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The sun, the sea and the mild climate are constantly presented as Greece’s most important assets when it comes to attracting foreign investment. At an event in London in 2013 to promote state-owned properties in Greece, organizers based their campaign on the country’s climate and weather. In recent years, these assets have succeeded in attracting investment in a hitherto untapped sector: audiovisual production.

At the same time, Greece offers one of the most generous cash back programs in the world, attracting a growing number of Hollywood projects, most recently the fourth installment of “The Expendables”, an action thriller to be filmed. in the port city of Thessaloniki, in the north of the country. . When it launched in April 2018, the cash back amounted to 35% of eligible expenses incurred in Greece. By September 2021, this figure had been increased to 40%. During this period, a total of 171 applications were included in the cash back program (92 national productions and 79 international productions), while the total capital invested in the country amounts to 255 million euros. The program has led to the creation of around 42,130 new jobs. Production companies spent around 60 million euros on services while filming in Athens.

At a recent online conference, experts in the field said they believe there is a lot of room for improvement. The event was organized by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the National Center for Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME).

Joseph Samaan, founder and chairman of the Tanweer Group, said Greece is capable of becoming a hub in content creation. “If we all work together, Greece could in a few years be the Hollywood of Europe,” he said, adding that the country’s 40 percent cash back is very attractive. “Greece is like an open-air studio,” he said, highlighting the combination of seascapes and mountains, picturesque island landscapes and abundant sunshine. “In addition, it is difficult to find countries [in Europe], besides Great Britain, where most people speak good English, “said the boss of Tanweer, soon to be released” Smyrna “, a drama based on a play by Mimi Denissi. euros of the film is one of the largest in the history of Greek cinema.

John Kalafatis, CEO of New York-based York Studios, said Greece’s efforts to attract film productions show great promise. York Studios has teamed up with Bulgarian company Nu Boyana, owned by Millennium Media, to build a state-of-the-art film set in the Thessaloniki suburb of Thermi. Work on the € 20 million project is expected to start next year. The 20.5-acre lot recently hosted the filming of “The Enforcer,” a thriller starring Antonio Banderas, and is currently the filming location for the fourth installment of the “The Expendables” franchise, starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Megan Fox and Andy Garcia. A giant model of a frigate was made for the film.

“Given the strong demand for productions in New York, Greece offers good prospects in the field of audiovisual production. Besides the support of the Greek government and EKOME, my meeting with Yariv Lerner, CEO of Nu Boyana, was a catalyst for the implementation of our investment in northern Greece, ”said Kalafatis. “Greece has well-developed infrastructure, attractive locations and high quality human resources,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, Giannis Karagiannis, CEO of JK Productions and owner of Kappa Studios, said Greece’s strategy to attract foreign productions is bearing fruit. Filming of “Greek Freak”, a film based on the real story of the family that produced a trio of brothers turned NBA champions – Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and Kostas Antetokounmpo of the Los Angeles Lakers – and “Crimes of the Future , A horror film starring Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, took place at the company’s studios.

Speaking of Greece’s poor progress in post-production and visual effects, Dimitris Evangelopoulos, Managing Director of Studio Alfa, said the industry will only grow in response to demand for audiovisual productions. “We believe that will happen with the productions that will take place in Greece,” he said.

“Greece is perhaps the best place in the world to host film and television productions,” said Yelena Popovic, director of the 2021 drama “Man of God”, which has received € 414,200 in funding from the rebate program. cash.

The call for photos for “The Expendables 3” at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in 2014. Filming for the next part of the franchise began this week in Thessaloniki.

Red ribbon

The financing system is not without its problems. These are not the ones usually mentioned by the Greek left-wing opposition, which claims the incentives are not associated with a comprehensive strategy for the country’s audiovisual industry. On the contrary, they mostly have to do with bureaucracy.

“The fact that we have to produce physical invoices for our expenses is a problem. We have to make a copy of every expense receipt, which is a lot of work and means we end up with boxes of papers, ”Samaan said.

The founder of Tanweer also recommends raising the ceiling of 900,000 euros in financing that audiovisual production companies can request from the loan guarantee fund.

Currently, this financing instrument, which can potentially issue loans totaling 62.5 million euros, provides bank loans of 25,000 to 900,000 euros to cover start-up capital and finance projects. The fund guarantees 80% of the loan, while banks are not allowed to require guarantees for loans up to 50,000 euros.

Speaking on the infrastructure issue, Kalafatis said it was important to improve the speed of wireless internet, “which is poor in Greece”.

Meanwhile, people working in the sector say Greece needs to improve its status in international show business in order to support a number of projects at the same time. But to achieve this requires qualified personnel, which are often hard to find, as well as new state-of-the-art film studios, as the current facilities in Greece cannot meet the demand for Greek productions and international for television and the big screen. In addition, there is still a long way to go in the expensive post-production and visual effects business.

According to a study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), the direct contribution of these audiovisual productions to the Greek economy amounts to 108 million euros, while the contribution to Greece’s gross domestic product s ‘amounted to 686 million euros. It is estimated that 25 million euros of investments will create more than 755 jobs, including 233 directly linked to production, and will increase the GDP by 35 million euros.

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