BBC ran into fierce opposition to film part of a TV series near the historic ancient site of Cape Sounion, some 48 miles southeast of the capital Athens, on the seaside.
Now even the Parthenon and the Acropolis aren’t off-limits, and Greece has rolled out the welcome mat and red carpet at the same time, with a state film and TV production office offering generous subsidies for shooting.
“With an architectural landscape that covers all periods of human history, Greece makes for the perfect film set, a production designer’s dream, offering unrivaled production values and possibilities,” he wrote.
He noted the turn mostly began in 2017 – when the Radical Left SYRIZA was in power – after the 2015 creation of the National Centre of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME), which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Digital Governance.
THAT’S A WRAP
It offers cash rebates for reimbursement of costs ranging from 25-40 percent, which financed 176 projects from 2018-22 and still ongoing, featuring 94 domestic and 82 cross-border or foreign co-productions.
EKOME estimates that these were shot in 140 locations throughout Greece, with 10 major productions in 2021 and budgets ranging up to 20 million euros ($20.72 million) from companies including Disney and Paramount and shown on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Apple, and Amazon.
Speaking to the Hellenic Film Commission, renowned Canadian director David Cronenberg said that, “when I first wrote the screenplay for Crimes of The Future two decades ago, its location was ambiguous. But as the film came to fruition, we began exploring the opportunity to shoot in Greece.”
He said he was convinced after checking the unique buildings and exteriors in and around Athens, “the incredible textures of an ancient city, the hypnotic presence of an ancient sea.”
He added, “among those Athenian gifts were the passionate and diligent Greek cast and crew, who were a pleasure to work with. They went over and above to make us feel welcomed, and their hard work contributed to every frame of the final picture.”
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, The Lost Daughter director Maggie Gyllenhaal, who filmed in Greece, said that,” out of nowhere, I said, ‘what about Greece?’ … and as soon as I said Greece, we couldn’t be stopped. We were in Greece three weeks later.”
Australian director Jason Raftopoulos, who shot Voices in Deep in Athens, said that he did because “for centuries, Athens has been a place where the lives of millions have intersected. It is a city that has been both conqueror and conquered, a place of great enlightenment and great oppression, a meeting pot of religions, ideas and sexual ambiguity. It is for those reasons that I chose Athens as the setting to explore ideas of time, desperation, identity, and freedom.”