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ENTERTAINMENT: Cyprus set for stardom on world film stage

21 April, 2019

A Hollywood production starring Oscar-winning Nicolas Cage to be entirely filmed in Cyprus is seen as proof the island can become a destination for filming world-class cinema productions.


The EUR 25 mln Hollywood production Jiu Jitsu headlining Cage, was attracted by Cyprus’ newly introduced Film Scheme, set up to give the local audiovisual sector an investment boost. 

The Cyprus Filming Scheme was designed by the government, and voted in by parliament, to become an important investment driver by drawing the big actors, and cash, of the cinema world.

 

The plan offers tax relaxations and credit, with the most attractive incentive being a maximum 35% reimbursement for nearly all expenses made in Cyprus, according to the size of the investment. It covers hiring local filming crews to rent portable toilets and recruiting animal actors.

The state scheme cover rebates worth EUR 25 mln per year, with officials aiming to use the entire budget.  

Reimbursements will be made upon completion of the filming and confirmation that taxes have been paid and an auditor’s review that the money spent is eligible expenses, then within a set period of time, the producer is reimbursed.

 

The production must be approved by the Filming Scheme Assessment Committee (FSAC) and the must prove that they are able to raise finance for the film.

According to Invest Cyprus, which is managing the scheme, investments in the Audiovisual Industry will have a cumulative effect on the island’s economy. 

Talking to the Financial Mirror, Invest Cyprus official Lefteris Eleftheriou, said the multiplier effect in the economy for every euro spent is about 7 times in a mature economy with infrastructure.

 

Invest Cyprus’ president Michalis Michael has previously estimated that for every USD 25 mln invested in film production the local economy benefits by USD 175 mln.

“These productions will need actors, cameramen, directors’ producers and screenwriters who are familiar with the realities of the island. In addition, a film production requires the engagement of resources and other ancillary professions like drivers, accountants, lawyers, hotels, taxi drivers, plumbers, carpenters, extras of all kinds, technicians, painters, constructors, taxis, car rentals, electricians, caterers and the list is endless,” said Eleftheriou.

He said the effect may not be visible at the beginning as Cyprus is only now launching its new drive to develop the industry, it will take a couple of years to see the local supply of services growing to this end. This may mean that at first, the economic multiplier may be less.

 

Development of the film industry gives rise to new investment opportunities such as the building of infrastructures such as studios, academies, film festivals, exhibition and conference centres, media distribution centres, editing and sound suites, production services equipment, and many other opportunities including direct investment in productions.   

Independent film producer and cinema consultant, Chris Economides told the Financial Mirror that the fact a Hollywood production starring an actor of Cage’s calibre is priceless for Cyprus. He argues that the film could set off a chain of events.

“How can one put a price tag on a statement by a Hollywood star about his or her time in Cyprus, not only praising the island as a production destination but as a tourist destination? Imagine the impact of that on tourism. Then try to imagine how much money you would need to spend on traditional TV commercials,  to match the publicity dished out for free by a celebrity,” said Economides.

Domino Effect

He has no doubts that a domino effect will follow as one Hollywood movie would bring the next and the next.

 

“Countries like Romania and Hungary have reshaped their economy entirely by attracting big investments for their film industry. Cyprus is ready to jump on the bandwagon with all its inherent advantages such as the good weather, proximity to many neighbouring countries with diversified civilizations, good connectivity, good communications, good hotels.”

 

Economides said that another advantage offered by the island is its light, which is similar to that of Los Angeles, with the same angle of the sun and the same day/night cycles.

“Another advantage is the language set found on the island. Cyprus is a bi-lingual country with highly educated people, and especially a young vibrant population. No need to mention, of course, the multicultural history of Cyprus, its monuments, in as much as its mountains, forests, fields and beaches, which unlike other countries, are reachable in no time.” 

Economides said the filming incentive scheme is open to local and foreign talent and producers alike, without discriminating.

 

However, “unlike other plans, it is oriented towards drawing in big productions and big spending. It encourages the producer to come to the island and spend money”. 

Eleftheriou said this does not mean that Cypriot filmmakers are being left on the cutting room floor, as the scheme also encourages co-productions among different countries and different producers. 

He said foreign filmmakers are obligated to employ at least six people residing in Cyprus per production. Three of which need to be included in the “above the line” team, which includes top paid positions such as directors, producers, actors with protagonist roles, and three “below the line”.

 

Economic factors will encourage producers to employ local personnel, if made available, as opposed to having to bring people from abroad, which would mean additional travel and accommodation costs.

Eleftheriou said the scheme presents Cypriot filmmakers with great opportunities.

“Cypriot filmmakers could act as ambassadors for the countries audiovisual industry, also benefitting from the process. They could chase after coproduction’s with big film companies and studios, proposing.”

He said the scheme will instigate growth to the local audiovisual industry which lags behind other EU countries.

“Currently there is a shortage in qualified professionals and equipment to correspond to the needs of big productions in Cyprus, but this issue will be resolved in the long term. The growing interest for filming in Cyprus will probably encourage more young people to study relative subjects and more investments in infrastructure, thus strengthening the country’s audiovisual sector,” said Eleftheriou.