Location guide for filming in Turkey


Overview

Turkey’s popularity as a filming location is growing, thanks to its extraordinary geographic and cultural diversity. While it has traditionally attracted much of its international work from Russiaand Eastern Europe, the popularity of Turkey as a tourist destination has also put it on the map for Western companies.

At the same time, the strength of Turkey economy means the local TV production business has been booming in recent years (there has, for example, been a surge in the number of foreign entertainment formats acquired by Turkey). The knock-on effect of this is improved crews and greater investment in everything from cameras to post-production equipment. The quality of the local industry is also boosted by the strength of the domestic movie business – with Turkish films currently taking approximately half of box office revenues.

The cost of shooting in Turkey is not high and has been helped by recent movements in exchange rates, with both the US Dollar and British Pound gaining strongly against the Turkish Lira. Crews are good value, accommodation is moderately priced and there’s also a decent transport infrastructure. The industry is centred on capital Istanbul which has many production companiestechnical crewsstudios and facilities

Istanbul is the heart of the business and home to production companies like Bocek,KarmaDinamo Istanbul and Atlantik Film. FPS has worked with brands like TUI, Swarovski, Gillette and Fiat. Complete Works was involved in a Bochkarev Beer campaign, managed by Publicis Moscow, produced by Russia’s Bazalevs.

There are luxurious hotels in every region and their prices are less than those in Europe

Recent Productions

Recent blockbuster films to have shot in Turkey include Tinker Tailor Solider Spy (2011), Argo (2012), Skyfall (2012) and early 2014 the directorial debut of Australian actor Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner, in which he will star alongside Olga Kurylenko.

Recent changes in the country’s incentive structure (more below) mean this run of success is expected to continue. Turkey has a vibrant domestic TV business but has not as yet seen many foreign TV productions come to the country. US TV shows to have visited Turkey include The Bachelorette (ABC TV) and The Martha Stewart Show.

blog in The Guardian described how Turkey was well-suited as an alterntive location to Iran in Ben Affleck's Argo: "Buildings are similar to those in Iran, the houses are not that different, the bazaar is quite like the actual shopping centre in south Tehran. Many characters actually speak the language, although some with accents."

The BBC has also been to Turkey to shoot films with specific historical requirements (ie subjects such as the Byzantine Empire and Seven Wonders of the World). There’s a regular turnover of ads from markets like Russia, India, the US, UK, France and Germany. Brands to have been in Turkey recently include Nokia, Opel, Footlocker, Max Factor, LG, Megafon, Lukoil and Stary Melnik (the latter is a Russian beer brand owned by Turkish brewer Efes).

Films/TV programs shot in Turkey by foreign companies totalled 293 in 2011, 254 in 2012 and close to 230 in 2013.

Permits

One good starting point is The Turkish Film Council, another is your local embassy or consulate. As a general observation, securing permission in Turkey is not difficult as long as you leave plenty of time (weeks rather than days). Typically, you need two types of permit. The first covers general public locations while the second deals with specific sites such as palaces, parks, museums and so on. For more information email filmingpermit@sinema.gov.tr

Attention needs to be paid to the latter permits because rules can vary from site to site. Most producers hire a local fixer (eg a production company) because they can smooth the process considerably. An example would be AZ Celtic Films - based in Istanbul, which worked as the fixer on the 2011 production of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Another good port of call is Fixer in Turkey.

Aside from permits, don’t forget you will also need filming visas (tourist visas aren’t enough). These might take more time to process and cost more but are an essential adjunct to the permits.

Tax breaks / incentives

The recent introduction of tax rebates has led to films like Argo seeing Turkey as a legitimate alternative to the Middle East and North Africa. Argo is reported to have received a US $300,000 tax rebate. There are now plans to make Turkey even more competitive by offering industry incentives. TheMinistry of Culture and Tourism is looking at a package that will give filmmakers up to 25% of the expenditures they make while shooting a film in Turkey. This is expected to be a major factor in encouraging Hollywood productions into Turkey. Already Hollywood films provide a big boost to Turkey in terms of inward investment and thousands of jobs being created.

VAT returns

With regard to production of cinematographic works approved by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, foreign film producers can receive returns of the VAT paid during procurement and import of the goods and services that they buy within the duration of film shooting.

Foreign film producers can submit their requests for VAT returns to one of the following offices:

  • Ankara Tax Department - Baskent Tax Office
  • Istanbul Tax Department - Beyoglu Tax Office
  • Izmir Tax Department - Konak Tax Office

Foreign film producers can submit their requests for VAT returns through a petition to the relevant tax office after the film shooting period has expired. The film shooting period is designated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

VAT returns are processed on condition that a report submitted was drawn up by a certified financial accountant (CFA).

VAT returns are finalised within 30 days following the submission of a complete CFA report.

Studios

A major player is Istanbul Film Studios, a division of one of Turkey’s largest business groups MV Holdings. MV entered the studio business in 2004 with the purchase of ATA Studios. In 2005, ATA acquired rival TEM and the enlarged business was renamed as Istanbul Film Studios.

Locations

Turkey is a huge country that borders GreeceBulgariaSyriaAzerbaijanIran, Iraq, Georgiaand Armenia. So it’s no surprise it can offer a variety of climates and locations including stunning beaches, exotic islands, spectacular mountains, deserts-like areas and diversified forests. The popularity of Turkey works at two levels.

Firstly, it can mimic other settings.The Taurus Mountains, for example, look like the Alps; Northern Turkey is like Ireland, England, Scotland or Scandinavia and south-eastern Turkey can resemble the Middle East. This latter point is a key consideration given the unrest in that region at present.

Secondly, Turkey has unique locations like Istanbul, which offers a mix of classic architecture, café culture and twenty-first century modernity. And if you’re looking for something really unique then there are awe-inspiring sites like Cappadocia, Bodrum, Mardin and Pamukkale. Cappadocia, home to unique and unusual rock formations, was a location for Nic Cage’s Ghost Riders 2 (2011).

You can shoot spring, summer, autumn and winter scenes throughout the year. For example, you can shoot a skiing scene on a snowy mountain and then a swimming scene on the beach in the same day in Antalya for about nine months of the year.

If you need help navigating all the options then consider hiring one of the experienced fixers available in Turkey, such as Mert Gurel from the specialist service Fixer in Turkey, which is located in Istanbul.

Equipment

There are numerous equipment rental firms that could be recommended by your local fixer. One option is Orion Lighting and Camera which has a wide range of digital, 35mm and 16mm cameras. Orion also has three studios, all of which have dimensions: 24m x 17m x 6.3m.

Turkish crews are plentiful and there are also some Directors, DOPs and art directors. An added bonus in Turkey is that Istanbul is home to post-production houses like 1000 Volt, which is equipped to provide telecine, editing, VFX, animation, 3D stereoscopy and audio. Also at the cutting edge of post-production in Turkey is Mojo, well-known for its VFX and animation work. In terms of casting, Turkey has a variety of ethnic and cultural looks available.

Climate

The interior of the country has low rainfall and cold to very cold winters and warm to hot summers. Winter rainfall usually falls as snow especially towards the east where it may lie for three to four months. The coastal areas have much milder winters with warm summers. The Black Sea coast is a little colder in winter than on the southern and western coasts and has some rain throughout the year. Summers are warm and humid with changeable periods. The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have a typical Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and a midwinter rainy season


With the support of the Eurimages Fund of the Council of Europe






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