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Location versus budget… It’s a filmmaker’s eternal dilemma. Rohini Nag brings you a a fabulous destinations that don’t pinch. And for deeper insights into why they work, Q&A with Ana Ili, Executive Director, Serbia Film Commission. Here are some tempting facts and figures you might like to save for future reference

What benefits does the Film Commission or the government offer foreign film producers?

Serbia Film Commission was established in 2009 as the independent non-profit association of the Serbia film industry. Members of the Serbian Film Commission include the leading 80 producers from Serbia. Serbia Film Commission is the only film commission in South-East Europe. It is a member of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) and of the European Association of Film Commissioners (EUFCN).

The Serbia Film Commission promotes Serbia’s competitive advantages globally, supports foreign producers looking for filming locations and partners and provides a single point of contact for inquiries. We provide support to international clients regarding locations, production services, professional services, legal and financial issues or other supporting services (accommodation, catering, craft services, transport, insurance, etc.).

The commission manages a database with detailed information on production companies, facilities, crew and other film capacities. Also, the commission is continually updating film locations database that currently consists of 250 locations for shooting in Serbia, with over 3,000 high-quality photos of natural beauty, cultural heritage, landscapes, buildings etc.

Also, we have certified 25 cities and municipalities in Serbia as ‘Film Friendly’ and introduced standards in licensing procedures for filming through cooperation with government agencies, public institutions and public enterprises.

How can a filmmaker approach you with a project to be shot in your region?

Our team welcomes enquiries from international clients on any production detail, from locations to the local crews and companies, hotels, legal issues, etc. They can easily ask us to connect them with the best providers in the industry here.

What are the tax incentives? Are there any different tax benefits if a producer associates for multiple projects?

Serbia offers great value for money. Production rates are the lowest in the region and international productions are eligible for VAT refunds. However, the Serbian Film Commission is constantly lobbying for the establishment of the programme of financial incentives in order to attract film and television projects and increase foreign investment which would bring Serbia new jobs and profit.

Unfortunately, Serbia still does not have a film incentive programme despite it having very popular, attractive and cost-effective filming destinations. An incentive programme has been identified in the Film Law, but the government still has not adopted bylaws to implement this programme. The Serbia Film Commission is expecting the government to adopt the necessary bylaws later this year so that the 20-per cent cash rebate programme can be implemented. That will make Serbia even more competitive, even though it already offers the lowest production rates in the region for very high quality services.

Can you share some anecdotes about film production in your region?

Foreign crews that film in Serbia usually have a great time here. They love local crews and people in general and find them extremely friendly and generous. For example, Chris Noth had no idea people (well, women) in Serbia knew him. But when he went to film in a small town in central Serbia, all the ladies at the hotel were very warm. He was shocked. However, stars here can walk around without ever being bothered. Most of them stay in apartments or hotels in downtown Belgrade and freely walk around, go to cafes and restaurants without fans or paparazzi chasing them. Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan, Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Guy Pearce… they were all regularly seen in clubs and restaurants or just walking down the street. Pierce Brosnan also threw a big birthday party in Belgrade.

Are there any special rebates that can be availed for short-scheduled shoots?

The proposed film incentive program,e includes features, TV, documentaries, animation and post-production. We hope the programme will officially be announced soon.

Is there any potential for co-productions for Indian film producers?

At the moment, we are exploring a range of projects whit high collaborative potential to open doors for co-production between film producers in Serbia and India. Serbian films and authors were very welcome at film festivals in India. Shooting in Serbia should be even more attractive for Indian producers with the incentive programme that is in the works.

What, according to you, makes the destination exquisite for filming an Indian film?

Ours is a perfect combination of urban locations and rural landscapes with highly professional film crews.

Why should an Indian filmmaker shoot their production in your region?

Serbia is a new filming destination that has not been used so much in international films, and with the excellent infrastructure, crews and film talents Indian filmmakers are able to accomplish high production values at prices than are more competitive than anywhere else in Europe or the Middle East. We like to pride ourselves on our construction and production design departments, which is especially attractive for lavish Indian blockbusters.

Which Indian films have been shot here in the past?

This fall, we will have a small Malayalam production shooting in the mountains of Southern Serbia for one week. But with our expanding collaboration with Indian producers, we expect many more productions in Serbia in the near future.

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