Greece Launches New Industry Org, Overhauls Rebate Scheme to Make Booming Mediterranean Biz More Sustainable

A delegation of Greek officials arrived in Cannes this week to announce the launch of a new government body, Creative Greece, that will oversee all audiovisual production in the Mediterranean nation

Published Time: 15.05.2024 - 08:31:34 Modified Time: 15.05.2024 - 08:31:34

A delegation of Greek officials arrived in Cannes this week to announce the launch of a new government body, Creative Greece, that will oversee all audiovisual production in the Mediterranean nation. They’ll also look to reassure foreign producers and investors that the country’s wildly successful cash-back program remains on track, after the Greek government announced last week it was pressing pause on new rebate applications until the fall.

The new organization, officially known as the Hellenic Film and Audiovisual Center, brings together the Greek Film Center, formerly responsible for domestic production, and the National Center of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME), the body that manages the country’s 40% cash rebate scheme. The merger is designed to streamline the growing Greek biz by uniting its various arms under a single banner.

The move is part of a larger shake-up that includes a dramatic overhaul to the country’s incentive program, which has helped Greece lure international productions, including Pablo Larrain’s Maria Callas biopic “Maria,” starring Angelina Jolie, and Rian Johnson’s Netflix blockbuster “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

The Greek government announced last week it’s suspending new applications to the incentive scheme until Oct. 1 as it clears up a backlog that has left it with more than €100 million ($108 million) in outstanding debts to both foreign and domestic productions.

According to EKOME, the cash-back program has fully repaid 202 of the 283 applications that have been approved since the scheme was launched, totaling nearly €110 million ($119 million), and will settle the rest of its debts by the time the application process reopens.

EKOME president and CEO Leonidas Christopoulos acknowledged that the production surge has put a strain on the Greek industry, arguing that the changes will make it more efficient and competitive moving forward.

“We had some problems due to the big boom of audiovisual productions in Greece. And when something happens very suddenly, it always puts a lot of pr -

essure on the system, so we needed to reform the system to be able to make it better,” Christopoulos said. “In a year’s time, I think it’s going to be a completely different landscape for the industry in Greece.”

The overhaul of the rebate scheme will include significant changes to the repayment schedule for approved projects, simplifying what Christopoulos describes as a cumbersome system that put a strain on budgetary planning. The per-project cap will fall from €12 million ($12.9 million) to €8 million ($8.6 million). Also, the program will carve out space for three separate categories for film and television, animation and virtual reality, and video games, allowing for a potential increase in funding allotted to each sector. Meanwhile, the new scheme will raise the minimum budget for episodic programs while also creating a new category for limited series.

Questions remain over key appointments at Creative Greece, as well as how its budget will be allocated — a touchy subject for the domestic industry, which has been chronically underfunded. Local producers are also concerned about the proposal for a tax on Greek broadcasters and streamers based in the country that will exclude global streaming platforms, which critics argue will give those companies an unfair advantage over domestic rivals.

As for the rebate, though wary of the pause in new applications, industry insiders have largely welcomed the changes. “The situation with the rebate has started becoming untenable,” says producer Konstantinos Kontovrakis, general secretary of the Audiovisual Producers’ Assn. of Greece. “The delays were creating insecurity for all parties involved. I think it’s necessary for them to find a way to clean up this mess and move on with a clean slate.”

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