Lefteris Kretsos, General Secretary for Media and Communication - Athens, in an exclusive interview for the audiovisual and filming industry in Greece, new initiatives and challenges
Media and entertainment industry are strongly associated with market disruptions and technological advancement. TV and the film industry can prove to be environments that spark creativity and inspiration for many young people. Greeks are an active, educated, English-fluent population with a proven track of skills in the arts and technology. It is hard to find a prestigious university in the world that does not employ someone speaking Greek. There are thousands of talented graduates in the area of information and communication technology who could easily deliver the most demanding Hollywood post-production projects.
How is the economic and political situation in Greece now?
There are still numerous challenges to confront, but Greece is turning the page day by day. We are back to economic growth and political stability, but we need to keep the momentum of reforms that promote economic transparency, decent jobs and deliver a greater sense of economic and social justice.
Greece recently passed a law that provides funding and assistance to audiovisual productions including animation and video games. What are the expectations that drove this initiative?
The Greek government is strongly interested in promoting audiovisual and cultural, creative industries along with respective investments in faster connectivity, NGAs and digital economy. Our ambition to make Greece a «film friendly» country is firm and strong for a number of reasons. Film and television productions are drivers of other industries, including tourism. Investments in audiovisual works are associated with significant employment and skills generation benefits. In general, focusing on media and entertainment industry makes strong sense from a business and policy-making perspective.
But is it all about money and making business?
Absolutely not, media and entertainment industry are strongly associated with market disruptions and technological advancement. TV and the film industry can prove to be environments that spark creativity and inspiration for many young people. Greeks are an active, educated, English-fluent population with a proven track of skills in the arts and technology. It is hard to find a prestigious university in the world that does not employ someone speaking Greek. There are thousands of talented graduates in the area of information and communication technology who could easily deliver the most demanding Hollywood post-production projects.
Cash-rebates, tax shelters and other supportive policies for filming exist in many countries. What makes Greece sexy for hosting the production of a feature film?
Every place in the world is unique and interesting and it deserves the attention of the media and entertainment community. In our case, several investors feature Greece as a key and ideal location. Greece is full of attractive locations for film and high-end TV drama producers. To name a few: striking classical and byzantine sites and antiquities, thousands of islands, numerous forests and mountains, driving distance of sometimes less than an hour-long from mountainous to coastal areas and a unique set of creative communities. Plus a long lasting summer, along with plenty of snow in winter and a variety of choices of all tourist facilities' types.
It’s all here, under a special “Greek light” and more than 300 days of Mediterranean sunshine per year. Finally, do not underestimate our much tasteful cuisine. Sometimes this may prove dangerous though; there are thousand ways to get bigger in Greece (laughing).
It sounds as a dangerous place to visit if you are on a diet
It depends on your own drives! You can easily opt for a very healthy diet based on organic products, if this is your wish. But above all Greece is a safe and interesting place to visit. Besides there are thousands of kilometers of seashores and mountains and nature parks for outdoor workout. Personally, I prefer being outdoors, enjoying a cup of coffee and engaging in lively discussions around the city corners. There are so many places to have fun in Athens. People here like to talk, share and interact if you offer them the space for that. The urge to find joy in storytelling and communicating emotions and ideas or share experiences with others is something natural for people in Greece.
It is hard for someone to disagree on this, but I guess there are many Mediterranean destinations with much the same merits.
Are there (laughing)? No doubt about this, Southern Europe is an amazing place to be. I am in love with Southern Europe. Greece remains a much inspiring place to people interested in storytelling. It is the birthplace of storytelling, let’s not forget that. And perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that there are no better places in the world to find inspiration, other than Parthenon, Epidaurus Theatre, Olympus Mountain or by the sunset view in Santorini and the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion.
So in Greece it all comes to the past to get inspiration then?
I strongly disagree with this point. Greece has been used as a test-bed of political experimentation for years. Our government and people offer an alternative narrative of resistance and strength to the global community. The images told incredible stories by capturing the daily activities of impoverished people. Various global discourses, name it globalization, neoliberalism, uncontrolled globalized markets and inequality or modern geopolitical antagonisms, were redefined and mediated by what happened in the streets of Athens since 2010. Greece for several reasons has been the epicenter of global issues such as the economic and the refugee crisis.
Does this make Greece sexy for film-makers?
Storytellers and big producers are interested in global issues and treat well the hidden or mythical views of history. So Greece is definitely a much inspiring place to be if you work in the movie and creative industry.
What about the cash-rebate scheme you recently enacted? How it works?
It is very simple. There is a Fast Track approval mechanism that provides a cash rebate scheme of up to 5 million euros per project. Applications must be submitted electronically to the Ministry of Economic Development website. They are evaluated in terms of eligibility by the National Center for Audioviduals (EKOME) team within 15 days. As soon as the application is deemed eligible, the candidate beneficiary has to provide all necessary documents for approval within 60 days. EKOME shall give its approval within 30 days.
What the eligible costs can be?
The eligible costs of the audiovisual production may amount to up to 80% of the total cost of it. They include scriptwriting, soundtrack, staff hiring, equipment rental, accommodation and living expenses, post production, supplies, digital games’ software development and royalties. The minimum funding of the eligible costs shall be 100.000 euros.
Who can the beneficiary be?
Cash rebate audiovisual beneficiaries can be companies based or disposing a branch in Greece.
When are you planning to launch the new initiative?
We need to get done first with some preparatory steps for the implementation of the recently enacted legislation. We are working hard in order to be ready to fully expose ourselves to the global community of film-makers in a matter of few months from now.
*Editor-at-large & Phd candidate of European & International Relations