ATHENS — Rapidly turning around its formerly notorious image as being unfriendly to filmmakers, Greece has become a lure for them, with subsidies, incentives and the famous historic sites and Mediterranean setting drawing them.
Netflix in August will release Beckett, starring John David Washington – son of Denzel Washington – a thriller said to be the first shot entirely in the country but there's plenty more underway.
With the COVID-19 pandemic waning – but now surging again, which could undercut some shooting – production had picked up and the New Democracy business-friendly government jumped at trying to attract producers, directors and actors.
It helps that Greece already is a favored spot for many celebrities who spend much of their summers in the country, and the site Variety – a bible for Hollywood – said with the government's help that, “a slate of high-profile projects underway or scheduled to shoot” now.
That includes the story of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, entitled Greek Freak after his nickname over his unparalleled skills. He grew up in the blue-collars Athens neighborhood of Sepolia where he sold goods on the streets and learned the game at a court there.
That's being produced by The Walt Disney Studios for the streaming service Disney Plus with the plethora of sites offering movies that have been a bonanza for filmmaking and hopes for more if the pandemic lifts.
The biggest shoot is the much-anticipated Knives Out 2 for Netflix from director Rian Johnson, starring Daniel Craig, in a follow to a smash success that will feature a host of other stars including Edward Norton and David Bautista.
Production on David Cronenberg’s upcoming sci-fi film Crimes of the Future is also set to begin in August with Greece a prime destination for films, especially with the summer weather and backdrop of beautiful sites.
“We have rolled up our sleeves and we are working very hard to offer the best services possible to the productions that honor us with their films,” said Elena Priovolou of Argonauts Prods., which is servicing the 30-day Crimes shoot.
Variety noted that the The Hellenic Film Commission and the Ministry of Culture worked together to introduce protocols for all film and TV shoots last year, while also granting special permits to allow production to continue, even as most Greek businesses were shuttered during separate, months-long lockdowns.
ROLL THE FILM
That let production begin for the film The Lost Daughter, an adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel, written and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal and starring Olivia Colman and Dakota Johnson, which finished during an autumn 2020 lockdown.
Principal photography on the Woody Harrelson-starring Triangle of Sadness directed by Oscar nominee and Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund, wrapped just days later, the site said, with Greece more than a summer shoot site.
To attract the film elite, the government increased its incentive scheme by raising the cash rebate from 35 percent to 40 percent and offering a new 30 percent tax relief for foreign film and TV productions that can be used in combination with the rebate.
Kostas Kefalas, head of production at Faliro House told the site that, “Greece is already facing its busiest year for visiting productions. “The rebate was amended last December to include specific foreign expenses in the qualified spend for larger-scale productions, which gave an additional, important push to the competitiveness of Greece’s incentives program”.
Movie makers are drawn by tax incentives, rebates and will travel the world to shoot on sites that represent others – Greece lost Mama Mia 2 to Croatia – and he said the financial scheme is working.
He also noted “The internationally acknowledged success of Greece’s management of the pandemic, which put the country on the list of safe choices” for foreign productions and which drew The Lost Daughter that was going to be shot in another country.
“When the pandemic forced them to find an alternative, Greece was scouted and the production found its home in the beautiful island of Spetses,” said Kefalas, describing the island as “a naturally protected bubble” offering sophisticated infrastructure and a range of urban and rural locations.
“The island’s open-minded authorities recognized the opportunity for both short-term and long-term benefits to the island, and quickly embraced the production,” he said.
The government's commitment to movie makers is paying off, with a new board of directors for the Greek Film Center and more funding for productions and co-productions with the added allure of celebrities attracting tourists.
“It meets the needs of today’s producers in a much more simplistic and straightforward way,” Venia Vergou, Director of the Hellenic Film Commission.
She said the commission has now begun a location scouting support program, offering early stage support to foreign productions shooting in Greece to make it even easier for film makers to find the right spots for their movies.
“We’re very much interested in bringing them onboard in Greece as early as possible to make them see that Greece is not only the stereotypical islands, and antiquities, and archeological sites,” says Vergou. “There are some places that they can’t imagine.”