Although the filming of Hollywood movies in Serbia had been impossible until recently, we very quickly got used to running into movie stars in clubs, restaurants and various events. Walking the streets of Belgrade lately, people could have seen Pierce Brosnan shooting the action flick "Three Days To Kill", while Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox and Jessica Chastain were the guests of the Serbian capital few years ago, during the shooting of "Coriolanus". "Raven" featuring John Cusack, "Lockout" starring Guy Pearce, a sequal to the cult movie "Ironclad", the series "Titanic: Blood and Steel" with Neve Campbell, Derek Jacobi, Chris Noth are only few of the projects of the movie industry filmed on a location in Serbia.
According to the data provided by the Serbian Film Association (SFA), Serbia annually generated about EUR 7.1 million on average from the lease of filming locations to foreign productions in the period 2007-2011. The smallest revenue was registered in 2007 - about EUR 2.2 million, whereas a record revenue of EUR 15.5 million was reported in 2010. This is approximately double the investment in filming projects in Serbia, which was at about EUR 4 million over the last few years, while this year no money has been earmarked for the movie industry in the budget.
Serbia has managed to attract about EUR 50 million worth of investments from foreign productions in the past four years, while Hungary and Czech Republic generate at least the same amount every year.
Diversity of cultural landscapes, natural beauties and architecture represents a huge potential that Serbia could tap into in order to become an interesting filming destination. However, our country is not an attractive location for the moment, mainly due to a bad situation in the movie industry and lack of professional agents in creative industries. Serbia is unstable for business in the movie industry, and it also lacks instruments to use to bring foreign productions, Executive Director of the Group for Creative Economy Hristina Mikic claims.
As our interlocutor explains, nobody takes this form of attracting foreign investment seriously. The existing plan for bringing investors is focused on production and industrial capacities, tourism to a lesser extent, but there are no incentives for the movie industry.
- We are indeed competitive in terms of the cost of manpower and other services, so the shooting of a movie with a budget of EUR 20 million in Serbia costs about 35 percent less than in Los Angeles and about 20 percent less than in Hungary or Czech Republic, which are our main competitors. However, we are still too conservative to understand the business that can contribute to the development of our country - Mikic claims.
According to our interlocutor, the most important criteria for attracting foreign companies are the professionalization of location managers and the opening of an one-stop-shop office to allow for efficient, quick and cheap establishment of a production service in every municipality.
Tax reliefs of all kinds represent another form of attracting foreign companies with tax credits being the most popular around the world as between 25 and 40 percent of the total investment in the country where a part or the whole movie is filmed are refunded to the investor.
There were some attempts at introducing tax credits in Serbia in 2011 as part of the "Branding Serbia" program implemented by the Trade Ministry, but all these attempts failed.
There is also much that can be done with so-called "welcome packages" (information brochures listing capabilities and conditions for filming on certain locations) that municipalities could use to promote themselves at trade fairs as favorable investment locations.
Directory of filming locations and trade show in Los Angeles
A directory of filming locations in Serbia, an encouraging step toward the development of Serbia as an attractive destination, was launched January 2012. It is available at websites www.filminserbia.com and www.filmlocationserbia.com
- This directory is still in its infancy and is constantly updated with new photos and locations. The website features about 220 locations and 2,500 photos and still counting. It is an excellent reference because foreigners usually have no clue how Serbia looks like and what they can find here. The directory was made using an extremely advanced software - says Ana Ilic from SFA.
The Serbian Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA) too helps the development of this industry. Namely, this agency has been organizing a visit to the Filming Locations Trade Show in Los Angeles since 2009, SIEPA Marketing Consultant Natasa Vujovic says in a talk with eKapija.
- This event in Santa Monica, California brings together about 3,000 film professionals and 240 exhibitors representing about 30 countries. Serbia had a notable performance at this trade show, which has resulted in the filming of certain movies in our country – Vujovic says and adds that this is only a small step and that is is necessary to organize more promotional activities.
Because of its infrastructure, professional film workers and various natural beauties, Serbia could become a leading filming destination in the region, but our interlocutors agree that there is not much we can do without incentives.