The Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended and spoke at an event at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, where a discussion was also hosted among producers and company executives that engage in audiovisual productions. Ferdinand Dohna (DEU), Sam Hoyle (Sky Studios), Peter Nadermann (DEU) Richard Pommérat (N9ne Studio), Veronica Vitali (NETFLIX), Boban Jevtic (Firefly Productions) and Julien Leroux (Paper Entertainment) participated in the panel.
Let me start by thanking all our panelists for their participation in what I’m sure will be an extremely illuminating discussion that will lay out the landscape of film and television in the world today.
When you look at the quality of the work they have helped bring forward – including productions like “The Killing”, “Dr Who”, “Tehran”, “War and Peace” and “Borgia” – you know you are going to be hearing the kind of insight that – I am sure- you don’t want to miss.
It is a huge honour, and pleasure for me personally, to be here today at the Thessaloniki Film Festival. Thank you all for organizing this event. I was informed about the significant progress it has made over the past years. And it is important that I am here today, amongst the country’s and the world’s most talented creative minds.
As you know, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is the cornerstone of the modern Greek film industry, and, as you pointed out, the line is increasingly being blurred between film and television. And what a force that industry is now showing itself to be, with much greater visibility of Greek talent in international markets, more co-productions, and more foreign productions being filmed in Greece. Quite a few of them, actually being filmed here in Thessaloniki and I understand maybe more interesting announcements will be coming over the next days.
Last year alone there were 200 projects in our country, including over 20 Greek feature films and more than 20 TV and film productions coming from big Hollywood studios. This year’s Palme D’Or winner, “The Triangle of Sadness”, was co-produced by Heretic, a Greek production company, and was primarily shot on the island of Evia.
Meanwhile, Evi Kalogiropoulou’s short film, “On Xerxes’ Throne”, also received the Canal+ Award for Short Film in Critic’s Week at Cannes. As one industry journal pointed out, “despite the ravages of COVID-19 and the financial crisis of the late 2000s, the Greek film industry has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage”.
Of course, not all of us have the talent to be a part of the creative process. But we in government do understand that making a film is not just a creative endeavour. It is a financial one too and one that is important for the whole country –this industry directly and indirectly employs more than 100,000 people, while of course having a significant broader financial impact across industries and across regions.
From the very beginning we laid out a very clear strategy that essentially was based on three pillars that aim to support and grow the audio-visual industry as it continues to build on the success it has enjoyed in recent years.
Across all sectors of the economy, our goal has always been to create the best environment for business and investment. And this is of course also true for your industry. So our strategy’s first pillar was built on incentives, with our country now offering one of the most competitive programs in the whole European Union and having further simplified application and certification processes.
I’m sure many of you are well aware of our incentive scheme. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. We just looked at what other countries were doing, and tried to do it a little bit better. So we had a 40% cash rebate on eligible expenses incurred by productions in Greek territory, for all audio-visual projects, with over €140 million already distributed last year. This can be combined with a 30% tax relief incentive on eligible expenses.
Now we’ve added to that allowing admittance of non-resident labor invoices for projects with eligible expenses over 8 million, up to 50% of eligible costs. Then, of course, there is also the Hellenic Developmental Fund to guarantee bank loans up to €900,000 for the Audio Visual sector and “Entrepreneurship 360”, which is a special state aid scheme to support AV studios.
Our second pillar is infrastructure. We were very well aware of a lack of adequate soundstages, which is a challenge and that is why we are aware of the fact that we need more state-of-the-art infrastructure, which will enable Greece to be a major audio-visual player, a player we need to be. There is a lot of interest in these types of investments. Some of it actually will take place very close to here, in Thessaloniki. And of course, I do need to point out that companies interested in these types of investments can also benefit from extremely low loans from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. These loans actually charge an interest which is slightly under one percent interest rate, which is extremely competitive given today’s interest rate environment.
And of course, the final pillar of our strategy is human capital. Without the right people, and in particular the right skills, this industry cannot grow.
So, with the right upskilling of crews, the right workshops for content creation through programs like the Greek Film Center’s “Incubating the Film Industry”, and the development of a National Audiovisual School, these are exactly the tools that we want to employ to improve the skills, especially for the young talented people that we have, to offer their services to the audio visual industry.
150km east of here, in the city of Drama, which is known for its own international short film festival, a new audio-visual cluster is being developed, its being designed alongside a film school, to nurture startups, as well as new talent for the future.
In addition to all of this, we’re moving forward with a much simpler, more effective regulatory framework. The minister has spoken about that. We constantly try to make it less cumbersome for you to do business in Greece, which includes a streamlined permit process, the development of a network of local film offices, and reform of the industry’s legal framework.
We know that there is more that we can do, to ensure that the Greek film industry can get the investment and the funding it deserves. And to ensure that regulation is streamlined in order to free up the time of producers to do what they do best, what you do best, which is of course to tell the stories that we all love to watch and hear.
Still, until now, no major platforms had shared our stories, the stories of Greek creators. But this has changed this week as Netflix announced the acquisition of the international rights of Greek drama series “Maestro”. Congratulations, Mr Papakaliatis. You make us all very proud.
And we hope that this is just a beginning and that platforms will acquire, and, why not, produce themselves more Greek films and series to come. We are, of course, very proud of our beautiful scenery, our beautiful landscapes. Greece is a country that has not been filmed a lot, which offers a lot of very unique landscapes. For example, the city of Thessaloniki surprised many when it first appeared on screen. But we are, of course, particularly proud of our extremely talented people. And it is our job to identify them through the strategy I just described.
After all, the art of storytelling, which drives this fantastic event, is something which is deeply embedded in Greek culture. Performing arts were born in Greece. They were born right under the Acropolis in Athens, when ancient Greeks for the first time experimented with theater, not only as a form of entertainment, but also as a form of self-reflection.
So the discussion that we will have today and of course the Thessaloniki International Film Festival shows that this tradition is very much alive in Greece today. It is vibrant, it is energized with new ideas, and despite the passing of two millennia, still has an exciting future ahead of it.
Thank you very much for your attention.