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Olivewood gets vote of confidence

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Olivewood, Cyprus’ rebranded audiovisual industry, was cast a vote of confidence from big film studios, attracting major productions with award-winning actors to begin filming this month.

Shaking off the nightmare after Hollywood producers sued it for not honouring the incentive scheme, the island is the location for a promising project starring Oscar-winning Mira Sorvino and multi-talented Harry Connick Jr.

The film called ‘The islander’ is a romantic comedy and a feel-good movie about human connection.

Mostly filmed in Cyprus, it will be covered by the government’s rebate scheme for films.

Mira Sorvino has won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite (1995).

Sorvino currently stars alongside Courteney Cox and Greg Kinnear on Starz’s horror-comedy series, ‘Shining Vale’.

The actress has also been in TV series such as American Crime Story, Hollywood, Modern Family, Condor and Falling Skies.

Her other credits include Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion with Lisa Kudrow, At First Sight with Val Kilmer, and Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam.

She portrayed Marilyn Monroe for the 1996 HBO film Norma Jean & Marilyn, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Multi-talented Connick Jr is an actor, singer, pianist, composer and television host. He has sold over 28 million albums worldwide.

He is ranked among the top 60 best-selling male artists in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America.

He starred as Leo Markus on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace from 2002 to 2006.

His films include Independence Day, P.S.I Love you and his lead role in New in Town (2009) with Renée Zellweger.

Connick Jr was also responsible for the musical soundtrack for his romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally… (1989), starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.

The film follows a has-been musician (Connick Jr.) as he moves to a remote cliffside house on an island, only to discover his new home has unfortunate notoriety.

Through a series of charming mishaps, it turns out maybe love can be found right where he left it.

Calling the shots behind the camera is South African Cypriot Stelana Kliris.

Kliris will direct from her screenplay and produce alongside world-renowned Keith Arnold and Steven Shapiro.

The project is from Uinta Productions (‘Tommy’s Honour’) and Kliris’ Cyprus-based Meraki Films, in association with Das Films (‘The November Man’), with support from the Education and the Cyprus Film Commission’s incentives scheme.

“It’s the thrill of a lifetime to be making a movie with stars like Harry Connick Jr. and Mira Sorvino,” Kliris told the Financial Mirror.

“The Islander is an unprecedented production for Cyprus, but the island is also the perfect setting for a romantic comedy and a feel-good film about human connection.

“I can’t wait to share this story and our island – known as the island of love – with the world.”

Meraki Films have several projects in development, including Gizem, a period drama shot in Cyprus and South Africa, and My Name is Silly. The Ministry of Education funds both films.

The development comes after a falling out with Hollywood producers of the first high-profile film filmed in Cyprus.

The producers behind Jiu Jitsu, the first major film project to be shot entirely in Cyprus in 2019, starring Oscar winner Nicolas Cage, claim the government did not fulfil its €8.5 mln rebate obligations.

The film cost €25 mln and was to shoot Cyprus to Hollywood fame.

But the producers, following their fallout, abandoned plans to carry out five projects worth €125 mln on the island, taking with it the credibility of the audiovisual incentive scheme.

Dream big

Authorities are determined not to let the dream turn sour banking on developments, spotlighting Cyprus as a filming destination.

A source close to the rebate scheme, which was recently upgraded, said the island’s film prospects are far from dead in the water.

An earlier version of the scheme provided Cypriot and foreign producers with incentives, cash rebates and/or tax credits of up to 35% on qualifying production expenditures.

This has now increased to 40% but covers expenditures made in Cyprus.

“We believe the audiovisual incentive scheme is one of the most generous in the region. Combined with the island’s natural beauties, it gives Cyprus an advantage over other schemes promoted by neighbouring countries,” said the source.

The film incentive scheme has recently attracted the interest of award-winning documentarists such as Popular UK TV history professor Bettany Hughes.

Bettany Hughes will be spotlighting in her Channel 4 series Treasures of the World, the archaeological gems of Cyprus, with filming concluded.

“Furthermore, the island has attracted the interest of major film studios and streaming platforms. Be prepared for a few surprises down the road,” said the source.

Horror genre

Recently, Cyprus crept into the dark genre of horror films, as the first major scary production to be filmed entirely on the island premiered in February.

Another Olivewood milestone, The Ghosts of Monday, is a Cyprus film produced by Altadium, starring Oscar-nominee and Hollywood actor Julian Sands in the lead role, alongside an international cast and several Cypriot actors.

The story revolves around a group of US filmmakers who travel to Cyprus to shoot a documentary about the tragically infamous Hotel Gula, a once-popular resort where more than 100 people were killed under mysterious circumstances.

Talking to the Financial Mirror, a member of the Altadium production team and actress Marianna Rosset said the film had performed well at the box office, while picked up by US distribution company Cleopatra Entertainment while Raven Banner has just acquired the rights for Canada.

The rights to UK, Australia and Germany have also been sold, so Jinga Films, the international distributor of the film, will be in Cannes, mainly focusing on selling to Asian and South American markets.

Rosset, starring in the film, said that the production is “hyped up” as they prepare to showcase the film before international film stakeholders at the Cannes film festival in a few weeks.

“We are now getting ready to take ‘Ghosts of Mondays’ to the Cannes Marche, where it will be screened on 19 and 20 May,” said Rosset.

Ghosts of Monday is Altadium’s latest film, their previous one shot in Cyprus, SOS. Survive, or Sacrifice starred William Baldwin

“Our good news streak doesn’t stop here.

“We have been busy developing a television series based on the FANYASHA book series, which has been successfully published in Russia and the US,” said Rosset.

The book series is a creation of Marianna Rosset. It is adapted into a live-action TV series written by Francesco Cinquemani, Simon Boyes and Allen Copeland and represents Altadium Group’s first approach to mainstream media.