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Friday, March 5, 2021

Attracting foreign film producers in Greece - Survey of "Athens 9.84"

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The cinematic reality in Greece was highlighted by Athens 9.84. The new large-scale survey of the city station, on "Attracting foreign film producers", focused on data on the current legal framework, film licenses, bureaucratic procedures and new tax and financial incentives.

Is only the famous Greek light enough? The natural beauty? Archaeological treasures? Athens as the ancient cradle of democracy? Islands as paradise landmarks?

Is any natural decor, the ideological charge of a world monument, enough to write a new international cinematic history in our country? If history is the eternal treasury of examples, then in the case we are exploring today, it is not at all generous: "The Child and the Dolphin" in 1957, "The Cannons of Navarone" in 1961, "Alexis Zorbas" in 1964, " The Infinite Blue "in 1988," Captain Corelli's Mandolin "in 2001, the musical" Mama Mia "in 2008, all great… exceptions to a rule that wants international film productions to choose other countries in our wider neighborhood.

Can we make the working hypothesis, with serious parameters now on the table, that this image will be a thing of the past and that something new is being born in the landscape of the country's economy and cinematic development?

P. Kouanis: There is a will from the State and the local authorities

Ο Panos Kouanis President and CEO of the National Center for Audiovisual Media and Communication speaking at Eleonora Orfanidou and Eleftheria Koumandou stressed that: "The European market is a very strong market, ie Croatia had incentives and film offices long before us. France, Spain and Portugal the same. We practically adopted them a little late. The good thing of course is that we learn from the best practices of others, that is, we do not need to repeat the mistakes of others. The downside is that we are entering a closed and very competitive environment too late.

We are competitive. The financial tool we use called cash rebate is a very competitive tool, which returns to the company that spends money on invoices in the country, a percentage in cash. In Greece the percentage is 35%, it is a very competitive product in relation to the rest of Europe, which has been working for two years now to bring results.

Film offices, in the sense of infrastructure, do not exist in Greece. Now they are being set up. There is the will and the will from all the regions and the two big Municipalities and it is one of the first things that the Ministry of Digital Governance will do at the beginning of the year.».

"Athens to become a pole of attraction and facilitation for international film producers"

"Technopolis is in the heart of what the Municipality of Athens is trying to run so that Athens becomes a pole of attraction and facilitation for international film producers. "With the proposal of the municipal group Open City, adopted by the Mayor of Athens Costas Bakogiannis, it was decided to establish a film office, based in Technopolis, which has already listened and hosted the cultural issues of the city", said its CEO, Costas Bitzanis.

He added that at an initial stage the project will be limited in scope and with specific responsibilities, but will gradually grow. Technopolis, as he stressed, will be in charge of drawing up pricing policy - in cooperation with the Municipality of Athens and the competent bodies - but it will take 4 to 5 months in order for everything to be ready. "Until then, the Municipality can grant the public spaces under the current conditions in order to shoot an international film production," he said.

The role of film offices is important, Mr. Bitzani underlined, as he said: "they facilitate the international productions that come to the country, solving their hands in issues that are involved with the Greek bureaucracy and that otherwise they could not face".

Multiple revenues for the municipality

O Kyriakos Angelakos, Municipal Councilor of the Municipality of Athens with the combination "Open City" underlined  that: «There was from the first moment the support of the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis for the creation of the Athens Film Office, has bid and has promoted these processes ".

"We brought the issue of Film Offices from the Open City to the Municipal Council with the urgent procedure and this is because we believe that the Municipality should be harmonized with the law which stipulates the creation of film offices in the region, but also in large cities, to The Municipality of Athens should modernize the framework for the concession-rental of spaces for cinematic purposes because the current regime is not at all attractive to attract foreign productions mainly and is also a constant request of the Cinema Associations, which have been trying since 2007, 12 whole years, to create such an Office, the Athens Film Office ".   

"The innovation introduced by the flim office is that the licenses will be published online. A site will work in which all these spaces will be recorded and also the benefits that a Municipality can make. From this it results that the Municipality will have multiple revenues from the various services that will be used and of course from the rental of the premises.».  

Cinema tourism

Η Venia Vergou, Director of the Hellenic Film Commission of the Hellenic Cinema Center noted that: "A ministerial decision was recently signed, according to which almost all the requests from the KAS are no longer accepted ".

"What differentiates Greece from other countries is that there are a lot of requests to the Ministry of Culture because the majority of the sites requested are mainly archeological sites."

"For film licenses, depending on the locations that the director needs, the licenses can be many or even few. For example, the more sites you need, the more permissions you need.

In terms of bureaucracy, what differentiates Greece from other countries is that because the majority of the sites requested are mainly archeological sites, there is a plethora of many requests to the Ministry of Culture. Only in case someone wants to shoot in a place that is protected by UNESCO and if there is a specific reason for additional protection of the monument, then it is examined by the KAS.

Of course, the Film Commission of the Hellenic Cinema Center has in its institutional roles to make the country more film friendly and therefore to mediate in the requests of the producers and the politicians, in order to create a more friendly context for the cinemas. And in other countries it is not always easy to get permits when they are in demand.

Regional film offices should be set up across the country in places where there is a very high demand and a great deal of emphasis should be placed on educating the people who will staff them. One incentive that has been implemented for about a year and a half with great success is the cash rebate. At the time of application there are many applications that have been submitted and many productions have been subject to this incentive.
The tax credit will be applied immediately and concerns tax exemptions for those investors who want to invest in audiovisual productions. 

In terms of costs and fees, Greece is certainly the most competitive of the artistic and technical factors of a workshop compared to the countries of northern and central Europe, but we are not competitive compared to other Balkan countries.

The audiovisual industry is part of the creative industries and many studies conducted in Europe and around the world by specialized companies have shown that the economic benefits both locally and nationally and regionally for a country when large foreign productions are filmed is huge because the range of specialties in the professional space they benefit from is huge. And of course there are the multiplier benefits because the projection of a country through the big and the small screen is also huge and this is where film tourism belongs.

There are counts for the millions of tourists who have arrived in New Zealand since the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as in Northern Ireland for the shooting of Game of Thrones. As for Greece, we must not forget Luc Besson's "Infinite Blue", shot in 88, and a great French director chooses to shoot on a small island in the Aegean, Amorgos. This is one of the most commercial French films in the history of the French box office. 

Regarding the competition for Athens, for the 3rd year our country participates in it and our proposal and this year is among the finalists. This year they have proposed the production of the BBC, "Little Drummer" and we are in the top ten finalists. Last year our candidacy was Corfu and we won the competition. The competition will last until December 30. 

It is an exciting time for Greece, because it is entering the markets for the first time with a very good shape coordinated nationally and this is something that we must take care to maintain in time. We must not forget that we are competing with countries that, what we are starting now, started 30 and 40 years ago».

117 places in Athens were mapped

Ο Andreas Tsilifonis President of the Audiovisual Media Producers Association noted that: "The production of audiovisual works worldwide has developed into one of the largest industries ".

"With a study done by IOBE, it says that for every 1 euro invested in this sector, it produces in the economy 6. There is a very large rate for the benefit to multiply. There is global competition at the city level to attract producers - eg Atlanta and Toronto were non-existent on the world movie map until recently - they are now attracting billions of dollars in production. We as an association did a mapping of places within the boundaries of the Municipality of Athens that could have a simple clean standardized licensing system.

The characterization came from discussions with production managers, location managers, etc. that we asked them "in the last 10 years in which places have shootings taken in Athens?" - a selection was made of 117 spaces that we handed over to the Municipality. From them, the Municipality must find out who it manages - and they must enter specific specifications of what is required to make a turn. And electronically, every producer should know how and the cost to shoot at the specific point of his choice - when the system evolves, it should be combined with other actors. It is not that there are no shootings in Athens, we just start every time on a zero basis.

New York, one of the most film-friendly cities in the world, has a base price of $ 300 a day per location - 12.000 shots per year, 9 out of 10 cities in the world for shooting up to 10 crew members do not pay unless they take up space, but leave .

We, as a Producers Association, have proposed a system closer to the American system of 10 to 50 people. We have proposed a cost of 300 euros per space per day, 50 to 100 people at 600 euros and over 100 (large productions) at 1.200 euros.

In my estimation, it does not take more than 2 months for the Film Office Athens to start operating for 20 points and spaces are slowly being added.».

Experiences of Greek filmmakers in Greece and abroad

«Abroad there is organization and organization brings speed. "In Greece you go blind and everyone is alone in the face of this bureaucratic monster", stressed among others the Elina Psykkou vice president of the Hellenic Film Academy.

At the same time, he noted that: "Cash rebate, is something that was applied for many years in other countries and was in demand in Greece has brought positive results, and has attracted foreign productions which indirectly helps Greek productions in the sense that the market is supplied with money and the crews work etc, but in order to be able to bring more results Greece needs to become more film friendly, and in many issues we are far behind ".

"Shooting licenses need to be easier and faster to get out. There are also issues of work content, the cinema space is a special space, therefore it is required that there is another legal framework at work - which does not exist.

There are too many organizations that a producer can turn to when he wants to make a spin in a public place - in each municipality, traffic, fire department, Ministry of Civil Protection, army according to the needs of each scene - it is chaotic because there is no one framework that regulates all these issues. We can wait too many months, and never get an answer so you are often forced to go illegal without wanting to».

El. Orfanidou, G. Manousakakis, V. Papastefanou, V. Baketea

 

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