A taxi nearly ran over a burly man who was crossing a crowded street, while two Miami police officers monitored the situation from nearby: the man was none other than Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, and Miami is actually Thessaloniki, the largest city in northern Greece, where Millennium Media is filming. For the production of her latest action films.
The film “The Enforcer” is one of the major productions that began filming in Greece this summer, thanks to the resumption of the film industry and the lifting of quarantine and closure procedures since last May.
Other works being filmed in Greece include a sequel to “Knives Out” by Ryan Johnson, starring Daniel Craig, who previously played James Bond, and David Cronenberg’s science fiction movie, Crimes of the Future, starring Viggo Mortensen.
And the streaming platform “Disney Plus” previously filmed scenes in Athens from the biographical movie “Greek Freak”, which deals with the early years of Giannis Antetokounmpo, when the son of Nigerian immigrants was not yet a basketball star. Netflix also used Athena to film the suspense movie “Beckett,” starring John David, son of Denzel Washington.
Greek producer Panos Papahadzis, whose company “Argonauts” is co-producing the movie “Crimes of the Future,” said that this new demand for Greece is a “collision test” for the local film industry after years of stagnation. “For 20 years, we have been asking the state to make Greece an attractive country for cinema,” he said.
“Never in the history of Greek cinema has so many productions been filmed at the same time,” said Vasiliki Diagoma, Public Relations Officer at the Greek National Center for Audiovisual Media and Communication.
She admitted that Greece often missed opportunities to host the filming of foreign films, even if they were inspired by Greek history, considering that the reasons lie in “bureaucracy and lack of knowledge of decision-makers.”
Panos Papahadzis reminded that “closing entire regions for filming purposes was not an option five years ago.” For example, the film “Troy” about the Trojan epic of Homer was shot in Malta and Mexico in 2004, in which Athens hosted the Olympic Games, while the film “Alexander” directed by Oliver Stone was shot in Morocco.
Babahadzis notes that “40% of tourists choose the destinations they see in the movies.”
The final blow was in 2016, when a riot scene was filmed in Spain in the suspense movie “Jason Bourne” starring Matt Damon, according to the story, whose stage is supposed to be Athens. A year later, the Greek government passed a law aimed at attracting foreign production through financial incentives.
Under this law, producers of foreign films, television series, documentaries, animation films and digital games that are carried out on Greek soil are entitled to recover 40% of some expenses, most notably transportation costs, fuel consumption and the selection of actors.
The implementation of the new system took some time, but over the past two years, about 150 projects, including more than 70 foreign productions, have received funding of more than 180 million euros, according to the Greek National Center for Audiovisuals. “We may be late, but we have adopted best practices in this field,” said Vasiliki Diagoma. “We are one of the few countries that offer such a big discount,” she added.
The Syndicate of Greek Film and Television Technicians complained in an open book last month that Greece made only “small” profits from the film starring Antonio Banderas, which is produced by No Boyana, owned by Millennium Company in Bulgaria.
In this letter, the Syndicate was surprised that there were no “professional film technicians who are taxpayers in Greece” in the film’s staff. She noted that “No Boyana Studios” obtained a “tax reduction”, but in return, it achieved only “minimum profits” for Greece.
The liberal daily Kathimerini also noted that “low-cost workers from the Balkans” got “nearly all the skilled jobs” in the film. However, Vasiliki Diagoma emphasized that these projects “not only leave money behind, but also experience, good collaboration and a professional network.”
She highlighted that “the person who is being employed (to shoot a production) provides job opportunities for 15 other people.” “It is very important for our country, especially after 10 years of crisis,” she added.
For its part, No Boyana pledged to set up a film studio in Thessaloniki, but the project was delayed due to the epidemic.
Actor Alexandros Logothetis, who recently returned from filming in Ireland, sees major differences with Greece. He noted that “almost the entire crew was Irish, while the crew in Antonio Banderas’ movie came from abroad.” He stressed the need to guarantee “quotas for the Greek workforce”.
However, Diagoma considered that “there is no better publicity for tourism in Thessaloniki” than “The Enforcer”, even if the film does not specifically mention the second city of Greece. “One tweet from Banderas is enough,” she added. On July 7, the star already tweeted, “Shooting in Thessaloniki. Please be quiet.”
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