There was a sunny sky on Thessaloniki Film Festival This week, with unseasonably high temperatures, many visitors are turning to sunscreen while rushing between movie premieres and industry events at Greece’s longest-running film festival.
The local industry is also enjoying a moment in the sun, as the Mediterranean nation has seen production surge post-pandemic, buoyed by foreign titles like Rian Johnson’s Netflix blockbuster.Glass onion: a mystery at daggers drawn”, the action thriller “Tin Soldier”, with Jamie Foxx and Robert De Niro, and Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone with “Spend4bles», the latest opus of the action franchise, filmed in Thessaloniki.
Last year, production in Greece reached record levels, with 132 projects supported by the country’s cashback program, which covers up to 40% of eligible expenses and can be combined with a separate tax relief program of 30 %. This year, the biopic Maria Callas by Pablo Larrain “Married”, with Angelina Jolie, and “ ” from Amazon StudiosKiller heat”, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley and Richard Madden, are among the productions that bring some star power to the country.
Speaking in Thessaloniki this week, Leonidas Christopoulos, the new president of EKOME – the government body responsible for administering the cash rebate – boasted that almost 100 million euros ($107 million) were been distributed by the incentive program since its launch in 2018, with the majority of this sum having been disbursed over the last two years.
But Greek producers have sounded the alarm over what they see as the industry’s growing dependence on foreign productions, which have raked in almost two-thirds of that government aid, while the Film Center Greek, which plays a vital role in supporting the development of national film and television production, remains seriously underfunded.
“Whatever happens must happen for the local industry,” said Konstantinos Kontovrakis, co-founder of Athens-based production and sales company Heretic (“Triangle of Sadness,” “Inside”). “There’s no point designing incentives, there’s no point spending hundreds of millions of euros, unless it goes back to local talent and (allows) local talent to flourish more.”
Although Greece is currently enjoying its moment in the spotlight as foreign producers circle around, courted by the country’s sunny locations and its competitive discount system, Kontovrakis warned that the rise could be a “bubble” that is “doomed to burst.”
“We know very well that the studios will move to another country tomorrow. It happened (elsewhere),” he said. “We are not reinventing the wheel. We are not rewriting history.
Greek filmmakers nevertheless continue to make waves internationally, such as Sofia Exarchou, whose second feature film “Animal” premiered at the Locarno Film Festival, where lead actress Dimitra Vlagopoulou won the award for Best Acting Performance. Riding on the resounding success of his first film in Venice, “Apples”, the director Christos Nikou made the big transatlantic leap with his first feature film in English, “Nails“, a sci-fi romance from Apple TV+ starring a ensemble cast directed by Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed and Jeremy Allen White.
Greek drama series are also starting to conquer the global market, with Beta Film recently acquired international sales rights to the Greek drama series “The Beach,” a prime-time sensation for public broadcaster ERT. Last week in Thessaloniki, Fifth Season obtained worldwide distribution rights to the Greek teen drama “Milky Way,” written and directed by Palme d’Or winner Vasilis Kekatos. The show was the first Greek series to compete at Series Mania, where the bold drama invited comparisons to HBO’s “Euphoria.”
For producers at the Thessaloniki festival this week, these positive trends are all the more reason for government and industry to ensure they align to continue developing what Neda Film’s Amanda Livanou has dubbed ” Greek Hollywood.
“I think we can all agree that the Greek industry is thriving,” said Livanou, who last year finished production on the horror-mystery film “Buzzheart,” from veteran director Dennis Iliadis (“The Last house on the left”). “It’s an idyllic picture of what’s happening. Of course, as producers we are very happy, but we also have to show how to improve, how not to repeat the mistakes made by other discounts.
The Thessaloniki Film Festival runs from November 2 to 12.