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Olivewood to make screen debut

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Cyprus’ attempt to become a film destination for world-class cinema is about to bear fruit as two productions with a Hollywood influence will be released in the coming months.

Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage and fellow star William Baldwin have sprinkled some Hollywood stardust on Cyprus with their respective films Jiu Jitsu and S.O.S. Survive or Sacrifice.

Their films are the first two major productions exclusively filmed in Cyprus, under the state incentive scheme set up to attract the global audio-visual industry.

Despite setbacks presented because of the coronavirus outbreak, the films’ producers are in the final stages of post-editing, with the distribution process underway.

“Despite the very difficult working constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, and having to pull the movie together from different points across Europe, the film is in its final week of post-production work and will premier in the states sometime in October,” said Marianne Rosset, lead actress and co-producer of S.O.S. Survive or Sacrifice

Russia-born filmmaker/actress Marianne Rosset who co-stars with Baldwin in S.O.S. told the Financial Mirror that they are pleased to be in the final weeks before premiering.

The Hollywood film starring Cage and a Cyprus production featuring Baldwin are seen as a test case for whether the island can pull off the task of putting itself on the movie map.

Rosset noted films like theirs and Jiu Jitsu are an opportunity for the Cyprus film industry, dubbed as Olivewood, to branch out.

S.O.S. Survive or Sacrifice was produced and filmed exclusively in Cyprus by Altadium Group, a Cyprus-based film production company, specializing in full-length feature films, TV series, as well as other types of video production including VR360 format.

The company was founded in 2017 and is led by Rosset who is the CEO and managing director.

The film rights were sold to Vision Films, an independent worldwide Distributor of Feature Films, Documentary Specials, Series, Music and Reality Programming.

Vision Films will distribute S.O.S in the states and the rest of the world with Altadium reserving the rights to screen the movie in Cyprus.

Vision has officially announced that it will be releasing the film on all major VOD platforms in North America in October 2020, noting that the “thriller takes place in a runaway hot air balloon, S.O.S Survive or Sacrifice, filmed in the stunning country of Cyprus”.

“We are pleased for our cooperation with Vision Films, as they are known to be very selective in choosing the films they take on, taking the film far across the globe as possible. In doing so Cyprus will get its share of well-deserved publicity,” said Rosset.

The co-owner of Altadium, the first Cypriot company to benefit from the incentive scheme, said attracting film producers and facilitating big movie productions could put Cyprus on the world cinematic map.

More than just tax rebates

The Olivewood promotion drive has drawn the attention of industry professionals from across the globe.

On offer are tax rebates and credit breaks with the most attractive incentive being a maximum 35% reimbursement for nearly all expenses made in Cyprus.

It covers hiring local filming crews to renting portable toilets and recruiting animal actors.

The state scheme covers rebates worth €25 mln per year with officials aiming to use the entire budget.

Rosset said: “I feel that many other representatives from the world of cinema should, and will, follow our example. We also wish to continue using the scheme.”

“But it’s not just about the scheme, it’s also about the support that we received from the government, who are very keen on developing the infrastructure for the film industry in the country”.

She said Cyprus has more to offer than just tax rebates, as it is essentially an outdoor studio.

“It’s a magical land. Full of gorgeous locations. The actors that came from the U.S. and other parts of the world absolutely loved it.

They would come back in a flash. The overall experience was exciting, and we are looking forward to doing other movies here.

The movie’s unusual cinematographic premise was ideal to portray island’s beauty from above as a large part of the film has to do with two spiritually strong young women stranded in a runaway hot air balloon.”

“We did not film in a studio. All the movie was shot on location. We spent lots of time by the seaside in and above the water. It is literally a survival film with elements that are usually present in studio movies,” said Rosset.

She said that filming in a hot-air-balloon is complicated as the physical space is small and at times there were four actors and the cameraman with his assistant.

“One of the reasons why we wanted to do a film like this is that there aren’t many examples of movies shot from the inside of an air balloon. It’s difficult, but the overall result is really exciting”.

S.O.S is not the producers’ first film to be shot entirely in Cyprus. The company’s first film was Portrait of God.

“It was our very first movie and a low budget film, but despite that, we were all very happy with the result.

It attracted a lot of attention at Cannes, and we feel that we managed to achieve our main goal, which was – proving that Cyprus is a great place for people to make movies.”

Rosset said Portrait of God was nothing comparable to S.O.S., “but at least that experience proved to us that making large productions in Cyprus is possible, achieving great quality. And I am sure that S.O.S. will prove just that”.

S.O.S. has encouraged Altadium to start working on new projects, noting the production company is in discussions with several established directors and producers to shoot more films on the island.

Asked about whether Cyprus would be able to continue attracting big Hollywood names, Rosset said: “Baldwin himself, during a press conference we held, said that he’d be thrilled to come back and do this again”.

“You will soon be hearing from us.”