Big studios and financial incentives attract big names to Serbia

The Ledge shot at Jelasnicka Gorge. Credit: Mark Windon

Serbia, a landlocked country in south-eastern Europe, is a hub of international production to watch. It has a 25% incentive with no cap per production – which can go up to 30% if a film spends at least $ 6.1 million (5 million euros) – and a growing team base.

Martin Campbell’s action thriller Memory, starring Liam Neeson and Guy Pearce, is scheduled to tour the country in August. The project is funded and produced by American company Black Bear Pictures with Welle Entertainment by Cathy Schulman.

Legendary Entertainment’s The Machine, starring Mark Hamill and Bert Kreischer, began filming in May. “We are very grateful for the warm welcome and support we have received from the local community as well as from the many Serbian film professionals who are also part of the cast and crew,” said film producer Peter. Atencio.

Serbia has the advantage of not only low production costs – around 30% less than the Czech Republic – but also the speed of execution of its 25% incentive.

“The cash back is one of the perks of filming in Serbia,” says Jonathan English, founder of local company Balkanic Media, which co-produces The machine. “It pays within about 90 days of submitting the final audit and is very reliable. It has become a cornerstone for most of the international productions that choose Serbia.

Balkanic Media and UK financier Head Gear Films are also offering a $ 25 million credit facility to support the shooting of films and TV series in the country. The fund collects the country’s cash rebate and provides debt financing and spread finance for Balkan media productions and its own original content. Balkanic resumed filming of the CW series The Outpost mainly at PFI studios, just outside Belgrade, last summer as production resumed after the Covid-19 shutdown.

“We had many Covid-19 protocols in place, which helped ensure the safety of the actors and the team,” says English, who produces the series. “Most of the crew are Serbs, even department heads, and the country is extremely competitive in terms of fares and costs.”

PFI Studios has eight sound stages ranging from 600 square meters to 1,800 square meters and a 12.5-hectare backlot, which features a replica of San Francisco City Hall in front of a 2,000-square-meter lake and the streets of Venice, Monte Carlo and Washington DC. Avala Studios is six kilometers from Belgrade and has four sound stages, although three have long-term rental contracts. There’s also a 180-degree green screen and additional production facilities.

Serbia is expected to receive a new boost with the construction of a studio just 20 minutes from the center of Belgrade. Initiated by Firefly Productions, the complex will feature three sound stages (two of 2,000 square meters and one of 800 square meters) plus a backlot, production offices, a water tank and related facilities. Part of the complex is expected to open later this year.

Firefly seeks to capitalize on this by developing internationally co-produced television productions. These include the crime thriller Gorilla alongside the American company Gorilla Enterprises; a six-part drama series titled Frustrated with the Hungarian Joyrider, directed by Danis Tanovic; and Fatal ally, based on the bestselling spy novel by British journalist Tim Sebastian.

Beyond the capital Belgrade, the locations range from gentle hills and rivers in the center to the Dinaric Alps in the west and the Carpathian and Balkan mountains in the east.

To the south-east, the Jelasnicka Gorge with its towering 100-meter rock formations hosted the climbing drama The Ledge at the end of last year, produced by British company Evolution Pictures and Red Production, based in Belgrade.

About Selena J. Killeen

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