The Serbian film industry, with the support of the USAID Serbia Competitiveness Project and SIEPA, participated for the first time at this year’s American Film Location Market, April 16-18 in Santa Monica, CA. This trade show focuses on the promotion of locations as destinations for foreign film productions. The Serbian delegation, under the recently launched “Film in Serbia” brand, marketed the country’s advantages as a film location, including an extremely competitive cost structure, diversity of locations, and excellent creative and technical talent.
The “Film in Serbia” stand generated significant attention from industry representatives and the media, as Serbia represented the newest country participant at the show and also featured high quality and visually appealing marketing materials. This event is the most important international film location trade show, where more than 35 countries and several US states compete for major film industry productions to attract local spending to their destinations.
The highlight of the Serbian team’s participation was a brunch held on April 17th in Dan Tana’s Hollywood restaurant, which was hosted by the well known actress, HRH Princess of Serbia, Catherine Oxenberg. This event was attended by TV and movie producers from the largest production houses and studios, including Universal, Fox, Mandate, the Film Department, Starz Media, Walden Media, and provided a networking opportunity for Serbian film producers, postproduction companies, and studios in a relaxed atmosphere. During the brunch, Ram Bergman, producer of “Brothers Bloom”, talked about his experience when filming in Serbia with the key words in his remarks including hospitability, professionalism, and fun. Bergman warmly recommended Serbia to his colleagues and promised that he will be back, while Matt Birch, “Brothers Bloom” Head of Physical Production, especially focused on the talent and English speaking capability, and emphasized that, compared to the region, it was much easier to work in Serbia.
”Professionally, we are competitive with anyone in the world”, claims Miloš Đukelić, young director and owner of Red Production Company upon his return from Santa Monica. “The Serbian film industry complex has been rebuilt in the last five to ten years and this is something we very proud of”. In addition, Vuk Marijanović, producer from the Cyber Entertainment Studio notes that in Serbia the “technical base is in extremely good condition, all the equipment is brand new and there is no corresponding quality in the region”.
Ana Ilić, USAID Serbia Competitiveness Project film industry advisor states that the competitive advantages are clear. “We also have variety of locations – mountains that can look like Scotland, deserts, rivers, bridges that can be set up for medieval drama or a modern action movie that are in close proximity to each other. Our film workers are talented, creative and dedicated, and our great advantage is that Serbia has the highest percentage of English speakers in the region. And we are 35% cheaper than London and the Czech Republic, 20% cheaper than Hungary and Romania. We were able to spread this message to the industry during the trade show”.
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The crew that came together under a unified “Film in Serbia” brand, included production companies Work in Progress, Gargantua Films, Dream Company, Red Production, Cyber Entertainment, film lab Cinelabs Belgrade, post-production company Cinebox and studios for visual effects Crater and Digitalkraft. With the support from the USAID Serbia Competitiveness Project, they prepared well for very direct, precise and to the point questions of industry representatives, and generated significant interest from producers. Several scouting visits and location search for production of feature films, commercials and/or television production houses are expected this summer.
This resurgence of Serbian film industry caught the attention of key international trade publications. Senior editors of the Hollywood Reporter and Variety magazines attended the brunch and met directly with Serbian representatives. LA Daily News, singled out Serbia from more than 35 countries in an article for this local paper on the trade show. Screen Daily also covered Serbia stating that “Belgrade is a hot new cosmopolitan destination for international, feature, documentary and commercial film markets. The country is buzzing with an unparalleled energy”. Locations magazine, the official magazine of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) which is published annually, in 2009 deemed Serbia so chic that it presented the country separately from the South East Europe section and published a one page story about Serbian film industry with a headline: Serbia takes action!
Serbia’s film industry is now in the spotlight and after many years is being seen through a different lens.